Tag Archives: isuna hasekura

Light Novel Review: Spice and Wolf Vol. #10

Spice and Wolf is a wildly popular light novel series that has spawned off an anime, an Internet radio show, and a manga series. While its European medieval setting is typical of high fantasy, this series has  a unique bent. Rather than swordfights and magic, the plot focuses on economics, trade, and peddling in a way that skillfully blends adventure and romance.

Yen Press has recently released the tenth volume of this series, and you can read on for the review. (You can also click here for my reviews of previous Spice and Wolf releases).

Back Cover Blurb

After the turmoil in Kerube, Lawrence and his companions make for the Kingdom of Winfiel across the sea. Their destination is the great abbey of Brondel, said to hold the wolf bones they seek. Arriving in the kingdom, they hear tell that the abbey, normally prosperous due to its great wool trade, has fallen into a financial crisis. Worse, the most powerful economic force in the world-the Ruvik Alliance-is entering the kingdom with its eye upon the abbey’s land holdings…

The Review

Lawrence and Holo have made some detours on their journey to Yoitsu, but now they head entirely in the opposite direction, leaving the mainland to journey west across the sea to Winfiel. However, they’ve reason enough to go so far out of their way; according to Eve, the wolf bones they’ve heard rumors of are at the island kingdom’s great Abbey of Brondel. They go hoping to forge a way into the abbey using letters from Eve and Kieman. What they find is a stalemate between the local church authorities and the Ruvik Alliance, an economic force so powerful it makes the players in Kerube look like gnats.

Although the Rubik Alliance is larger than anything yet encountered in the series (with the exception of the Church), the source of tension is much easier to understand than the Kerube crisis. The root of the problem is a national trade imbalance. Simply put, the kingdom of Winfiel has been importing more than it is exporting, and Hasekura-sensei injects a bit of the economic bent that has been lacking from the series as of late. But after a brief lesson on the effects of a devalued currency, we launch into the consequences: a religious institution on the brink of financial ruin and a foreign conglomerate itching to gobble up the assets. Unlike the crises in Kerube and Lenos, this is a dilemma that truly has nothing to do with Holo and Lawrence, one they can easily walk away from. The only reason they get involved has nothing to do with money and everything to do with sentiment.

It’s been a while since Lawrence and Holo encountered another creature akin to Holo. What makes the great sheep of Brondel really interesting is that he is senior to Holo. Generally speaking, Holo’s the oldest and wisest person around, thus she always gets the last word. So it’s fun to see someone talking down to her. In addition, he is in a sense a glimpse into Holo’s future. While she is unsure whether her homeland still exists, the sheep lost his home centuries ago to the Moon-Hunting Bear and has had to create a new home and means of survival. It hasn’t been an easy path, and readers will hardly blame Holo for losing control when she learns how the sheep’s altered his diet.

The great sheep also calls out Lawrence and Holo’s relationship for what it is, which is nice because Holo is always so quick to belittle her traveling companion. Lawrence, for his part, is unusually candid about his feelings in this volume. Once it’s because of alcohol, and the second time is because conversing with the much younger Col forces him to be more direct with his speech than he normally is. In any case, these scenes are likely to delight Holo/Lawrence fans.

Sadly, there’s one moment between our odd couple that Hasekura-sensei makes as maddeningly vague as Lawrence’s parting scene with Eve in the previous volume. Perhaps he is leaving those details up to his readers’ imagination, but there are several other scenes, such as Lawrence’s conversation with Piasky, where dialogue tags and descriptions are sorely lacking. It’s unclear whether that failing is inherent in the original text or a translation shortcoming, but I also caught a number of typos including a misspelling of Lag Piasky’s name in an illustration caption.

This light novel includes the title page, three two-page spreads, and the table of contents printed in color as well as eight black-and-white illustrations, and a world map.

In Summary

The economics aspect has been lacking in this series’ last few volumes, but it returns with our trio’s journey to Winfiel, a kingdom whose trade policies have caused the value of its currency to plummet. Add in a medieval-type conglomerate, a couple of uncharacteristically vulnerable moments on the part of both Holo and Lawrence, and an encounter with a supernatural sheep, and we have a truly engaging installment of Spice and Wolf.

First published at the Fandom Post.

Light Novel Review: Spice and Wolf Vol. #09

Spice and Wolf is a wildly popular light novel series that has spawned off an anime, an Internet radio show, and a manga series. While its European medieval setting is typical of high fantasy, this series has  a unique bent. Rather than swordfights and magic, the plot focuses on economics, trade, and peddling in a way that skillfully blends adventure and romance.

Yen Press has recently released the ninth volume of this series, and you can read on for the review. (You can also click here for my reviews of previous Spice and Wolf releases).

Back Cover Blurb

The capture of a narwhal and the ensuing power struggle between the northern and southern districts of Kerube has Lawrence caught in the middle! Backed into a corner by his own trade guild, can the merchant find a way to extricate himself from this delicate situation? And what of the wolf bone from Holo’s pack? Can the Wisewolf of Yoitsu manage to keep her rage and frustration in check?

The Review

Volume 9 is billed as the second part of a two-part story, but it is actually the culmination of events laid out in Volumes 5, 6, and 8. So if you aren’t familiar with those previous three installments, you’ll get lost in Volume 9 fast. Even if you have read them, the content of this volume is rather daunting. Volume 8 laid the groundwork for a massive conflict over a rare narwhal, and in Volume 9, that battle plays out with schemers wheeling and dealing in the shadows, plotting double-, triple-, and quadruple-crossings.

While the conflict is interesting, it is so complex that it bogs the pace of the story. Hasekura-sensei sets Lawrence up as a small fry trying to maneuver among the sharks of Eve and his guild leader Kieman. The plot requires an understanding of the power struggle over the narwhal, then the backroom deal Eve and Kieman are trying to broker, then the different ways everyone’s trying to swindle one another, and finally, the great ploy that upsets everything. Because the story unfolds through Lawrence’s eyes, the information we get is limited and mixed up with Lawrence’s conjecture and confusion. There were several passages I had to reread to understand what was going on. Hasekura-sensei’s underuse of dialogue tags in group scenes didn’t help. (Interestingly, one of the color illustrations attributes a quote to Col that actually belongs to Lawrence.)

However, if you’re willing to stick through the story’s sometimes tedious twists and turns, you’ll be rewarded by a brilliant and very clearly explained conclusion that also solves the mystery of the coin puzzle introduced in Volume 6. On top of that, poor Lawrence, who’s tossed around like a pawn throughout the majority of this arc, gets his hero moment.

Though Eve, Kieman, and the narwhal dominate in the battle within Kerube, we do get a couple character building moments with Holo and Col. As it turns out, Holo’s not unfamiliar with the narwhal, and her connection to the creature reputed to bring immortality sheds light on how she regards her traveling companions. And a conversation away from Holo shows how a child raised in the pagan mountains views a journey with a wisewolf.

This light novel includes the title page, three two-page spreads, and the table of contents printed in color as well as eight black-and-white illustrations, a summary of Town of Strife I, and a world map.

In Summary

Hasekura-sensei brings the Kerube’s power struggle to its dramatic conclusion. The search for the ancient wolf bones fades to the background as Lawrence finds himself caught between the schemes of Eve and Kieman. Unfortunately, these masterminds are so crafty that their plans are difficult to follow. Spice and Wolf Volume 9 is a dense read for a light novel, but if you make it to the end, you’ll be gratified by a conclusion that sheds light on the events of three earlier volumes.

First published at the Fandom Post.

Manga Review: Spice and Wolf Vol. #08

Spice and Wolf is a wildly popular light novel series that has spawned off an anime, an Internet radio show, and a manga series. While its European medieval setting is typical of high fantasy, this series has  a unique bent to it. Rather than swordfights and magic, the plot focuses on economics, trade, and peddling in a way that skillfully blends adventure and romance.

Yen Press has recently released the eighth volume of the Spice and Wolf manga, and you can read on for the review. (For my reviews of previous Spice and Wolf releases, click here.)

Back Cover Blurb

A new chapter unfolds in the travels of Lawrence and Holo! The pair arrives at the church in the village of Tereo to glean information about Holo’s homeland of Yoitsu. But Elsa, the deaconess, turns them away flat! What has happened to make her so suspicious? Could it have something to do with the neighboring town of Enberch?

The Review

Volume 8 begins with the conclusion of the Tereo arc. While the dilemma is complicated, involving faith, finance, and fraud, Hasekura-sensei works out a solution that showcases Holo’s powers, Lawrence’s negotiation skills, and Elsa and Evan’s mettle. The ultimate resolution between Tereo and Enberch isn’t exactly win-win, but it is fair to all parties involved. As for the village’s religious differences, Elsa reconciles her beliefs with her encounter with Holo, and that results in a new level of understanding between Tereo’s church and local pagans.

The manga then heads into territory that deviates from both the light novel and anime. Both Volume 5 of the novel series and the final episodes of the anime deal with Lawrence’s fur scheme gone bad in Lenos. In Chapter 43 of the manga, Holo and Lawrence do reach Lenos, but they do not tarry there and leave unaffected. The town’s fur dispute merely causes them to detour down the Roam River. Still, the creators seem to want to convey the weight of Lenos’ crisis, and there’s a strange juxtaposition of Lawrence and Holo chatting leisurely with their ferryman while buildings burn and people riot in the background.

Once on the river, our traveling pair meets Col, a boy swindled by a con artist. He’s the epitome of big puppy dog eyes, and Lawrence helps him out of his pinch. But though the child’s innocent to the ways the world, he’s not stupid, and he’s also quite earnest, which makes for an interesting dynamic when combined with our crafty wisewolf and scheming merchant.

Col also introduces what may lead to the story’s next economics challenge: a discrepancy in financial statements regarding copper coin. For now, our travelers’ main concern is gathering more leads on Holo’s homeland, but several other elements are swirling around: rumors of an ancient text about copper mining, cutthroat merchants blocking riverways, refusal of money orders, a port town’s marketplace disagreement, and a mysterious female merchant. It’s unclear how all these parts will fit together, but I hope it forms some sort of picture soon because it’s a lot of pieces to keep track of.

In Summary

The Tereo arc concludes with a dramatic showdown. While the “miracle” that arises is only possible because of Holo’s power, Lawrence, Elsa, and Evan also play their part in creating an agreement amenable to all parties involved. The journey then continues with a detour that takes merchant and wisewolf downriver, where they encounter the penniless waif Col. While our travelers’ next moneymaking scheme is as yet unclear, the innocent but bright Col looks like he’ll be their companion for a while.

First published at the Fandom Post.

Light Novel Review: Spice and Wolf Vol. #08

Spice and Wolf is a wildly popular light novel series that has spawned off an anime, an Internet radio show, and a manga series. While its European medieval setting is typical of high fantasy, this series has  a unique bent. Rather than swordfights and magic, the plot focuses on economics, trade, and peddling in a way that skillfully blends adventure and romance.

Yen Press has recently released the eighth volume of this series, and you can read on for the review. (You can also click here for my reviews of previous Spice and Wolf releases).

Back Cover Blurb

Hearing rumors of a “leg bone of the wolf” being used as an artifact of the Church to showcase its power, Lawrence and Holo head to the site to gather more information. Holo can’t just turn away from what might be a relic of her own kind, after all. Of course, upon arrival, the travelers find that the town is the center of a giant trade dispute! Seems that Col will be getting a lesson in microeconomics!

The Review

After last volume’s side stories, Hasekura-sensei returns to the journey of Holo, Lawrence, and Col. He also brings back the character that sent Holo raging down the river route: Eve. The way in which Eve returns to the narrative, however, is somewhat surprising.

Given the depth of Eve’s betrayal in Lenos plus the injuries she dealt Lawrence (which he still bears at the beginning of Volume 8), I expected their capture of the vixen merchant to be the climax of this arc. Instead, the reunion of Eve, Holo, and Lawrence takes place in the prologue (although it is so vaguely worded that I didn’t realize those were the characters involved until I got into Chapter 1). And while Holo is sufficiently angry to want to tear Eve apart, Lawrence restrains the wisewolf from doing so and seems to bear no grudge against Eve. In fact, he displays only a merchant’s admiration for her skill. Holo has berated Lawrence before about his softheartedness, but his lack of resentment makes him seem soft in the head.

But there is a reason for even Holo to keep Eve intact, and that is because she is their key to getting to the bottom of the wolf bone rumors. Interestingly, Eve, who’d seemed like a minor merchant in Lenos, turns out to be a far more prominent and powerful force. In the process of searching for the wolf bones, Lawrence and Holo discover a great deal more about Eve, and she dominates the pages even in scenes where she’s not physically present.

As the investigation goes on, the story becomes more about political and religious intrigue than economics, although a territorial dispute over the marketplace is part of it. The plot is complex, involving fallout from the canceled northern campaign that figured in the early volumes; Col’s papers and the wolf bones mentioned in Volume 6; and a new element thrown in mid-volume. Following the plot is made more difficult by Hasekura-sensei’s tendency to write scenes where only the characters understand what’s happening and insert a lengthy explanation later.

Fortunately, Hasekura-sensei breaks up the complicated stuff with lighter moments, mostly involving Col. In addition to comic relief, Col serves as a refreshingly innocent counterpoint to our hard-driving merchant and scheming wisewolf. Also, because he’s essentially Lawrence’s informal apprentice, readers get clearer explanations when he’s present. Despite his ignorance of merchant matters, the boy brings his own knowledge to the table, and we finally get the secret behind the copper coin boxes of Volume 6.

As the subtitle “Town of Strife I” indicates, this is the first of a two book story. As Hasekura-sensei states in the Afterword, the story was meant to be a single volume, but it bloated out of his control. Given the complex situation he’s forcing his characters into, he will need those extra pages to come to a final resolution. And although many parts of Volume 8 left me scratching my head, it ends with a very clear and dramatic cliffhanger.

This light novel includes the title page, three two-page spreads, and the table of contents printed in color as well as five black-and-white illustrations.

In Summary

Hasekura-sensei returns to Holo, Lawrence, and Col as they pursue rumors of ancient wolf bones and re-encounter Eve, the cunning merchant who betrayed Lawrence in Lenos. This arc is less about trade and more about intrigue in a politically and religiously divided town so you won’t come away with an economics lesson. However, you may be entertained by Kerube’s power struggle if you have the patience for Hasekura-sensei’s roundabout storytelling style.

First published at the Fandom Post.

Light Novel Review: Spice and Wolf Vol. #07

Spice and Wolf is a wildly popular light novel series that has spawned off an anime, an Internet radio show, and a manga series. While its European medieval setting is typical of high fantasy, this series has  a unique bent. Rather than swordfights and magic, the plot focuses on economics, trade, and peddling in a way that skillfully blends adventure and romance.

Yen Press has recently released the seventh volume of this series, and you can read on for the review. (You can also click here for my reviews of previous Spice and Wolf releases).

The Review

For those curious about Holo, Lawrence, and Col’s ongoing journey, you’ll have to wait a bit longer. Volume 7, as the back cover states, takes a break from their adventures to present a series of short vignettes. They consist of the novella, “The Boy and the Girl and the White Flowers,” and two short stories, “The Red of the Apple, the Blue of the Sky” and “Wolf and Amber Melancholy.”

According to the author’s notes, the novella features “Holo’s big-sisterly side” as it delves into Holo’s past. I’d hoped it would be about how she came to settle in her wheat field, but it has nothing to do with her old village or even Yoitsu. Instead, the story tells of an earlier journey. However, the journey is not Holo’s but that of two children. Former occupants of a rustic estate, they find themselves thrust into the wide world with only one another to rely upon.

The two young sojourners are opposites. The boy Klass is uneducated while the girl Ayres can read and write, but she has led such a sheltered life she’s never seen flowers growing in a field. So when the manor’s new master throws them out, Klass is constantly having to help Ayres. But Klass himself is only ten, and they soon find themselves in dire straits. Fortunately for them, they encounter Holo, who takes them under her wing. But her aid is not without a price. She teases poor Klass is badly as she does Lawrence, which surprised me given the gentler treatment she displays toward Col in Volume 6. Meanwhile, Ayres gets spared the brunt of Holo’s jabs and jibes. By the end of the novella, I felt thoroughly sorry for Klass, and Holo came off as a mean big sister figure indeed.

The short stories, on the other hand, feature Holo’s gluttony, according to Hasekura-sensei. Lawrence appears alongside her in these stories, which were both included in the Spice and Wolf anime. In “The Red of the Apple, the Blue of the Sky,” Lawrence gets to show off his business sense as he and Holo go shopping for clothes. Of the three stories, this is the only one that focuses on trade, though it isn’t quite an economics lesson. And though Lawrence does teach Holo something new, she, of course, manages to one-up him in the end.

Poor Lawrence seems ever at the mercy of Holo’s demands and sharp tongue so “Wolf and Amber Melancholy” is a refreshing change of pace. It is, as Hasekura-sensei mentions, the first time he writes from Holo’s perspective. Not much talk of business, but there is a bit of medieval medicine theory with our wisewolf sick in bed. Considering how much she frustrates and embarrasses Lawrence, it’s fun to see her frustrated and embarrassed as she deals with illness and jealousy. It’s also nice to know exactly how the wisewolf feels about her travel companion for once.

I should mention that the text is a bit choppy. I’m not sure if it’s because of the original Japanese text or the translation, but there are several short phrases and short sentences bunched together that makes for a less than smooth read. Plus, there are also a couple grammatical errors in the text.

This light novel includes the title page, three two-page spreads, and the table of contents printed in color as well as ten black-and-white illustrations.

In Summary

Hasekura-sensei takes a break from Holo and Lawrence’s wanderings in the north to share three Spice and Wolf vignettes. Fans of the anime and manga series will recognize the two short stories, which feature Lawrence and Holo. The novella, on the other hand, takes place far in Holo’s past as it tells of her journey with a pair of children who’ve been cast out of a manor. And though she earns points for protecting the poor little waifs, we discover that even children aren’t spared a wisewolf’s mischief.

First published at the Fandom Post.

Light Novel Review: Spice and Wolf Vol. #06

Spice and Wolf is a wildly popular light novel series that has spawned off an anime, an Internet radio show, and a manga series. While its European medieval setting is typical of high fantasy, this series has  a unique bent. Rather than swordfights and magic, the plot focuses on economics, trade, and peddling in a way that skillfully blends adventure and romance.

Yen Press has recently released the sixth volume of this series, and you can read on for the review. (You can also click here for my reviews of previous volumes).

Back Cover Blurb

As Holo and Lawrence begin the final leg of their journey, Lawrence decides to accompany Holo to her ancient home of Yoitsu, if only to forestall their parting just a bit longer. Boarding a ship from the port of Lenos (much to the chagrin of the wisewolf, who is none too fond of water!), the pair’s fate becomes entangled with that of a boy named Col, whose tale of his circumstances – combined with the gossip of the sailors – leads to a shocking revelation about Holo’s homeland!

The Review

Volume 6 is very much a transitional novel in this series. Previous volumes contained standalone business type stories under the larger arc of Holo’s journey home. So when Volume 5 ended with Lawrence swindled by Eve, I anticipated Holo and Lawrence cutting their losses and moving on to a new location and venture. Instead, Volume 6 continues the fur scheme with the two going after Lawrence’s former business partner, and even by the end of this book, the matter of Eve remains to be resolved.

This installment is also transitional in that this is the first time Lawrence and Holo have deliberately detoured from their search for Yoitsu. Up till now, they’ve been traveling steadily north, but having gotten so close to Holo’s homeland, something new has to arise for their journey together to continue. That change comes in the form of a new mission they seize upon after hearing rumors of suspicious Church activities and in the shift in Lawrence and Holo’s relationship.

I should note that Yen Press makes a critical (in my opinion) bit of rewording in Lawrence’s dialogue. In Volume 5′s epilogue, Lawrence kisses Holo’s cheek and says, “I like you,” which felt rather wishy-washy. But in Volume 6, that phrase (which comes up in a moment of reflection) gets translated as, “I love you.” That changes Lawrence’s confession into something much stronger and passionate, which is definitely necessary as the two engage in a not-exactly-lovers’-quarrel in Volume 6. As to the source of the quarrel, it is not surprisingly Lawrence’s fault, and like a new boyfriend blundering through his first relationship, he spends half the book trying to figure out why Holo is mad at him.

Another thing that sets the story apart from the others in the series is that the economics element isn’t as strong. There’s a kind of accounting mystery and some talk about coinage, but it’s more along the lines of a scammer’s tricks than business strategy. Plus, Lawrence isn’t directly involved in this scheme; he’s just trying to puzzle it together to while away the time as he and Holo travel downriver. The really annoying thing is that Hasekura-sensei doesn’t reveal the secret behind the extra chests of copper at the end. (And no, I haven’t been able to figure it out on my own.)

What Hasekura-sensei does give us is a new character in the cast. Originally from the north, the boy Col has his own mission, but he’s the type that’s book smart and street stupid. Lawrence and Holo come across him when he’s at the end of his rope, and when his plight arouses their sympathy, we get to see a hitherto unseen gentler side of Holo. Lawrence, for his part, has fun playing “master” to his “apprentice.” Also, Col, despite his desire to study Church law, has pagan roots and provides an interesting new perspective on the Spice and Wolf world.

This light novel includes the title page, three two-page spreads, and the table of contents printed in color as well as eight black-and-white illustrations. It also comes with a dust jacket that doesn’t match but mimics the cover illustration. (Ayakura’s cover illustration depicts Holo in peasant clothes, and the dust cover features a Holo cosplayer.)

In Summary

Hasekura-sensei mentions in the afterword that this volume “had fewer economic elements,” which I found to be the case. There is a bit of an accounting mystery, but our traveling duo’s lives and funds aren’t directly impacted by that scheme so the story lacks the energy and urgency other volumes have. Still, fans of the series will want to pick up this volume as Lawrence and Holo become entangled with the waif Col, and from the looks of it, he’s going to be a regular in the series.

First published at the Fandom Post.

Manga Review: Spice and Wolf Vol. #06

Spice and Wolf is a wildly popular light novel series that has spawned off an anime, an Internet radio show, and a manga series. While its European medieval setting is typical of high fantasy, this series has  a unique bent to it. Rather than swordfights and magic, the plot focuses on economics, trade, and peddling in a way that skillfully blends adventure and romance.

Yen Press has recently released the sixth volume of the Spice and Wolf manga, and you can read on for the review.

Back Cover Blurb

As Lawrence and Holo put the final phase of their plan to extricate themselves from the jaws of financial ruin into motion, they are confronted by an unforeseen obstacle. With the wolves at the door – both figuratively and literally – can the travelers keep their wits about them and come out ahead of the pack?

The Review

Since arriving at Ruvinheigen, Lawrence has played the swindled fool and the desperate man, but now he gets to take more of a heroic role. As it turns out, the greatest threat to him and his friends in their gold smuggling scheme is not the city authorities nor the forest wolves but their co-conspirators. Lawrence and Holo are separated when Holo takes off to deal with the forest pack, and when the Remelio Company turns on him, Lawrence must fight without Holo’s strength. Although the poor young merchant gets the snot beaten out of him, his desperate efforts to save Norah raise him in my eyes as a character.

Holo, of course, returns in time to save the day, and thanks to Lawrence’s excellent bargaining skills, it’s the wolf to rescue the shepherdess from the humans. Koume-sensei’s artwork does an excellent job of conveying Holo’s power and the fear she strikes when her true form bursts onto the scene. Once Norah is rescued, the mood shifts to a more humorous one as Holo “assists” Lawrence in striking a deal with Remelio that, although it’s not perfect for everyone, will rescue them all from the brink.

One thing that is a little disappointing about this arc is the interaction (or lack thereof) between Holo and the head of the forest pack. As it turns out, he’s one of Holo’s kind. Considering the landscape isn’t exactly crawling with giant wolves (I’d assumed they only inhabited Yoitsu), I’m surprised he didn’t make more of an impression on Holo. Instead, their conflict is resolved in no time at all, and Holo has little to say about the encounter other than to criticize his immaturity.

Included with this volume’s extras are two cute bonus manga about Lawrence nursing a sick and slightly jealous Holo back to health.

In Summary

Danger strikes in the forest! But treacherous humans pose a greater threat than the wolves. The gold-smuggling arc comes to an action-packed end in this volume of Spice and Wolf.

First published at the Fandom Post.

Light Novel Review: Spice and Wolf Vol. #05

Spice and Wolf is a wildly popular light novel series that has spawned off an anime, an Internet radio show, and a manga series. While its European medieval setting is typical of high fantasy, this series has  a unique bent to it. Rather than swordfights and magic, the plot focuses on economics, trade, and peddling in a way that skillfully blends adventure and romance.

Yen Press has recently released the fifth volume of this series, and you can read on for the review. (You can also click here for my review of volume 4).

Back Cover Blurb

Lawrence and Holo take a respite from their travels north, but a true businessman never rests! It isn’t long before an opportunity for profit in the town of Lenos presents itself to Lawrence; one that could fulfill his dreams of owning his own establishment. But as always the promise of great reward carries with it great risk – and risk is never greater than when one plans to use a werewolf as collateral!

The Review

The adventures of Lawrence and Holo continue with their arrival in the fur trading town of Lenos. As always, Holo is on the prowl for clues of her homeland, and while they do find records about her origins (including a story specifically about Holo), the focus is less “which way” and “how to get there” and more on their growing anxiety at the thought of parting at journey’s end. Unfortunately, the emotional tension plays out as cryptic conversations interspersed with Lawrence’s thoughts, which are so confused they don’t actually provide much clarification. Fans of Lawrence/Holo will find the ultimate resolution sweet, but trying to interpret the meaning behind certain conversations felt like work.

Spice and Wolf would not be complete without some business finagling, and this particular arc centers on a trade war resulting from the canceled military campaign that nearly bankrupted Lawrence. Of course, politics and the Church have a hand in the economic maelstrom, but this time, Lawrence doesn’t interact much with the clergy. Instead, Hasekura-sensei introduces Eve, a female merchant, and those who like female characters tough, clever, and mysterious will find her fascinating.

Unfortunately, the actual particulars of Lawrence’s latest moneymaking scheme are, like his conversations with Holo, difficult to follow. Figuring out all the players in the trade war took some mental effort as did understanding the multiple steps of Eve’s proposal and the rationale behind them. In addition, during Lawrence’s investigation of Eve, there were a few places where he’d get a piece of information and draw a conclusion that seemed to skip a few steps of logic. As much as I love Hasekura-sensei’s characters, I felt a bit exhausted at the end of this journey.

This light novel includes the title page, three two-page spreads, and the table of contents printed in color as well as eight black-and-white illustrations. It also comes with a dust jacket that doesn’t match but mimics the cover illustration. (Ayakura’s cover illustration depicts Holo in peasant clothes, and the dust cover features a Holo cosplayer.)

In Summary

This arc is a more difficult read than previous installments of Spice and Wolf, both because of the complex business deal featured and the clumsy portrayal of the emotional awkwardness between Lawrence and Holo. Still, romantics who stick it through will be rewarded by a bit of Holo/Lawrence fluffiness at the end.

First published at the Fandom Post.