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Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Novel Review: Spice & Wolf Book 3

Spice & Wolf book 3
Author: Isuna Hasekura
Illustrator: Jyuu Ayakuya
Yen Press
256 pages

Review warning: Post contains spoilers for the third light novel in the Spice & Wolf series. Read with caution!

Having narrowly escaped financial ruin, Lawrence turns his attention to helping Holo find her ancient homeland in the North. But how long can a traveling merchant afford to wander the countryside looking for a village that he suspects may have ceased to exist long ago? When a rival merchant sets his sights on Lawrence's beautiful companion, though, can Lawrence truly be confident that Holo will remain by his side? Has the time come when Lawrence must ask himself whether his relationship with the Wisewolf is business or pleasure?

You would think that after squeaking out a victory in Ruvinheigen with the armor racket that Lawrence would think twice about getting into a risky financial maneuver – but this is Lawrence we're talking about, and the stakes aren't just for financial gain but for the hand of his own traveling companion.

Yes, for the first time, Lawrence is in serious jeopardy of losing Horo’s companionship forever. But what is Horo to him, actually? It’s this question that dominates this volume of Spice & Wolf and makes it a memorable one.

Too bad Lawrence spends most of this book acting like a total dingus! No, I’m not being glib; Kraft Lawrence does a lot of stupid things, most of them revolving around Horo. Perhaps Horo has turned Lawrence into a moron who wishes to protect her from the truth – but what is there to protect Horo from? She is, after all, the wolf goddess of the harvest. If anyone is the protector, it is her. Even Lawrence has to admit to himself how much he relies on her cunning and strength.

In the end, trust issues and lies keep Lawrence from connecting to Horo truthfully and in the end causes a seemingly final disconnect between them, leading to the competition between Lawrence and love-struck fish merchant Amati. It also does not help that his reluctance to tell the truth about Yoitsu drives that wedge even deeper between them. Someone should tell him about honesty being the best policy, because right now keeping secrets is not working out for him.

It’s a shame that Amati seemed like such a sweet little harmless guy at first with a crush on Horo, only to turn into an obsessive jerk bent on separating Lawrence and Horo. That’s probably unfair of me, but who the hell just offers to buy up his love interest? A jerk, that’s who he is. He claims to have romantic intentions but Amati never asks Horo what she wants. Neither does Lawrence, but we as readers expect him to be pigheaded – and he never explicitly comes out and calls Horo his love.

Honestly, I think the one thing that is keeping this volume from being perfect is Lawrence being, well, Lawrence. His reluctance to actually talk to Horo and tell her the truth, as well as his taking up the silly contest against Amati in the first place, really puts him in a bad light – a bad, stupid light. He really did break Horo’s heart. It’s a bit amazing that Horo came back to him, but theirs is a relationship that cannot be shaken by simple people like Amati.

Having said that, the moment when Lawrence is lost for ideas and taps into his inner Horo was delightful. I think he should do that more often; after all, Horo won’t be around forever. Or if she is, she won’t always be around to save Lawrence every time. As a merchant, Lawrence can learn a lot of stuff from Horo that can help him plan clever things as a trader. That pyrite scheme, for once, was genius.

One of my favorite things was the world-building around the town of Kumersun. I really wanted to learn more about the alchemists who live in the walled-off area! Plus, the chronicler Diana was a truly fascinating character. Her conversations with Lawrence were some of my favorite scenes in the book. I can only hope that we return to the characters of Kumersun sometime in the future. I’m not holding my breath though; this series does not have a history of returning anywhere.

All in all, it was a rather big volume for Lawrence and Horo. They managed to get over their hump concerning what they meant to each other – or at least for now – and are back on the road to Horo’s home land, which may or may not still be there. As long as the journey to Yoitsu is as enjoyable and eventful as it has been, readers won’t hesitate in going along with them.

You can read more about future volumes of the Spice & Wolf light novel series at the Yen Press series page.