I feel like every time I start a new volume of this novel series I start by saying that this is the last novel that has story elements I recognize from the anime. Maybe with the exception of volume 4. Now that we’re in volume 5, I found even more characters I remember. I really need to rewatch the anime before the new season is released. I suppose the creators of the anime didn’t expect a third season to ever happen so they just skipped the parts of the novels they found less interesting. I’ll stop talking about the anime. Volume 5 follows Holo and Lawrence as they travel further north to the city of Lenos where they try to find out more about Holo’s past, the story of Yoitsu and whatever else they can find out. Let’s dive into it.
Lenos is a northern town and in the universe of Spice & Wolf that means that it’s closer to the pagan lands. The church has less power here, but that also means it’s more romanticized here. Lenos is currently encountering a bit of a problem though. There’s normally a big military operation each year that goes through the area and makes for lots of commerce. Unfortunately it has been canceled for this year which means a lot of the items that are normally sold with ease are now stuck. The council of fifty, a council of the influential people in Lenos, are currently deciding what to do about the fur trade. While they’re having his discussion, the merchants are lined up on the outskirts of town with their wares. Lawrence is there for other reasons of course, mainly to find out more about Yoitsu, but his merchant ways might get him sucked into trouble again.
In the local inn, Lawrence meets fellow traveling merchant Eve Bolan, who is a woman and a merchant which is quite rare apparently. The innkeeper there was also once a part of the same merchant guild as Lawrence and they got a room there to stay for a while. First thing Lawrence needed to do was find a way to talk to the guy in charge of the history books. The problem with that was that the chronicler is also a member of the council of fifty. It’s going to be difficult to get a hold of him. Unless it wasn’t a big problem and Lawrence was about to find an in. Eve Bolan knows Rigolo, the town chronicler and is willing to introduce Lawrence to him. Glad to have a way in, he visits quickly so he can get the information he needs as well as the books he needs.
Rigolo has a cool house. He has a garden hidden behind a glass wall that’s hard to see from the outside. The vibe I got from it was kind of like a sunroom. I remember a friend had this room that was just all windows in their house when we were growing up and in early summer it was great to just sit there. We played pokemon on our nintendo DS/game boys back in the day, looking out at the grass behind his house. Good times. Regardless, Lawrence points out that here the books are stored below ground as well, guarded by stone in case a fire happens. Probably smart, I cleaned my books recently and there were the little insects called silverfish on some of my books. In my defense, I have a lot of books so taking all of them off the shelf and properly cleaning them takes a very long time, but I suppose I do have to clean them more often than I do.
After talking Lawrence goes back to talk to a barmaid he met the other day. I neglected to talk about her, but I knew we’d get to her. According to the internet her name is Helena in the anime but I don’t believe we ever get her name in the novels. I also thought of her as older than she’s listed in the anime, where she is around 16 to 18. She sounds more mature, but a lot of manga and light novel writers struggle to write believable younger characters. Looking at you, your lie in april. Those are not 10 year old kids. Either way, she reveals to him that the discussion is coming to an end and that the city has decided to buy and sell furs, but only in real money and not in medieval IOUs.
Back at the inn, Lawrence, Eve and Arold hatch a plan to make a lot of money. Holo is going to be sold off as a noble’s daughter and the money they can make through that will be invested. Then with the profit they’re going to buy Holo back and live happily ever after. Holo doesn’t see much problem with this because, well, she’s Holo, even if she does get taken by slavers she’ll just turn into a wolf and murder them all. But the slavers don’t know that. The book pretty quickly lets us know that the slaves are unlikelable. Most people decide on if slavery is good or bad and Spice & Wolf has decided it’s bad (looking at you, Shield Hero). That’s actually something I’ve been thinking about a lot and why my Necromancer’s Daughter series is on hiatus for so long. I think slavery can make for very interesting plot points but I also think it’s a very difficult topic to get right. I don’t want to romanticize it or make it seem like it’s not an evil thing and the people involved in it aren’t terrible people. It’s one of those things where even saying it’s a product of the time isn’t a good defense. Either way, let’s move on and talk about the conclusion of this volume.
Holo realizes that there are some problems with her growing relationship with Lawrence. She’s an ancient wolf god and he’s a merchant in his twenties. Even if they stay together for a while, their paths have to divide at some point, right? After this deal they’ll probably go their own way. Except that’s obviously not going to happen since there’s another dozen or so volumes after this and I know some of those contain side stories but I doubt all of them do.
And sure enough, Lawrence and Holo visit Rigolo one more time while the man isn’t home. The nun lets them in and allows Holo to look through the books in the basement again while Lawrence once again looks at Rigolo’s marvelous garden. Here he looks at the statues Eve has been selling and notices an oddity. Either way, he decides to continue with the deal, knowing Eve has been smuggling in rock salt.
After selling off Holo and going back to the inn he finds Eve there. This is where she finally shows her true colors and betrays Lawrence. They have a scuffle, both physically and with words, and Lawrence ends up with the short end of the stick. What’s really good about this scene is how Eve makes Lawrence realize what is more important to him. After you make all that money and you get so rich, what’s the end goal? More money? And then what? Lawrence is slowly realizing happiness can’t be bought and I like the direction the story is taking. After being betrayed by Eve, she does leave him with the deed to the inn which, luckily, is worth as much as Holo was sold for. So Lawrence goes to get his traveling companion back, and the two are reunited again, and they’re not quite ready to stop journeying together.
This volume’s review turned out a bit long compared to the others, but that’s okay from time to time. I’ll try to keep the next one shorter and sweet. Emphasis on try. Thanks for reading.