For general information on this series: Spice and Wolf entry
~A guest review by Gee~
This is a review for Spice and Wolf 16, Isuna Hasekura’s penultimate book in the series, with illustrations by Juu Ayakura. As a direct follow-up to the 15th volume, this newest volume of Spice and Wolf–The Coin of the Sun II–ends the main story of this classic series in the best way. Originally published in Japan in February of 2011, Yen Press’s English edition was released in December of 2015.
Continuing from the cliffhanger of the previous novel, our main characters Lawrence and Holo once again find themselves getting involved in trouble. With the developments of the last volume, things had seemingly all fallen into place up until the last page–and the follow-up from that mood-changer certainly fuels the actions and developments of this book, with tension high for characters and readers both.
But even more so, the focus on Holo and Lawrence’s relationship is the highlight of this volume. There’s a quote early on in the book that goes “If you are afraid of losing something, why not find someone to fall in love with?” and I feel this really sums up the series as a whole. Holo’s longing to return to her homeland, and to return to the friends she hadn’t seen for centuries had always been the thing that started this 17-volume journey on its path. And following the travels of the merchant and wisewolf up until now, you can really see how each discovery and tribulation has affected our mains. Even though this volume is about the politics of currency and the power of business, both take a back seat to the smaller and quieter scenes of affection between our leads: pay-off for the culmination of emotions up until this point in the series.
That’s not to say that the main plot is lacking though–in fact it’s quite the opposite. The fantasy-infused setting of fifteenth-century Europe has always shown that the society in which they live is changing. No longer is it a land where monarchs or god-like beasts rule paramount–now clever business deals can achieve much more than sword-swinging battles ever could. The politics of how currency can control areas is the focus of the main story, and how greed corrupts people. It’s a timeless tale of the human condition, and even if you’re not the most financially and politically-aware person, you can still understand the motivations of characters new and old.
As usual, the translation quality that Yen’s team has done is wonderful here, explaining in-depth economics and politics in easy-to-understand ways without making you feel like you’re being patronized as a reader. Ayakura’s artwork is gorgeous too, illustrating important moments perfectly. If you’re a fan of light novels and looking for a more mature entry in a medium full of teen wish-fulfillment, Spice and Wolf is definitely recommended–and for existing fans, this novel is a crucial finale that does everything right.
Gee’s Rating: Highly Recommended