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Spice & Wolf, Volume 1 by Isuna Hasekura
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Spice & Wolf, Volume 1

by Isuna Hasekura

Other authors: Jyuu Ayakura (Illustrator)

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: Spice & Wolf (Volume 1)

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Showing 1-5 of 8 (next | show all)
A well written story with compelling characters. I would also suggest the anime version, which is very true to the book, with the exception of one character that is changed (for the better, in my opinion...)

The real strength of this story is the realistic development of the relationship between the two protagonists, despite the fact that one of them is a "harvest goddess" with ears and a tail. This isn't one of your standard "magical girlfriend" stories where the characters are in love from the start. Instead the relationship builds slowly and naturally over the course of the novels (or episodes in the anime). It takes until the third novel (2nd season of the anime) for Lawrence to realize that his feelings for Holo have gone beyond that of a traveling companion and business partner, and even then he is unsure of how to deal with it.

The world building is done with great skill, showing a world very similar to our own in the late middle ages/early Renaissance, with a powerful, but corrupt, church and a complex economy where various kingdoms compete for prominence in the markets as well as battlefields. (The battlefield aspect is only mentioned in passing, not shown. It is not a sword and sorcery adventure.) ( )
  Zensunni42 | Nov 17, 2016 |
I loved the anime adaptation of these novels and upon finishing volume one I have realised that they are even better than the anime. The translation is also of a high quality with very few awkwardly worded lines. They make for a nice light read between more serious novels and I look forward to reading the rest of them. ( )
  hickey92 | Jan 24, 2016 |
This light novel and the ones that come after it inspired the anime, but I saw the anime first. I had actually heard about this book long before I saw the anime, mainly because of the controversy over the cover. The cover image you see in my blog is not the cover the original Japanese version of this book had, and, from what I can remember, it was extremely difficult to get the version of the cover with the original artwork. I remember assuming that the cover re-design was an attempt by Yen Press to market the book to a wider audience. In my opinion, the new cover is hideous. Also, what was point, when the original cover actually matched the illustrations inside the book?

This book is almost exactly like what I remember of the anime, up to the resolution of the story arc involving the silver trenni coins. The primary difference is that a character who was female in the anime is male in the book - I'm assuming he was turned into a she in the hopes of attracting more male otaku.

As is usually the case with light novels, I found myself preferring the anime to the novel the anime was based on. I didn't find all the financial scheming any easier to understand in the novel - in fact, I think more of it went over my head this time than when I was watching the anime. I found the interplay between Lawrence and Holo to be more charming and clever when I could actually watch and hear the two of them. That said, just as their relationship was the strongest part of the anime, it was also the strongest part of this book, and I really enjoyed reading about the two of them getting to know each other and learning how to work and live together.

There were a couple things I thought the book accomplished better than the anime. First, I thought the book created a better, fuller picture of this world. Readers got to learn details about this world that couldn't be easily conveyed in the anime. For instance, in one passage it's mentioned that Holo's long, beautiful hair would cause people to immediately assume she was likely fairly well off, because only nobles could afford to wash long hair in hot water on a regular basis. Details like this couldn't be as easily communicated in the anime.

Second, I thought Lawrence himself was more fully portrayed in the book. Readers got to know more about his thoughts, which gave insights into his life that the anime may have tried to get across but which must have gone over my head. I think I only understood the full extent of Lawrence's loneliness after reading the book - the merchants' story about horses learning to talk, Lawrence actually wondering what his horse would be like if it could talk, Lawrence's thoughts about the shop he'd like to open up, etc.

One scene I thought was particularly effective was one that not only brought up the loneliness of a traveling merchant's life again, but also underscored how similar Holo's loneliness is. Holo had had a nightmare in which she got to the northern forests only to discover that all her wolf friends were gone, reminding Lawrence of tales of traveling merchants who returned to their home towns after 20 years, only to discover that no one there remembered them - or that the towns themselves no longer existed. I don't recall any moment in the anime that was quite as chilling as this one passage.

In addition to giving a better window into his loneliness, Lawrence's thoughts also showed just how much he was analyzing every little thing from a merchant's perspective. Lawrence considers the potential worth of everything he sees and evaluates people in terms of what they can do for him (and against him) in an easy and automatic way that even extends to a stray thought about the value of Holo's tail fur.

Lawrence isn't the only one looking at the world this way - profit and business are vital to every character in this book. Somehow, Hasekura manages not to make this a negative thing. Yes, the characters do sometimes play tricks on each other in the name of profit (one incident, in which Holo negotiates a higher price for a wagonload of furs, comes immediately to mind), but none of it's done in a "businessman crushing his opponent" sort of way. In this world, if someone manages to trick you into paying a higher price than you should have, you accept it as a learning experience and move on. When a big company almost leaves Lawrence and Holo high and dry because they're no longer worth the trouble to help, Lawrence doesn't rail against the company, but instead thinks of a way to turn things around so that it is worth the company's while to help them.

The importance of profit and business is even woven into Lawrence's relationship with Holo. Holo simultaneously wins Lawrence's respect and offends his pride by showing how quickly she can grasp information about markets and currency that took him years to learn. Near the end of the book, during a part where the hero of another book might have shouted something like "don't leave, I love you" to the heroine, Lawrence instead shouts about the cost of the clothing Holo ruined. To Holo, the meaning of his words would be clear - she could leave, if she wished, but as a merchant he would be compelled to follow her to the ends of the earth to get back what she owed him. I'm still not sure whether I can call this romantic, but it certainly fit the characters.

Most of the light novels I've read haven't been very good. I think this one could have made it to my short list of good light novels, if it weren't for two things. One, my continued inability to understand the storyline about the trenni silver coins, and, two, the writing. Like I said in my post about the anime, I have something of a mental block when it comes to economics. I would have thought that it would all be easier to understand in book form, because I'd be able to go back and reread anything that didn't make sense, but I just ended up more confused. I'm still not entirely sure how anyone managed to profit from the scheme.

As far as the writing goes, I don't quite know how to describe it. At times, the style reads a lot like something written 60 years ago (at the moment, I am reading Eloise Jarvis McGraw's Mara, Daughter of the Nile, first published in 1953, and there are aspects of its style that are very similar to this first volume of Spice and Wolf). Also, there are occasionally some very strange and awkward phrases. Here's one I thought was strange enough to include in my notes: "Her whispering voice was itchy" (144). At the time, Lawrence had just had the surprise of getting into bed only to find Holo already there (and naked? I can't remember), and Holo was just about to warn him that they needed to make a quick escape. I'm guessing "itchy" refers either to Lawrence's involuntary excitement at finding Holo in his bed, anticipating a pleasant near future, or to a quality in Holo's voice that relates to what she's about to say. Either way, it's an odd word to use.

Overall, I liked this book enough to want to read the next volume, but it doesn't sway me from my opinion that most light novels aren't very good. In this case, the actual story was fairly good, and I enjoyed Lawrence and Holo, so the main fault lies either in the author's writing style or in the translation. I would recommend the anime over this book, but I don't regret reading the book.

Extras:

Several full-color illustrations at the beginning of the volume, black and white illustrations throughout the volume, and an afterword written by the author (which is little more than a thank you and "yay, I won a writing contest!").

(Original review, with read-alikes and watch-alikes, posted on A Library Girl's Familiar Diversions.) ( )
  Familiar_Diversions | Sep 24, 2013 |
I wanted to report that this book is now printed with the remade (photographic) art on a removable slipcover and features the original Japanese artwork under. I do, however, not know whether or not some online retailers might still have the old print (although the new print with the original art still says "First Edition").

The remade artwork and all problems with acquiring the slipcover with the original art was the only thing holding me back from buying this book. Now I can finally have it in my collection. With the slipcover removed, of course. ( )
  yamagami | Apr 21, 2013 |
The name! If I can find an affordable (what does that even mean anymore?) copy I may add it to my wishlist.
  lafon | Mar 31, 2013 |
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» Add other authors

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Isuna Hasekuraprimary authorall editionscalculated
Ayakura, JyuuIllustratorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Starr, PaulTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Epigraph
Dedication
First words
In this village, when the ripened ears of wheat sway in the breeze, it is said that a wolf runs through them.
Quotations
Perhaps this was how a real god acted: now full of bluster and bravado, now wielding a sharp wit, now showing a childish temper.
A good merchant had the audacity to face a god and the caution to doubt a close relative.
The traveler is happiest before a the journey; the dog's barkfiercer than the dog itself, and a woman most beautiful from the behind. To show my face in public would dash many dreams, and thus 'tis something I cannot do.
While one may lose much because of avarice, nothing was ever accomplished by abstinence.
Nothing is more suspicious than a guarantee.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
Disambiguation notice
This is the light novel. Please do not combine with the manga adaptation.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0759531048, Paperback)

The life of a traveling merchant is a lonely one, a fact with which Kraft Lawrence is well acquainted. Wandering from town to town with just his horse, cart, and whatever wares have come his way, the peddler has pretty well settled into his routine-that is, until the night Lawrence finds a wolf goddess asleep in his cart. Taking the form of a fetching girl with wolf ears and a tail, Holo has wearied of tending to harvests in the countryside and strikes up a bargain with the merchant to lend him the cunning of "Holo the Wisewolf" to increase his profits in exchange for taking her along on his travels. What kind of businessman could turn down such an offer? Lawrence soon learns, though, that having an ancient goddess as a traveling companion can be a bit of a mixed blessing. Will this wolf girl turn out to be too wild to tame?

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:11:06 -0400)

"The life of a traveling merchant is a lonely one, a fact with which Kraft Lawrence is well acquainted. Wandering from town to town with just his horse, cart, and whatever wares have come his way, the peddler has pretty well settled into his routine-- that is, until the night Lawrence finds a wolf goddess asleep in his cart. Taking the form of a fetching girl with wolf ears and a tail, Holo has wearied of tending to harvests in the countryside and strikes up a bargain with the merchant to lend him the cunning of 'Holo the Wisewolf' to increase his profits in exchange for taking her along on his travels. What kind of businessman could turn down such an offer? Lawrence soon learns, though, that having an ancient goddess as a traveling companion can be a bit of a mixed blessing. Will this wolf girl turn out to be too wild to tame?" -- from publisher's wet site.… (more)

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