Reviewby Theron Martin,
Spice & Wolf
Novel 18 - Spring Log
Though Lawrence and Holo have been comfortably settled as the owners and operators of the Nyohhira bathhouse Spice and Wolf for many years now, their stories are not quite over. Col's recent journey away has left Lawrence with more work, but the unexpected departure of their daughter Myuri along with him has been no less of a disruption. As spring approaches after a busy winter, Lawrence finds himself trying to come up with creative ways to encourage business during the off season and solve the puzzle of an old man who has been making the rounds of all the bathhouses in the area. He also has plenty of room to fret with other bathhouse owners over rumors of a competing bathhouse village possibly opening on the other side of the mountain. Annual village business also calls Lawrence and Holo to make a return trip to Svernal, where an encounter with some new inhuman folk leads to unexpected trouble. Perhaps it was best that Myuri did run off with Col, since she's quite precocious about causing problems wherever she goes!
Though the main story of Spice and Wolf officially ended with novel 17, author Isuna Hasekura apparently couldn't resist tossing off a few follow-up short stories, which originally appeared on his publisher's home page. These are collected into this volume, representing a return to the franchise after some years off and the 10th anniversary of the start of his writing career. These short stories also represent a bridge to his follow-up project, Spice and Wolf New Theory: Parchment and Wolf, which is expected to debut in English later this year, following the adventures of Lawrence and Holo's daughter Myuri and wannabe priest Col.
In fact, probably the most important detail in this volume is the formal introduction of Myuri. We had every indication that Holo was pregnant with her during the main story's conclusion, and now she's grown up enough to run off on her own. She's already absent through the first three short stories, having taken her leave before the first one starts, but the final story features both her and Col shortly before they left Nyohhira. This story makes it clear that Myuri is quite the wild child even discounting the wolf ears and tail that she normally suppresses, and she's described to be nearly identical to Holo in physical appearance aside from her hair color. She's also clearly infatuated with Col, which is why she sneaks into his luggage to follow him. Between her wild behavior and decidedly less worldly nature from Holo, she could make for a lively heroine in the upcoming novel with Col playing as her straight man.
But her feature time is coming later, so the other three stories (the vast bulk of the 231 pages) still firmly focus on Lawrence and Holo from Lawrence's viewpoint. Although Hasekura remains vague about the timeline, using phrases like “ten-odd years” on a regular basis, this must take place about 13 years after volume 17's conclusion, given Myuri's implied age. That means closer to 20 years have passed since the bulk of the original storyline. In that time, Lawrence and Holo have become very settled in, so the bulk of the first two short stories are about their day-to-day lives and business dealings. The third and longest short story, which involves their return to Svernal, is much more eventful and closer in tenor to their original adventures. Jean Millike, who figured prominently in volumes 15 and 16, makes a substantial return appearance as Lawrence and Holo encounter the long-term consequences of their involvement in his story as well as getting involved in a curious festival. They also learn that there is an awful lot more going on with the rumored new bathhouse village, and the nonhumans involved could unintentionally disrupt everything in their quest for a seemingly innocent endeavor. As with most Spice and Wolf stories, the resolution comes down to Lawrence finding a clever way to twist economics in his favor.
Despite the five year time gap between the original series' completion and these short stories, Hasekura's writing style has not changed at all. These are still the same characters that readers are familiar with, and if time has mellowed out either of them, it's not by much. The only real change is that both Lawrence and Holo are much less reserved with their affection for one another than they used to be. Lawrence's eventual mortality looms a bit larger, and he does contemplate the case in the third story as a possible means of solving the long-term problem of Holo not aging, but the stories don't obsess over that issue. Though Lawrence is clearly less driven by money than before, financial matters still pop up on a regular basis, giving readers further insight into additional aspects of medieval economy.
The technical aspects of the novel are entirely in line with previous releases in the series by Yen Press: several glossy color pages providing chapter previews at the beginning, numerous black-and-white illustrations throughout, and a two-page Afterword at the end. A map of the lands traversed by Lawrence and Holo is also included, as are some bonus congratulatory illustrations by the light novel and manga artists for the franchise.
If you've followed the Spice and Wolf story through to its completion, then there's no reason that you won't enjoy these installments too. They offer a satisfying continuation of a beloved franchise, and according to Hasekura's comments in the Afterword, this may not even be the last short story collection we'll see for Spice and Wolf.
Overall : B+
Story : B+
Art : B
+ Fully retains the elements that made the main series so entertaining, introduction of Myuri
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