Reviewby Theron Martin,
Spice & Wolf
Volume 19: Spring Log II
Spice & Wolf's Spring Log continues with four short stories from throughout the series' timeline. In “A Petal's Fragrance and Wolf,” a search for a missing hand mill reminds Lawrence of an incident from their traveling days involving a village's problems with their mill and flammable flowers. “Sweet Fangs and Wolf” describes an incident involving Col and Myuri before they left the bath house, while “Grooming Sheep and Wolf,” which happens during Lawrence and Holo's return from Svernal after the Festival of the Dead, chronicles Holo's efforts to corral sheep as a reluctant favor to a shepherd with an injured dog. In the last, “Memories of Spice and Wolf,” Holo dwells on how life may have become too comfortable and ordinary, as former mercenary Selim struggles to settle in as the bath house's newest employee and Lawrence sorts through paperwork for a new guest.
While the main storyline of Spice and Wolf may be over, author Isuna Hasekura apparently won't be out of ideas for side stories and sequels anytime soon. In the Afterword for this volume, he states an intent to release volumes about once every eight months; volume 20 has already been released in Japan and should be arriving in English around the end of 2018 at the current publication rate.
This approach allows space for flashback stories that chronicle more adventures from Lawrence and Holo's traveling days, stories about Col and Myuri before they depart for the sequel story in Wolf and Parchment, and provide additional epilogue details for the main story. While this results in a different mix of stories from Spring Log I (aka volume 18), the balance of two flashbacks, and two current stories is comfortable, and I wouldn't mind seeing that rhythm maintained going forward. It's also nice to get more stories not told from Lawrence's perspective.
Of the four, “A Petal's Fragrance” is the most in line with the series' traditional focus on medieval economics. (There is an actual flower, dictamnus albus, which produces volatile oils that can readily catch fire during the summer months, but whether Hasekura is referring to this or a variation he made up himself is unclear.) It is a solid but unexceptional tale that should satisfy fans of the series' most traditional fare. The second tale elaborates further on the kinds of hijinks that Myuri got into at the bath house, which further establishes that the dynamic Col has with Myuri isn't all that different from the one Lawrence has with Holo – the boy struggles to keep up with the wolf girl's roundabout way of doing things. By comparison, “Grooming Sheep” is a much lighterhearted tale where Holo must take on the challenge of becoming what she hates the most in order to herd a flock of sheep.
The last and longest tale, “Memories,” spans 84 of the 209 pages, easily the most contemplative of the lot and possibly the franchise's best short story to date. It's a rare story told entirely from Holo's point of view, with Lawrence being most commonly referred to as “her companion” rather than by name. From a storytelling perspective, its main goal is to describe how Selim, the female mercenary from last volume's Svernal story who is also a wolf, becomes a replacement employee for Col, and how her kin assist by replacing the role Col and Myuri used to serve by hunting. However, more of its content focuses on Holo's ruminations about how her life is progressing into the future. This is one of the most cutting takes I've seen on supernatural beings contemplating their long lives, with Holo fearing less about Lawrence inevitably dying before her and fearing more that she will lose valuable life memories to the passage of time because her daily routine is blurring details together. That's an angle that I haven't commonly seen addressed. The resolution of this story also delivers a surprising revelation about a characteristic of Holo that's always been under the surface up to this point.
Artwork in this volume includes one of the neater chibi-fied renditions of Holo, and in general this release is a minor step up from the usual quality. The prose is at worst average and in general seems more comfortable in flow than in the later stages of the main story. Not having to stick to an overall plot seems to have loosened Hasekura up a bit. Overall, this is a welcome extension of the franchise for any Spice and Wolf fan. However, I highly recommend you wait to read “Memories” until after you've read the first volume of Wolf and Parchment, as it contains spoilers and entails repercussions for that part of the story.
Overall : B+
Story : B+
Art : B
+ “Memories of Spice and Wolf” short story
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