Wednesday, 27 February 2013

Spice and Wolf- novel 5


This novel covers the second half of the second season of the anime.

Holo and Lawrence spend a week alone on the cart before arriving in the town of Lenos, known for its lumber and fur. During this time they share most of it without needing to say a word, understanding and being so in tune with each others needs that words become invalid. Awwwwwwww.

As they near the town, they pass many merchants who have set up camp outside the town walls. Upon entering the town, Lawrence also finds it strange that the authorities handed him a wooden tablet to identify him as a foreign merchant. He wonders whats going on.

Holo has visited this town centuries earlier, but fails to recognize it now. They settle into the local inn where Lawrence has stayed before, where the innkeeper tells them about a man named Rigolo who may be able to help them with ancient stories relating to the town. However, Rigolo is a party member of the Council of Fifty, whose current affairs lie in dealing with the towns problems in the fur trade.

Also staying in the inn is a mysterious cloaked stranger, who Lawrence mistakes as a male. Holo corrects him and jokingly scolds him for having eyes for another woman.

At a loss for what to currently do, they decide to do some site seeing and first visit the docks. Whist drinking alcohol at an outside pub, Holo overhears some conversations from the people around the boats that tax's are high due to the cancellation of the Northern Expedition, which usually brings religious travelers from afar, and high earnings to merchants as a consequence of that.

Even though its the middle of the day, Holo gets drunkenly tired enough to justify falling back into her bed. Lawrence uses this time to learn more about the state of the town, and visits a local inn. A pleasant young waitress greats him. Nobody else is currently present in the inn but will be soon enough for luncheon. She catches on that he is there for information, and she tells him that the merchants outside the town are all related to the fur trade, waiting on the outcome of the Council of Fifty's decision on when to start allowing fur to be sold again. The reason why it was prohibited in the first place is because the Northern Expedition was canceled, meaning that traders couldn't buy fur in bulk.
The barmaid then tells Lawrence that its unlikely the merchants outside the town will be allowed to buy the fur.

Lawrence returns to their room with a take away package from the inn. Its the inn's specialty, the 'fish tail', which we modern folk would call Beaver tail, but according to the book the Beaver was recognized as a fish in ye olden times and not a rodent.
Lawrence plays a game with her where if she is able to recognise the food by smell alone, she will be allowed to eat anything she wants for her evening meal. Naturally she does so, and tells him that the smell brought back memories of the last time she was here. Feeling nostalgic, she rewards him with a hug, and tells him she will never forget his scent either. He says the same thing about her.

Holo falls back into bed and Lawrence goes for a chat with the innkeeper. After their chat he asks what Lawrence's name is. The mysterious cloaked stranger hears this and joins in their conversation, genuinely impressed that Lawrence managed to get the innkeeper to ask his name after only 3 visits, when with her it was 5. Impressed with Lawrence, she asks him for a private chat.

Alone, she takes off her cowl and reveals her true name, before asking him to call her Eve (pronounced more like 'Ave'. She uses this nickname so as to mask any femininity). She claims its easier in business to look and act more like a man, as female merchants are rare.
She tells him that she knows the town chronicler Rigolo through the Church, and that she will help Lawrence get access to him. They end their discussion on the note of chatting some more if their interests coincide.

Holo is mad at him for spending time with another woman, but next morning when walking to Rigolo's they get back to their usual banter. After helping Holo jump over a puddle, she tells him that his heart must be dyed in her colour, then after that he wonders if her heart is stained in his colour, but she counts off many on her fingers, implying she has been with many men. However she may be teasing him, and in fact tells him that he's now feeling how she was last night.

Arriving at Rigolo's house, they are greeted at the door by a young nun, and shown inside. The house is decorated with small stone religious statues and even find a that the courtyard has been housed in glass, creating a greenhouse decked out as an indoor garden.
They meet Rigolo and he shows them to the basement full of old books. Holo picks out ones she wants to read and they take them back with them.

That evening Holo is treated to an expensive whole piglet (because Lawrence lost his bet from earlier when she accurately guessed at what the food packet was).
Back in their inn, the innkeeper tips them off about a traveler from the North that has information they may be interested in. Holo seems off by this news, and back in their room reveals that she's scared about reaching their eventual destination of Yoitsu because of her loneliness, and also scared of something else that she's unwilling to talk about.

Whilst Holo sleeps, Lawrence chats some more with Eve. She says she is a merchant in stone statues, the type Lawrence saw at Rigolo's house. She says that she sells them to the church (implying that they then sell them to those participating on the Northern Expedition), but this year she was cut off. She's trying to plan a way of making a huge profit before moving south (along with the innkeeper) but needs Lawrence's help, and so asks him for money. She says the fifty man meeting was concluded with allowing the sale of furs to foreign merchants, on the condition they pay by cash only, with her source coming from church insiders. She says that the merchants who are able to buy up as many furs as they can and of whom are also the first to reach towns down river will be able to make a threefold in profit. She reveals that her plan is to make Lawrence sell Holo to gain instant cash, which they will then use to buy the fur in town. The fur will then be sold in turn at a major profit downriver, and Holo will be later bought back. Eve warns him that the merchants outside the town walls also know the details, and are waiting for the public reveal of the fifty man meeting to pounce at the opportunity. Eve calls this a trade war.

Eve plans on selling Holo by making her out to be of fallen nobility, and reveals later on in the book that she herself is such a person, who was sold at a high price and married off. But her husband soon faced bankruptcy and slit his town throat. She was lucky enough not to have fallen pregnant during this time, and ran off with the little assets she had to become a traveling merchant.
Harold the innkeeper then pipes up that he is willing to go on a pilgrimage with Eve, and is willing to give the inn to Lawrence.

That night Lawrence has bad dreams and wakes up the next morning in a cold sweat. Holo wants to know whats up, so he explains everything. She demands him to accept the plan, stating that owning an inn will achieve his dream of opening a shop, and that he shouldn't be worried about her.

Lawrence walks around town leaving Holo to read Rigolos books back in their room. He walks around the church and then decides to find a nearby alleyway.
He finds what he's looking for, a beggar that could know secrets about the church just by being an observer of them. Lawrence pays the man with bread in order to hear such stories, and the beggar says that the church is wealthy, and was recently dealing with merchants until they stopped. He mentions Eves description as one such merchant, but thinks 'he' was selling them salt, not statues.

Lawrence needs more information and so heads for the 'Fish and Tail' inn again to speak with the young barmaid. She confirms Eves information about the fifty man meetings' results on the fur trade. Next he asks her about the church, at which she yanks him outside round the back in order not to be overheard by others. She says talking about the church is a delicate thing as they have a very high status in the community, with any talk of their money flow being considered the most extreme taboo. She then explains that they may in fact be trying to make the church a cathedral with the high priest becoming an archbishop.

Lawrence and Holo have a meeting with Eve and Harold in their inn. Lawrence accepts Eves proposal, but is curious why she dealt with the church in stone statues. She says she used her nobility to trade with them, but they got a bit edgy recently due to their power, and so cut her off.

The three of them walk to the Delink Company building, a place that deals in human trafficking.
They would pay 2000 pieces of Trenni silver for Holo, short of Eves target of 2,500, but it still proves a deal, with the sale price being converted into 60 gold Lumione coins. They agree to make the sale as soon as Lawrence and Eve are going to start buying fur.

Back in their room at the inn, Holo sits close to Lawrence, almost asking for affection. She says "Can we not end our travels here?". A little later this same girl suggests they should end their journey together because Lawrence has almost realised his dream. She says that she is satisfied with the idea of having to bear the brunt of witnessing his eventual death, so this isn't about her loneliness. She then calls him too softhearted and wishes that he wouldn't accept her every decision, saying this is why she is scared. She admits that she will never be satisfied with Lawrence despite how their relationship goes, and that what they originally had would soon fade. This is why she is scared.
Well to ME this seems like she is confused (because I bloody am). Is she scared of loving Lawrence? If so, why?

Lawrence changes the subject and asks if she has completed reading Rigolos books. She has, and  hands him one of the books to read. A passage reefers to an old tale of Holo in a drinking match with a young maiden. After reading this, Holo takes his hand, inviting him for a waltz. Holding each other closely, they dance around the room with their steps being guided under her instruction. After he trips up they both land on the bed and gaze in each others eyes, hands still clasped together. Holo says "... What are we doing here?" and he replies "I suspect it would be better not to ask." Holo then says that detailed directions to Yoitsu were also written in the books.

The next day Holo and Lawrence return the books. Rigolo isn't there, but the nun is. Whilst alone in the waiting room/lounge area, Lawrence inspects one of Eves statues, and realises it is formed from rock salt. Whilst chatting with the nun and looking out at the garden, Lawrence says that being able to pursue a simple dream is a true blessing. He may have been answering to Holo's statement from earlier, and sure enough, she was able to hear him say this as she's walking up the basement stairs.

Eve bangs on the door and Melta the nun goes to answer. She tells them that there is an armed uprising created from the fur traders outside the town walls, due to the results from the Council of Fifty being made public too early, and now they want the decision revoked. Lawrence realises that even if the Fur trade was to go ahead again, it would make the townspeople bankrupt, so an uprising would be hardly surprising.

Eve tells them to go to the Delink Company whilst she organises booking a boat at the docks. Hundreds of people rush about the streets, and Eve tells him to meet back with her at the inn.

Alone together, Lawrence tells Holo that their relationship has broken down completely. If he somehow fails the agreement, Holo would have to find her own way out and run off considering him as a failure, and if he makes a success of it, their time together would be over as he would have completed attaining his dream, and they would have to say their goodbyes. Either way, Lawrence looks at her and tells her that this is what she wanted. She tells him how she will remember him by and they walk to the Delink Company.

After Holo and Lawrence say their farewells to one another, Lawrence runs back amongst the riotings, questioning his own methods and wondering why he feels unhappy by his actions. He meets up with Eve in the stables of the inn, and they admit that they are paranoid of each other. Eve states that human life comes to zero in the face of such gold coins. She suspects him of asking a question such as 'Why are you going so far just to earn money', and brings out a meat cleaver saying "Sorry but i cant have you pull out of the deal now", and swings it at him. He drops his coin purse and avoids her attack.

The truth comes out. Eve was smuggling rock salt into the town, which caused the wealth of the church to sky rocket, but wanting more money, Eve suggested to the bishop to buy up all the furs from the town before any foreign merchants do, and restrict the trade to cash only. Here, her plan would be to make as much cash on hand before escaping with it all. But the church had other ideas of killing her and keeping the profit for themselves. The only way out for Eve was to partner with a clever merchant who could outwit the church and make it difficult to murder her. Apparently killing two people is not as easy as killing one.

Eve brawls with Lawrence for the dropped coin purse, and he is able to pin her to the wall and ask her if she really is crazy enough to risk her life for profit. She asks him of the same, and he confesses that he was, but not now. Eve is sick for profit and would have probably killed Lawrence after they successfully made their money just so she could keep all the profit for herself. She manages to get back the meat cleaver and clouts the back of it round his left cheek, forcing him to the ground, unconscious. She then runs off with nearly every coin that Lawrence owns.

Lawrence wakes up with the help of a portly gentleman. He asks Lawrence about a scribe that is sitting on the floor next to him. Lawrence opens it out and it turns out to be the deeds to the inn.
Eve must have left it for him. Groggy, Lawrence gets to his feet, takes the parchment and runs to the Delink Company.  Running into the building, they are hesitant for Lawrence to see Holo, but he sells them the deed and is granted access to Holo's room.

She is stunned to see him standing before her, but soon she gets mad and starts arguing with him. Shes mad at him for pulling out of the agreement, but he tells her with a smile that he lost everything. She asks him why he pulled out of his dream, but he says it was his dream, and may still be, but he's come to realise something far more important. She punches him and shouts at him, demanding him what is more important. He casually says "You, Your wolf form". She lets go of him and reaches for her wheat pouch, but he grabs her in a bear hug and she drops the wheat grains on the ground. He leans in close and tells her "I like you".

They pull apart. As he picks up the wheat grains from the floor, explaining about Eve's near suicidal mission, Holo's tears fall to the ground.
She cries, calling Lawrence a fool, but calms down and asks him if he will take responsibility. They agree that they should only part with smiles on their faces.

The book ends with her telling him that it would be trouble if she fell in love with him. They hold hands and leave the room, together.


9-10. I feel that Holo is holding back on Lawrence and I'm displeased. Not only that, but there is NO WAY I would have agreed to sell Holo under any conditions, even if it was practically guaranteed that Lawrence would be able to buy her back after he made his profit, and especially so if he loved her enough that he wouldn't want to let her go for anything.

The other reason why its 9-10 is because of the complexities regarding the storyline. It was tight, sure, but it was also a bit hard on the brain to keep up with character motivations and plot developments. Its sort of one of those stories where you need to read it twice to understand it completely. And this is sort of exactly what I did. I watched the relevant episodes again after reading this book.

What the hell is up with Holo wanting to leave Lawrence? It seems like she is making excuses for herself and may be scared of being in a real passionate relationship with him. Whats the deal with this? Whats there to be scared of? I thought she was scared of her loneliness? Is this a sort of madness where she's so scared of loneliness she cannot accept the opposite?


  1. In a classic translation glitch, Lawrence actually said "I love you", not "I like you". I say this because at the start of the next volume, it's retconned to "love" anyway, and thought you might be keen on knowing that :)

    As for Holo.. well, she's afraid of their love burning out too quickly. She wants to maximize her time with Lawrence, and can tell things are moving too quickly. If their love is going to burn out fast, she'd rather not go through with it at all, and wants to remember it fondly instead of it decaying into something at best bittersweet.

    Whether that makes sense or not is up to you, but it's also quite clear that she's a bit.. out of her mind in this volume anyway. It seems like she's grasping at any straw she can to avoid the eventual pain of ultimately outliving Lawrence. I think she just panicked and decided to end it before things went beyond the point of no return, not because she WANTED to, but because she went a bit crazy.

    Funny enough, she asks him to be selfish for a change, and what he does makes her actions and selfishness look even worse by comparison, hence her extreme reaction to his confession. It's interesting to think about her selfishness from a "will I ever be #1 in his life, or will merchantry always beat me?" perspective.

    1. You almost took the words right out my mouth for what ive written so far about volume 6. Yes- Like is changed to Love. I didnt mention it here because its something that needs adressing in the next volume.

  2. After finishing season 2 and reading book 5, I believe Holo claimed that she was afraid of them growing tired of each other and of their relationship turning sour after enough time.

    Lawrence is a bit shocked by this, and in book 5, there's an analogy given about fireplaces and chestnuts. It's mentioned twice, the second time being in the epilogue. It basically states that dogs that burn themselves on the fireplace will avoid it in the future, but those who reach in are thinking of the smoldering chestnuts and cannot forget their taste.

    Lawrence uses this to reason that if Holo actually believed that becoming close to someone only led to sadness in the end, she wouldn't have traveled with him at all, and could have just taken his stuff in Pasloe and left on her own. He also reasons that since his lifespan is much shorter, if anyone is to grow tired of the other, it would be him first.

    I think this implies that "growing tired of each other" isn't what Holo is actually scared about, and Lawrence realizes this. This wouldn't be the first time that Holo wasn't exactly telling the truth (knowing how to read in Book 3). It was a little bit confusing still, but that's what I figured from all of it.

    Very good and in-depth review by the way! I'm eagerly awaiting Book 8's english release and I look forward to reading more of your stuff. :)

    1. Thanks for your thoughts, and thanks for the complement! :)

      "Lawrence uses this to reason that if Holo actually believed that becoming close to someone only led to sadness in the end, she wouldn't have traveled with him at all, and could have just taken his stuff in Pasloe and left on her own."

      I remember reading this part. As Bash says, Holo is a bit crazy in this volume when it comes to her love for Lawrence. She kind of doesnt want to admit it to herself. Give it time.

  3. Hello. thank you for the review.

    i recently ordered the first 4 books, which may reach my hands in about a month. and as i said at animesuki, your reviews give me an extra motivation to buy them.

    as for the 9-10 rating, i think it's still very high, so i hope all the books in the series can have such high rating of the 10-10.

    again, thank you. and sorry the english mistakes

    1. If anything I should be thanking you for reading my posts ^_^
      Its nice to know some people are, and its even better to know that people are buying the books on my recommendation (they shouldn't be disappointed).

      I have been reviewing anime and rating them in a word document since 2002. Some may appear in my blog in the future, but what i'm trying to say is that i don't dish out 10-10 ratings for nothing. So yes, this series (and Haruhi) are special to me.
      However, having said this i do tend to rate average anime as 8-10 rather than 5-10. I guess i'm being too generous to these and will think more about the implications of doing a rating in the future :/ Rest assured though this novel deserves the 9-10 I gave it.

  4. This is probably my 2nd (or at the very least 3rd) favorite volume of all 17 and absolutely deserves a 10-10. It's funny, looking back at how confusing I first found parts vol. 5 in terms of character motivation and hidden meanings/subtext in dialogue and actions when some of the later novels make vol. 5 look like child's play.

    As others have pointed out, Holo was lying (or at least stretching the truth) about being okay with staying with Lawrence and him dying eventually. While she does worry about their relationship growing stale to some extent (as made clear in her POV short story in vol. 7), I don't think she goes nuts or anything. The simplest explanation is that the longer they stay together, the harder it will eventually be to separate. That, I feel, is what she is 'afraid of' as she tells Lawrence. At this point, their journey is more and more fun every day and Holo finds herself liking Lawrence more after every adventure. To an eternal wisewolf, it is something of a lose-lose proposition: either their journey/relationship continues to improve which will only make their eventual parting (at Yoitsu or Lawrence's death) that much more devastating, OR it will fade and grow stale, like she says here, which would be sad for entirely different reasons. Thus, parting with Lawrence now while it is still somewhat bearable (something Lawrence also admits to considering in vol. 6 I think), to Holo, seems the best outcome.

    While this may seem to be at odds with Holo's ultimate fear of loneliness, it makes sense. Think of it this way...when one chooses to be single, then the sight of a couple kissing or holding hands is nothing, or might even bring a smile to your face. But when one winds up single not by their choice (dumped for instance), the sight of that same couple only reminds you of your loneliness. By choosing to end things on her terms, I think Holo thought she could avoid the worst of that loneliness. And leaving Lawrence would also spare her the possibility of him leaving her or having his feelings for her wane over time or pass to another girl, things she has no control over.

    As to your last complain about how you think Lawrence should never have sold Holo, no matter how confident he was in a positive outcome...I can't be too hard on the guy. At first, he just does what's as natural as breathing to a merchant: turning a profit. He tells us I think at two or three different points how much he doesn't want to sell Holo. The only reason he does is because he knows Holo is forcing him to do so in her scheme of ending their journey. As a merchant, it'd be stupid of him not to do it, and I think it's very similar to how he heard Amarti's declaration and (at first) really only saw the potential profit in it. Back then, he was confident Holo would choose him no matter what, and now he's feeling like he's losing her no matter what. In economic terms, he might as well try and gain from both situations.

    1. I wish I had a way with words and understanding like you do. This review is word perfect. I agree with all of it.

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