Monday, 17 June 2013

Spice and Wolf- novel 8- Town of Strife I

*SPOILERS AHEAD*

Set directly after book 6, Holo gallops at relentless speed to the port town of Kerube with Lawrence and Col riding on her back. She plays another one of her mind games with the boys, by waiting to see how long they can last being thrown about on her back before they ask for a break. However the boys never get tired from the strain caused from her relentless speed, and so she continues to push forward nonstop until they reach Kerube, in which they do in only half a day. Holo upon arrival, of whom is still in her wolf form, sits up in a stature of utmost confidence, proud of what she can accomplish. Lawrence notices her attitude and sarcastically praises her abilities, which she relishes in.

The trio are on the hunt for mysterious giant wolf bones left to protect a village in the Roef region. They are trying to track them down before the church does first. The church intendeds to publicly display their might by claiming the bones to be of evil origin before proceeding to desecrate them in the name of God. Holo intends to save the bones in order to protect her race from humiliation. Its all she can do for her people.

As a way of killing two birds with one stone for when they find Eve, they intend to ask her of any leads they can follow to find the bones, considering she has knowledge of church proceedings in the region.

Holo transforms back into her human girl form and they soon locate the ship Eve was supposed to be on. Only she's not there. However they do find Arold the old Lenos innkeeper, which proves to be enough evidence to suggest that Eve somehow switched to land transport along the way. This would make sense as authorities would want to track down the ship that caused the wreck upriver.

Around twilight that evening Holo spots a caravan in the distance soon to arrive in town. Sure enough, leading this land party is Eve. Eve has a look of sheer horror as Lawrence and Holo approach her at the town gate. Lawrence notices that Holo is about to lunge at her and decides to hold her back. However bad the situation may be, the reunion goes off to a good start as the woman back away from making any antagonistic confrontations with each other.
Eve recommends to them a good inn to stay in town, and so that is exactly where the trio end up staying.

The next morning Holo is stricken to her bed, unable to move. Lawrence remembers the last time this happened but unlike before, she is not sick, only suffering from muscle fatigue because her pride prevented her from taking regular breaks from all that running she did the day before. Lawrence considers this and concludes that she prefers her true physical form to her human one. She loved spending as much time in her wolf form as she could, and loved showing off her abilities and true strengths.
Lawrence thanks Holo for caring for him enough to want to pick a fight with Eve, and she accepts it.
Col walks in from having gone shopping all morning. He has brought back some type of medicinal balm, which Holo turns her nose up too due to its awful stench. Col insists its for Lawrence's bruise on his face. After application and bandaging it up, Lawrence proceeds to using the rest up on Holo. He applies it on her back and shoulders, much to her protest.

Lawrence thanks Col and gives him bread to eat. Col reminds Lawrence that they have a pre arranged meeting with Eve downstairs in the inns dining area. They leave Holo to recover and go to meet her.

Lawrence and Col find Eve sitting at a table and walk over to join her. They talk business and its quickly established that Lawrence is uninterested in getting back any of his money that Eve stole from him (Wait... I'm sorry, WHAT?! ....... HU?!?!?) and instead proceed to talk about leads regarding the missing bones. I may have missed this fact before or its being mentioned for the first time here, but it becomes a fact that Col is from the same village that the bones are missing from.

They go for a walk to where Eves temporary hide away is. She explains that the origins of the wolf bone rumor should be found in a town upriver. The copper coin problem that was mentioned in book 6 is brought up yet again. Lawrence mentions that he has still to unravel the mystery.

Because Lawrence and Eve hit it off so well, Col considers them to be in a relationship, and that their tiff was because he ran off with Holo instead.

Back in the inn, Holo and Lawrence share a romantic moment which makes him stroke her cheek with his fingers whilst she's still on the bed. She entices him further by saying "is that all?", which makes him lower his face to hers, about to kiss, buuuuuuuut Col rudely interrupts them by knocking on the door. Lawrence realises that she enticed him into kissing her knowing full well they would be interrupted from the approaching Col. So in other words she was teasing him, AGAIN. Alone again a little whiles later she attempts to make up and be slightly more serious about their relationship by asking Lawrence to wash her topless back with a damp cloth. Lawrence misreads her and declines the offer, thinking shes only teasing him again. This is the first time Holo has shown to be needy for physical interaction with him.

They take a walk to the merchant district to find the Jean Company, the same place that is involved with the copper coin incident. This is a ramshackle of a place that like its about to fall into administration. However Lawrence is wary of this, knowing that its likely to be some type of disguise and besides, the main dealings from the company happen upstream. Lawrence introduces himself as an associate of Eve, on business regarding the wolf bones. He hands over Eves letter which basically gives her consent for him to talk to Lawrence about everything he knows regarding the bones. He takes out a case of bones that is apparently the culmination of 2 years work on the subject.

They have a lavish lunch. Holo and Lawrence banter some more in which suggests they have become a couple at last, however Col is in the way. Fucking great ¬_¬

They go to a market at the delta. Eve turns up with her cronies. Lawrence decides to follow her, letting Holo and Col go off to explore.

I'm now half way through this lackluster novel. Its fucking boring.

Lawrence and Holo share more intimate moments without kissing. At this point I'm saying this is extremely OOC. There are no excuses. The author has lost touch with his own characters.

Eve and Lawrence witness some sort of event at the waters of the delta.

Lawrence, Holo and Col are at a tavern and decide to come up with a plan on gaining more information about the Jean Company regarding the wolf bones or the gold coins. Holo would dress as a nun and try to talk to the church of the southern side of town. Lawrence would talk with the Rowan Trade Guild on the southern side, and Col would do something or another in the northern side of town.

I'm now 2 thirds through the book and its FINALLY gotten interesting:-

Lawrence talks to a man named Kieman, a well dressed man seemingly in charge of the Rowan Trade Guild of the south side of Kerube. Lawrence tries to stir things up by starting a rumor about the Jean company, and this bloke instantly realises and comes down on Lawrence like a ton of bricks. He forces Lawrence to spill the beans on everything he knows about his connections and past history with Eve. Just then Kieman is called to deal with a commotion. Lawrence notices the panic on everyones faces, then notices Holo outside. He goes over to her and she tells him that she was told to leave the church almost straight after she arrived. This is very odd and out of character of the church to turn away a questioning nun. Holo then says that the epicenter of the commotion is located at the river, where apparently she saw Amati down there (the sleazy guy from novel 3).

The book became dead boring again.

All 3 protagonists meet at their inn. Col had been posing as a beggar to gain information but he didn't get anything.
Apparently Ted Reynolds of the Jean Company is reducing the number of copper coin boxes by three and profiting from the reduced taxes and transport costs. And apparently he's doing this by somehow being able to re-stack 60 boxes worth of coins better which would end up with 3 empty boxes, or something. My mind has been wandering when reading this god awful book. I've even fallen asleep reading it on multiple occasions.
Oh and theres more- if Ted Reynolds gets caught, the penalties and loss of credibility on the Jean Company would be too great, so somehow the wolf bones is like a back up plan for Ted, or something.

The three main characters mull it over for ages and realise that Eve is probably pulling more strings than they realise, so they make a plan for Lawrence to try and seduce her for more information. At that point the innkeeper knocks on the door and gives Lawrence a letter from Eve. She's given the innkeeper instructions to take Lawrence alone to a secret location. Lawrence complies and they set off via carriage.

At this undisclosed location where Eve is apparently being 'held', she explains to Lawrence that the commotion at the southern sides dock was because a rare Narwhal was caught. Because the boat carrying it in is from the North side, it signals trouble ahead. The North side of the town will most probably use this to pay off their debts with the south, shifting the economical balance between the two sides of town which will be enough of an excuse to start a raging power hungry war.

Eve tells him a landowner who is madly in love with her is holding her in this place. He will steel the Narwhal back for the north and sell it to buy land in the south. Eve suggests to Lawrence to be a spy for her on Kieman and the Rowan Trade Guild. He declines and walks out.

Back at his inn Holo gives him a letter from the Rowan Trade Guild. War is about to get underway between the two sides of the town and he thinks it best to manipulate the Jean Company in another town. However something tells me though that he's not going to leave this town.

This story continues (and finishes) in the next volume.

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I don't quite understand this, but when they finally find Eve, they don't grill her for their money back?! I'm sorry but WTF. Double You Tee Eeff. They are FLAT BROKE, and they don't ask her for at least SOME of their money back!? I understand that its been mentioned before that Lawrence kinda likes Eve and respects her despite what she did, but COME ON. He's FLAT broke. NO MONEY. NONE. Ask yourself, its the middle ages and your confronting your burglar who took all your money. What would you do?

Somehow in this story Lawrence has money. HU? Where did that come from?!

This was the slowest start to these novels so far, and it didnt improve. It was really slow and boring as hell. It doesn't help that Holo was out the picture due to bed rest, or that Col was around.

Talking of Col its not that he's getting in the way of any romance so its not that bad, I guess, but I still don't like him around. When I read the impending bedroom kiss, only to be interrupted by Col, I got so mad I put the book down and stopped reading. After continuing again it was explained that she knew he was approaching the bedroom door and so she never expected to be kissed, this time at least. So I forgive the author on this occasion.

Holo has shown to want physical interaction with Lawrence, even if the offer was only a back rub. Their relationship is finally hotting up but the hangups on progression seem to stem from either Col being around (I mean just in general. Col is trying his best not to be in their way romantically) or from them just plainly not talking to each other about wanting to be more intimate.

I'm pleased the copper coin situation was explained. It was frustrating not knowing what the mystery was during book 6.

This book sets up a story for the next book. However this is just plain old shit. Why should we readers have to slog though an entire book that just sets up groundwork?! AN ENTIRE NOVEL!

Let me get this straight- the following rating is based on the fact that this novel doesnt end its story. I have never read a book that splits its story up into 2 novels like this because its author is apparently restricted to printing so many pages per volume. This is outrageous. One story should be in one book; no matter how fat the book becomes. So my advice is to only read this when have the means of reading volume 9 straight afterwards.

4/10. Piss poor.

11 comments:

  1. Really harsh eval. I'll admit that vol 8 isn't the most exciting from an economics perspective (even more annoying since the author said he'd include more econ at the end of vol. 6). And I can see how the romance would be disappointing after Lawrence's confession in vol 5, the aftermath of vol 6. and learning Holo's side of things in Side Colors vol 7. But at the same time, I still like it. It reminds me a lot of their lighter teasing moments from early vol 5.

    I do think this is where the story's biggest flaw is first exposed. Vol. 6 seems about right in regards to Lawrence and Holo adjusting their relationship in light of the "I Love You" bomb. But after that things are sort of inconsistent in how they react to one another. Or maybe it's just because they've come to understand one another so well that their games and acting is so complicated that it's impossible to follow what they actually mean?

    I know Cole is a sore spot with a lot of fans and I admit I too probably would've rather cut him out of the picture. But then again, his addition makes perfect sense in terms of Holo's thoughts and fears at this point of the story and he does serve as a counter to Lawrence and Holo advancing their relationship faster, which is partially why the author is able to extend their journal so many more volumes while remaining somewhat realistic.

    And he is an interesting character quite different from Lawrence and Holo. It gives Lawrence and Holo a reason to tease someone else together rather than trying to one-up each other all the time which is a refreshing change of pace. And I love the whole 'rehearsal' aspect of the trio Lawrence mentions a couple times in vol 6. The only thing that really bugs me about Cole is that he is yet one more thing to make Lawrence doubt his own abilities. I understand that it'd be boring if Lawrence was just a top class merchant who always figured ways to make huge profits on his own, but it can sometimes seem like Holo and Cole would both be better merchants than him if they only had the training/experience.

    Oh, you probably gave up reading this before now, but in case you didn't, Lawrence isn't broke. The money Eve stole from him was the money from the loan they got from 'selling' Holo to that guild (Diva? I think). That's Lawrence's contribution to the fur scheme in vol. 5 while Eve puts in her own money from her dealings. When Lawrence talks about a net loss from their dealings with Eve, he's only talking about losing a 'relatively small' amount to make up the difference between the value of the inn deed & inn rights and the 2500 trenni it took to buy Holo back. So while most readers probably grit our teeth at Lawrence admiring Eve for coming out ahead and 'beating' him without retribution, it's very similar to Lawrence 'beating' Amarti in vol 3 by being the one to come out ahead in their dealings.

    And lastly, I can't believe you didn't mention Lawrence failing to understand that Holo truly wanted him to wash Cole's ointment off her when he mistakenly thought she was teasing him. That's probably the most 'forward' Holo has been physically in the entire series so far.

    All in all, a 6/10 novel for me. I think the ultimate payoff(s) next volume are worth it, but I expect you'll disagree.

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    1. I really wish it did give off the vibe from early vol 5. I can see why you say that, but somehow it wasnt like that for me. I think it would have if Holo and Lawrence were walking around town, together, but in this book they hardly did. It was mostly Lawrence and Col.

      I see no problem with a couple entering a relationship half way though a series. In volume 5 I genuinely thought this series was going to break the atypical norm and they would hitch up somewhere around this volume, knowing the series ends on volume 17.

      As for Holo and the ointment- I truly missed this part. I read the book to the end yet fell asleep reading it a number of times. I better re-read that bit.

      As for my love for the series- its not there anymore. As I said I was reading this series expecting them to be couple for about half of its volumes. When will someone write a series where a couple go from strangers to courting to being in love to being in a relationship to testing their bond and then to marriage? Why doesn't the anime industry follow this method? Just think of the possibilities that could come from a couple constantly testing their relationship and trust- especially in the early days of being a couple. This is a no brainer.

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    2. OK I added in the part of Holo showing to Lawrence that shes ready to be more intimate with him by wanting him to wash her back. The reason why I missed it the first time round is because in anime at least, washing each others backs is considered normal practice, but here shes clearly wanting her man to give her some physical affection.

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    3. You definitely make a good point about how very few series actually go past the 'we're in love' stage to actually showing the relationship. I too wish more series tried to show this and I think Spice and Wolf actually could've done a pretty good job with it because the main issues (investigating what happened with Yoitsu and Holo's friends, Lawrence opening a shop, whether their love can survive the end of this particular journey in the short run and if they can make it last in the long run despite knowing Lawrence will die long before Holo) would still be there to keep people's interest.

      But, to actually answer your question as to why people don't do it...it's because it's hard haha. The courtship phase is naturally the most exciting part of a romance, followed by that 'just started dating' phase. After that it's just less interesting, to experience as well as to read or watch. The relationship feels safe and familiar. And usually safe and familiar=boring. It doesn't have to be, but it's a lot more work to make it exciting and a big risk for the writer to try that. Hasekura hit on success with Spice and Wolf and I can understand why he stretched it out for 17 volumes, not knowing whether people would keep reading if he gave them the payoff earlier and got Lawrence and Holo together in say volume 6.

      As for your suggestion to 'constantly test a young couple's relationship'...well we sort of get that, even without the official relationship bit, don't we? We have rival love interests like Amarti and Nora to create jealousy in their relationship, we have a character's past (Holo's) threatening their future together, the pressures of a career (Lawrence's need not only to continue making money to support Holo and their journey, but whether or not opening a shop is more important than his relationship with Holo), and dealing with inequality in the relationship (both characters feel 'inadequate' compared to the other, in different ways, as though they don't deserve each other). And through Cole we even get to see a bit of Holo and Lawrence 'playing house' so to speak as perfunctory parents to orphaned Cole. To me, Lawrence and Holo are essentially in a relationship from the end of volume 5 on, only without some of the physical intimacy you'd expect to see. And while I would've liked to see them kissing more often or sharing a bed or blanket every night, 1) it would make a lot of Holo's and Lawrence's banter/teasing not work, which would definitely be bad 2) it would make those moments where we see them embrace one another less special and 3) Hasekura seems like he wouldn't really write those types of moments anyway.

      I hope you give vol. 9 a chance when it gets released next month even if you've lost your love for the series. We get some great stuff with Eve, some more about Holo's past, better Lawrence/Holo stuff than in volumes 6 & 8, and Lawrence at the pinnacle in the series in terms of his skill as a merchant. If you don't like that one, it's probably not worth continuing, but I do think it deserves a shot.

      Oh and while I'm happy you added in the bit about the ointment, I didn't mean to criticize. There's a lot going on in these books for how simple they sometimes appear and it's easy to miss stuff without the benefit of a reread.

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    4. I'm not uninterested in this series. Far from it. I think maybe I should have opted out of rating this volume in particular because its story was unfinished. I'm not going to let Lawrence's and Holo's unofficial relationship get to me any longer. What you wrote makes a hell of a lot of sense, and like you say, they both clearly know the other loves them too much to leave.

      Rating volume 9 will be based on the complete story that also spans this volume so at some point I may go back to this article and delete the rating.

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  2. Hey, just found this blog. Great reviews all around. I didn't think this book was that bad, but it really did feel incomplete. I was looking at the page count too and it seemed like a rip off for the price. Anyway, with luck the conclusion will be more satisfying. Maybe it's just the medium, splitting the story in two, that is the problem. I have high hopes for future volumes as they go North though. I don't want Col to stay around until volume 16, but the rehearsal aspect is definitely a good idea. Kind of annoying the volume after is side stories again though. Not that the last ones were bad, but it keeps the wait for cliffhangers that much longer. Almost wish Yen Press would translate them after the main story, but then they'd lose money on it I'm sure.

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  3. Been following these reviews for awhile, but just wanted to chime in to say I hope you continue them! I find your breakdown of the story greatly helps me understand some of the more complicated moments.

    I agree though that the lack of physical intimacy between Holo and Lawrence grows taxing at times. How long truly would real life character linger in such a relationship limbo? Still those rare moments of spark between them make everything feel worth it.

    Just finished volume 9 and I'm anxious to hear your thoughts. Looking forward to your future review!

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    1. Sorry I should have updated this page with a note to say that Amazon UK relisted the latest novel for shipping on the 15th of September. I'll start reading it as soon as I have it. Thanks for the message Its nice to know my effort isnt going to waste. ^_^

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    2. Alright it arrived in the post this morning!

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    3. Awesome! Looking forward to your thoughts!

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    4. Ive literally just read an awesome scene of Lawrence and Holo bantering and embracing each other whilst Col is out cold from drink.

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