Monday, 4 November 2013

Spice and Wolf- novel 9- Town of Strife II

*SPOILERS AHEAD*

So I said at the end of the last synopsis that Lawrence was thinking of manipulating the Jean Company from another town, but this isn't quite right. At the beginning of this novel its made clear that he's actually quite shaken up from being forced between a rock and a hard place and he just wants to escape with his life intact. The letter Holo reads indicates that Lud Kieman is forcing Lawrence to obey the Rowan Trade Guild when the time comes, in other words acting on the front lines as a disposable pawn. Going against his guild would be disastrous too- almost certain treason and punishment by death- probably.

Lawrence cannot pick a side to be with, and so wants out by running away. He asks Holo and Col to pack their things and run away right here and right now, but they dont budge. In fact they are both kinda relaxed about things.

Col chimes in and says that if the towns' balance of power lies with the Narwhal, then surly it would be easy for Holo to eat it in her wolf form. Lawrence, still shaken up, decides that he will rely on Holo to get him out of this jam.

As a recap the South side of Kerube captured a fishing boat belonging to the North side. The fishing boat held a priceless rare Narwhal. The North is poor, the South is rich. The North could use the Narwhal to pay their debts to the South and gain overall power of both sides of the town. Eve has been put in charge of returning the Narwhal to the North again from a bloke who is not doing this for loyalty to the North, but rather for his own profit. Eve is likely to betray anyone so as to come out on top.

Lawrence, Holo and Col play the waiting game. If they play their cards right they could come out on top, however they have no information to work with. Lawrence notices Col attempting to sew his frayed coat together using twine from his belt. Lawrence takes the boy to a local clothing store and buys some proper twine for him. They play a bartering game with the salesman, a boy in training who attempts to sell their most expense twine.

That evening in their room, Holo makes Col drunk and he falls asleep by a bed. Holo and Lawrence drink more wine at the table while eating beans. Their bantering reveals that as a young wolf, she once chased after a Narwhal rumor in a very ungainly and unwise manner. They hold each others fingers on the table as a way of staying close. She says that Col is a constant reminder to her that she is and should act like a wise wolf. This implies that she thinks of herself as a normal woman around Lawrence. They embrace by the windowsill with Lawrence wrapping his arms around her whilst she sits on his lap. Their banter comes to an end when she hears Ted Reynolds approaching from outside. Lawrence tells her to get into bed and pretend to be asleep.

Reynolds comes into their room and Holo pretends to sleep. Lawrence and Reynolds chat at the table and it seems that he is fretting at being left in the dark by Eve.

The next morning Lud Kieman drops them a visit at their room during breakfast. They are forced to be taken to the South side of town- What Lawrence considers to be enemy territory.

Lud makes them stay at the most expensive inn they have ever stayed in- for free. Col even notes that the bed is made with cotton. Holo teases the boys into working out Luds true intentions and eventually they work out that they are there not only to be kept an eye on, but to be used somehow which will profit Lud greatly- in a way that would pay back their lodging expenses.

They decide to play it cool and somehow make out that they are not in enemy territory. They take a walk to the church where the Narwhal is being held captive in a large basin by a huge stain glass window. Holo likes the idea of jumping though it in her wolf form for if they need to take the Narwhal by force, but Lawrence tells her that the glass is supporting the roof and if she did that, the roof would instantly collapse. BTW because of the large crowd at the entrance to the church, they were only allowed to enter by using Lud Kiemans name to the guards.

Lud appears to the group during their dinner at their room later that evening. He escorts Lawrence to a private room in which he instructs him to act as a messenger between himself and Eve. Originally, Ted Reynolds was going to be forced to act as a messenger but Lawrence proved the better man for the job because as an outsider, he was more likely to abandon and betray both sides if things were to turn ugly (unlike Reynolds who would more likely turn to Eve for support).

Lud tells Lawrence to go to Eve and report to her the condition of the Narwhal, the price for it, the method of delivery, and the time and contingencies for escape. If things go well Lawrence would come out with a lot of profit, but he now finds himself in a similar situation Norah the shepherdess was in, that being that what would happen if things go wrong?

At the end of the conversation Lud asks him how he managed to regain his composure. Lawrence smiles and realises he is being emotionally supported by his woman.

The day of negotiations arrives. The whole town is making a big deal out of it and the main dealings go ahead at the delta. Lawrence's task is to be one of the few messengers from behind the scenes. Messages from Lud are given to a bloke who passes them to Lawrence who passes them on to Eve. Lawrence's task is to take the written messages to Eve's location, wait for her reply, then take that message to an inn to pass to Luds messenger. This process of to-ing and fro-ing with Luds messages and Eves replies goes on for a while. Lawrence becomes more stressed out with each trip he makes.

In the end Eve's final reply is for herself and Lawrence to board a boat carrying the Narwhal during the exchange of hands. The Southerners do what they like with it and will pay the North for not interfering.

Back on the South side everything seemed to be going well, but not for long. Lawrence notices Eve standing there and rushes over to help, she is on the verge of collapse and is grasping a letter.

Lud and his cronies comes over and takes her away. Lawrence staggers into an ally and vomits because of how terrified is at getting away with his life intact.

Holo turns up. They regroup with Col at the church and use Luds name once more to gain entry. Holo is not present for when they talk directly with Lud. Lawrence tells him that she is currently trying to ruin his plans by having her send an incriminating letter to whomever. Lud lets them visit Eve for a bit in a cellar where she is being held. She is going to be killed very soon by Luds men.

Lawrence and Col leave and visit a blacksmith. They get spotted and chased. Holo meets up with them and they escape together.

They mull things over and Lawrence realises that Reynolds does have the money to buy the Narwhal after all, and its not a scam. He made his money on the copper coin distribution thing.

Holo and Col let Lawrence run to the church alone in order to stop Eve from being murdered by Lud. He gets there just in time and explains to them what he's realised. Eve is let go and so they come up with a plan.

Next scene Reynolds is in the church with his gold coins about to buy the Narwhal. Lawrence tells him that his scheme is not going to work and starts to recite all of his misdeeds about his copper coin plan.

Reynolds, distraught, tells him that he will pay him whatever it costs in hush money, but Lawrence walks away and lets Lud and Eve take over.

In the end, Lawrence never finds out what deal broke out between Reynolds, Lud and Eve. Lud and Eve got the profit they deserved and hopefully repaired their working relationship. Reynolds ended up buying the Narwhal, and most probably didnt make any money on the deal. The town probably ends up with things much like they were before.

The next day the three protagonists are eating an expensive lunch in their room, ordered no doubt by Lud for a job well done. Lawrence answers a knock on the door. Its Eve. She tells him everything she knows about the wolf bones that she forced out of Reynolds. Apparently their next destination in pursuit of them would be to travel overseas to The Kingdom of Winfiel, Eves homeland. She tells him to use her real name once there in order for his business to run more smoothly because her real name still has weight in it. She thanks Lawrence for saving her life and tells him that she and Arold will continue their travels south along with her firs.

Just after she leaves, Col appears in the hallway with his plate of food. He looks a bit dejected and tells him that he was sent out by Holo. Lawrence watches Col leave down the hallway and reenters the room. Lawrence then recites as a third person quote- "I dont want to remember what happened next".

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Yen Press was gracious enough to include a short synopsis at the beginning of the book, as well as a map of the world which is really really helpful. Oddly enough the beginning of the book started with an intermission which then led to chapter 4?? This is strange. I have never come across a novel that is split into 2 volumes like this. Seriously why was this book split in half like this? It makes no sense. I understand that Yen Press is only emulating how it was released in Japan, but even so I still find it weird.

Thinking about it maybe this is why this range of novels is marketed in Japan as something called 'Light Novels'. Maybe each volume has to be capped at a certain page count? Makes no sense for western markets but hey ho.

Town of Strife: my review for the complete story-

Holo and Lawrence in this story are an inseparable couple madly in love with one another. She challenges him to act as a real man, to be more of a protagonist and not a sideline character that he thinks himself to be. She purposely takes a back seat to see how well he does under pressure. Sure, Lawrence just about handles the difficult situation he gets himself in, despite nearly hitting breaking point at times, but the conclusion to it all is that Holo becomes completely satisfied. He passes her test with flying colours and so she boots out cock block Col and treats Lawrence to something we fans have been longing for all this time- their first time in bed.

But you know what, if it wasnt for the payoff, these two novels would have come across as long winded, boring and confusing. Seriously the story was utterly boring.

If it wasnt for the payoff this book would have gotten a 4-10, but because everything clicked into place and for the payoff to be SO DAMN HUGE this novel gets the best rating it can get: 10-10. I don't care less for the longwinded boring-ness of it all, HOLO AND LAWRENCE JUST HAD SEX!

I think the quote "I dont want to remember what happened next" implies that Holo jumped him as soon as he entered the room. I can just imagine a reserved Lawrence having to contend with a horny female wolf who absolutely refuses to hold back. ROFLOL.

These two novels were crap. Long winded, boring, confusing and crap. Seriously the story was utterly boring. Cock block Col / or 'third wheel' Col has destroyed the series. No, the author has done that. He has intentionally stunted the relationship which now feels unrealistic.

As for the ending, either its piss poor translation work or the author cannot convey the story in his head, to the story on paper. Seriously i have no idea what happened.

This whole mess of a 2 part story gets 4-10.

I'm now disinterested in the series entirely.

10 comments:

  1. the series ended? or the light novels are still running?.

    hoo is true they had sex? O.o

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    1. There are 17 novels in all. Its my personal opinion that they indeed had sex in this volume (its all about how you interpret the ending)- until I'm proven wrong from what may happen in the future volumes.

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  2. Greetings, I've been lurking about your site ever since I read the Town of Strife II within a week of it's US release. At the time, you had only reviewed up to Town of Strife I, and while I disagreed with some of your thoughts on Town of Strife I, it was clear that you held the series in high regard and you were pretty decent about just reviewing the product. Truth was, I was a little baffled by the end of Town of Strife II and how others were interpreting it. So, I was desperate to find others who had actually read all the books so far. thus leading me to find out about your work.

    I certainly hope you found Town of Strife I more tolerable once you'd read its second part. Obviously, to some extent you did, because Town of Strife II got a ten out of ten. I can see your approach, but I don't know if I agree. Personally, at time I find Hasekura's language vague in a very fulfilling way. The same vagueness that is in the scene for example where you interpreted it being followed by sex - which is a valid conclusion by the way - if I'm not mistaken, is often used at crucial moments in their relationship, like at the ending to volume five after Lawrence buys Holo back and they have another pleasant conversation basking in the same sort of vague language. Because Hasekura didn't spell it out, I have trouble subscribing to your theory, plus I can't honestly gauge if they'd be at that phase. That being said, you clearly interpret the vague language better than me, so it's very well that you're completely right. I didn't want to dash your dreams, I was just offering another prospective.

    Also, Volume 10 was amazing. I don't think you'll be disappointed (though this novel doesn't confirm or prove that the sex happened at the end of volume 9). The side characters all felt very rich and real, perhaps as strong as some of the best side characters we've met so far (of whom I hold Eve in regard). I just finished it before writing this, and all I'm going to say is I can't wait to see what you have to say about it. As somebody who loves the economical troubles of the Spice and Wolf verse, I'd say this novel easily rival the Narwhal incident in Kerube or the debt crisis Lawrence faced when the arms market crashed. Of course, Volume 10 had plenty of cute moments of everybody's favorite couple, and Col for the most part doesn't ruin them, so that's good. We see Holo being even more maternal to Col, and Col, for his part, really holds his own in Volume 10, helping provide new insights and bringing a new dynamic of thinking to the plans of the (now) trio. I mean, if it were a role playing game, I'd hate to make enemies of a party that consists of a genius merchant with "precious cargo" to protect, a scholar of church law with the resolution of a stout survivalist, and a "god" of rich harvest with enough wisdom and life experience to put even the most learned sage to shame. Of course, Holo and Lawrence have shining moments too, but that's a guarantee. I was, and still am, impressed with Col in this novel.

    Hopefully, you don't feel as though I've ruined anything. But, if I may ask a question, at the end of Volume 9 (Town of Strife II), Eve comes to thank Lawrence and give him her real name. I was confused by a bit of vague language, language which I'm certain you managed to interpret at something that I could not see. This is the excerpt (page 211): "Lawrence smiled and looked down to shake her offered hand - that's when it happened.
    '...-!.'
    He couldn't begin to guess at whether he could ever have anticipated such a thing happening. His mind went white with surprise."

    What do you reckon she did to surprise him so? This question has been gnawing at me since August. Can you please enlighten me?

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    1. That was money, a hell of a lot of it. Read a bit further on. she says to him "You taught me that business is most profitable when you take your opponent (in this case, Lawrence) by surprise. That (what she just handed him) was payment for the lesson"

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  3. Woah. I'm bummed that you didn't enjoy this novel up until the end (which I'm glad to see you did enjoy). Just going to offer up my thoughts here, some of which will address your comments, some will just be me talking, because I have no where else to voice my thoughts (and I just spent the last week rereading the series while stuck sick in bed).

    First, most light novels are relatively short, 50k-60k words, so yeah this story was split between two novels. Weird, but oh well.

    Second, I think your assessment of the ending is off. This is just my take (and I really need to get my hands on the English translation to make sure it says what I think it says), so I could be completely wrong myself, but I believe Eve kissed Lawrence in the hallway, which Holo's ears pick up on. Hence she sends Cole out so she can punish Lawrence and why Lawrence doesn't want to remember the next few minutes.

    Now hear me out. We know Eve likes Lawrence. Besides Kraft (shorter to type so I'm gonna call him Kraft), Arold is the only person she seems to like and respect. Even after betraying him in vol. 5, she left the deed to the inn so he could buy Holo back. In Town of Strife she continually tries to get him to team up with her and expresses her respect for him while the other big shots don't really pay attention to Lawrence until he comes up with his plan at the end. In some ways, she shows him more respect than Holo, and while not nearly as important romantically, from a business standpoint it means a lot to Kraft to be recognized by someone he sees as a great merchant like Eve. it may not be obvious, but she does a lot of non-Eve things for/with Lawrence. She drinks from his glass in the market (the author makes a big deal of this when Holo and Lawrence share a glass as well, so this is a big deal in Japan I guess and seen as romantic). She comes to visit him at his inn instead of making him come see her or sending someone to summon him. She also constantly compliments him (and we know from her other dealings Eve really isn't big on using flattery to get what she wants. She's more crafty than that and pretty arrogant). When she thinks their plan has failed, she actually comes to try and warn him, which is when she's captured, something the old Eve would never have done. And in the end Lawrence saves her life. She admits one things she wants as much as the profit is to make others shout her name in respect and she and Lawrence are the ones exchanging names at the end in respect. While Eve is far too much a lone wolf and too selfish to really love him, I think she likes him a lot more than she planned. And she already admitted being jealous of Holo's and Lawrence's bond, which she'll never have. Even her line about taking her opponent by surprise fits. She couldn't ask for a kiss or really pursue him because Holo would win. But by catching him by surprise, she gets the biggest profit possible (a kiss, since Lawrence couldn't return her feelings, and she couldn't really commit to him over gold anyway to have a real relationship) and it makes sense with her being able to smell the herb on his face because she'd be close to him after the kiss. As for the 'payment' line, I believe she took the kiss as repayment for the letter of introduction she gave Lawrence, which he said he'd need to repay, thus making them even.

    Again, I have no proof of any of this, but it makes sense with Eve's words, Lawrence's reaction, and the ending with Holo. And not to spoil anything in the future, but there is no hint in the next novel that Lawrence and Holo had sex at the end of this one unfortunately :(

    Sorry if that makes you dislike this volume. Personally I loved the ending, since it seems like Lawrence is usually the jealous one, and because I liked the idea of Lawrence winning on his own power rather than relying on Holo's wolf form to win against all these high class merchants he thought were above him, but I can see how it might bore people.

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    1. If the payoff wasnt sex, then these 2 novels get a 4/10, and i will end up saying It was boring with an incredibly poorly described ending. Only time will tell.

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  4. Just found your blog. I've been looking for forums to discuss SW LN's coherently, but those are hard to find, so i appreciate the effort you put forth for your reviews.

    Per Vol. 9 - I honestly am slightly confused at how you came to that conclusion. Opti Fish's comment is spot on and exactly what i thought after reading it. Think about it, Eve surprised him with a Kiss (Eve is a looker and KL highly respects her as a merchant). She can smell the herb on his cheek. KL literally saved her life. Col being sent outside (with a somewhat scared look no less) is no surprise to KL bc he knows he's going to get the mother of all lectures and beatdowns that going to come from that kiss. Having sex, at that moment would be totally out of character for this couple and the author. It would litterally be coming out of left field. Not to mention, why would he NOT want to remember such an intimate moment? He doesn't want to remember the beating he's going to get.

    Hell, they still haven't even had "the kiss" yet. Their intimacy is still in therir banter, their pride, holding hands and hugging. Sex? No way. That sounds more juvenile and wishful thinking.

    I'm not trying to change your mind (nor will), but your interpretation seems very far fetched to me.

    I look foreard to your review on Vol 10 as i thought that ending was very very vague. i don't need my hand held through everything, but i do like to be on the right track regarding things that happen. Vol 10 left to many question marks and i'll have to reread the last few pages again.

    keep up the good work.

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    1. Something left field needed to happen in order for these 2 books to be considered 'good' in my books. I agree that my views are far likely to be proven incorrect, and when that happens I will be changing this entire review, and giving it 4/10. This book was utterly UTTERLY boring and it may just be that I was looking for something, anything, to make it worth while at the end of it all.

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  5. thanks for summary . i recently found out the blog . when is the next vol coming?

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  6. currently reading it! ^_^

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