Tuesday, 17 February 2015

Spice and Wolf- novel 12

*SPOILERS AHEAD*

Holo and Lawrence share a few intimate moments early on in this novel. Once whilst still on the island Kingdom of Winfiel where their banter leads to mutual hand holding, and again when on the return boat to Kerube where Lawrence lovingly brushes her hair back without her asking whilst they talk. Their actions are showing more instinctive intimacy. Both don't question it, nor blush nor feel weird about it.

Piasky's letter suggests that the real wolf bones may be in the possession of the Debau Company, whilst Huskins information talks of another sheep god named Hugues and his colleague Fran who can be found in Kerube.

At the trading house on the south side of Kerube, Kieman gives Lawrence a letter from Eve which states that she profited with the furs. Kieman also directs them to the location of Hugues, which turns out to be an art shop in town.

Hugues shop turns out to be full of paintings. Lawrence and Holo explain what they are there for and Hugues reveals that the paintings are primarily for other wandering gods that wish to purchase a visual record of their homes before they were destroyed by mining or from the Moon Hunting Bear.

Fran Vonely
Holo fails to find any visual records of Yoitsu. The painter named Fran turns up. She is only a girl who also specialises in silversmithing. Fran is a frequent traveller to old villages in the north and knows a lot about the old tales and stories attributed with them. When asked, it is revealed that she knows about Yoitsu. Lawrence puts his foot in it and asks to pay for a map. Fran seizes this opportunity to exploit them and forces them to embark on a quest to a northern village named Taussig where local tales tell of an angel and a witch. Fran needs co-operation from outsiders in order to investigate the story. Otherwise she would come across as visiting the village as an associate of the supposed witch.

They set out by using Hugues' wagon with Fran riding her own horse. They travel north to the planes and find the village at the foot of a few mountains. They are welcomed into a household where they are served dinner whilst the husband tells them the story of a local legend, a tale of the appearance of an angel many years ago. After that the gang are led to a wood by the same guy. He tells them another story of a witch which occupied the wood a few decades ago. Our gang plan on staying the night in this wood to investigate further.

They reside in a cottage next to a lake with a waterfall where the Angel was supposed to have appeared. Inside the cottage they find the so called witch. She's long since dead still sitting in her chair. Turns out she was a nun who came here years ago to see the Angel.
Fran and Col go off exploring together a few times, giving Lawrence and Holo some alone time. Again theres a bit of handholding going on between them and again its considered not that big a deal.
Once everyone is together in the cottage, Fran explains that the village has used the tale of the witch to deter the church from caring about the angel rumour. The village are scared of higher factions such as the church coming in and setting up a water mill at the river. Otherwise the villagers would be burdened by heavier taxation.
Our gang is being watched during their stay, presumably from the villagers.

It comes to light that the reason why Fran is so interested in the Angel rumour is because it was mentioned from her lost friend, or maybe lover.

Its agreed that the Angel rumour must derive from falling snow and ice from above the waterfall, with the falling ice looking like wings.

Fran asks Lawrence and Holo to ride into the village on horseback to acquire a map of the river path and its streams. They do so but out of the blue arrive men by horseback with spears, demanding the village representatives to come out. Apparently this is the landlord arriving demanding to lay waste of any lands where the legend of the angel remains.

Holo and Lawrence escape by foot back to the lake and cottage. they meet up with Fran and Col along the way. Fran says that soldiers were also here a moment ago.

Fran has the idea that the landlord has chosen a third option without being confrontational to both the church and the pagans. This third option is to erase all traces of the dead nun entirely, construct a water mill and therefore profit from travellers coming in from the Northern Campaign. She reveals that the dead nun was actually called Katrina Lucci, a woman currently being canonised as a saint. Her possessions, the cottage, the area and even her dead corpse will soon be considered holy relics. This should bring in enough profit in itself for the landlords (the Debau Company) so there should be no need for a water mill.

Before they set off on this journey, Fran was informed about Lawrence's skill as a ruthless profitable merchant from Lud Kieman of Kerube. Fran expects Lawrence to somehow help sell the so called witch off as a saint, the complete opposite of a witch. Lawrence thinks this is totally impossible. Fran is so annoyed at Lawrence's unwillingness to help that she storms off. Col, having spent a lot of alone time with Fran, thrusts a book of scriptures at Lawrence and storms off after her.

Lawrence and Holo open the book. It has blood stains and is very old. Inside it are letters from Frans friend who told her about the Angel. These letters confirm that he was a soldier that died, and she was born on the battlefield, using the church as a means of saving her life.

Lawrence consoles Holo. He draws her in close and they bump foreheads. He decides with a clear head that instead of running away he will instead choose to help Fran. Otherwise Fran could easily end up dead; 'erased' alongside the dead nun/saint.

The two head back to the cottage. Lawrence does not plan on selling Katrina off as a saint, but instead will refer to her as one as a representative of the church during the canonisation process.
Later on Fran and Col arrive back. Fran is surprised at Lawrence's willingness to help.

Soldiers arrive on horseback, followed by most of the villagers. Lawrence and Fran head out to confront them. Lawrence is addressed by the landlord appointed governor who points a spear at him. Lawrence introduces himself as a merchant that has been sent by a bishop in order to render the legend of the angel in silver work, the exact same story our gang had agreed on in the first place. However Lawrence then goes on to say he was also sent to check on Katrina whilst her application of canonisation was still ongoing. This surprising news stirs among the locals and troops alike.

An old knight steps through the soldiers and reveals to be the true leader, a man named Kirchner Linguid. He greets Lawrence and asks him for proof of his word. Lawrence has none. Instead Lawrence recites a list of relevant names attributed to the canonisation process he memorised from Katrinas book of scriptures, and tells the leader that he should ask them for proof.

The leader Kirchner is more timid than Lawrence would have suspected, and the man is just about to believe Lawrence when a solider in the ranks shouts out that he recognises Fran Vonely as the chaplain of the Kirjavainen mercenary troop from the battle in Ploania where the resulting battle led to the leader being hung on suspicion of being a pagan. Therefore Fran could not be attributed to the church, so the soldier says.

Tensions are high but Fran steps out admitting she was the person who the solider claims her to be. A spear is pointed at Fran as she tries to defend herself with a strong speech. she is injured by a spear in the shoulder. A villager then shoots an arrow in the leg of the soldier that did this. This starts a battle between those willing to believe the angel legend and those that do not. Lawrence takes Fran away from the fighting and she asks to go to the lake. She is bleeding quite badly.

Holos wolf form appears at the top of the waterfall. her howl is so powerful that everyone stops to look up. A rumbling occurs which some say sounds like a heavenly troop. An avalanche occurs from the top of the waterfall. The crash of ice and snow sends icy water into the air in such a way it appears to be wings taking to the sky- the angel legend in fruition.

Back at Hugues shop Lawrence recites the rest of the story. The village accepted the legend and came to believe in Lawrence and Fran, as well as Katrinas sainthood. Fran was fussed over by the villagers so much that Holo looked at her with delight at seeing a person loath so much attention, similar to when she was worshipped as a goddess in the past.

It took 3 days to return to Kerube. Everyone goes to bed that night on the second floor of the shop. Just before retiring for the night, Lawrence talks with Fran in her bedroom about the map she promised to draw. Its revealed that it was her intention to die at the lake once she solved the mystery of the angel and put her past behind her.

Lawrence leaves Frans room and finds Holo waiting just outside. He ignores her and they retire to their bedroom together.

---

I have not experienced a decent Spice and Wolf novel since volume 6. This book was fantastic. I read it in the blink of an eye I just couldn't put it down.

The author reveals in the afterword that he wrote the story when on a writing holiday in Okinawa. The quality shows. This is a beautiful story that equals the tone of those original novels.

Despite having two extra people around (Col and Fran) not once did they get in the way of Holo and Lawrence's important alone time. Talking of which this novel starts with the important statement of saying to the reader that Holo and Lawrence love each other, the two characters have known it for ages, but now they don't care about being free to express this to one another with simple gestures such as handholding, caressing and intimacy.

The angel legend involves a 'beast'. In the grand scheme of things with Holos life span its a relatively new legend. Could it be from a wolf god? Does this mean at least one other wolf god is out there somewhere?

I love this novel. Its been two years since I've read a decent Spice and Wolf novel. I might have slated volume 6 but honestly looking back it wasn't that bad. Things got worse which made vol 6 look good. That was the last good novel. I thought the series was on the slippery slope of mediocrity.

10-10. Yes thats right. Ten out of friggin ten. Spice and Wolf is BACK.

"If you fail, I won't forgive you."
"Of course." Lawrence said, lightly bumping Holo's forehead with his own.
"Of course." he said again.

4 comments:

  1. This will have been the 2nd time your reviews have brought me to pick SnW up again after putting it down in frustration.
    Still, the cringes get incresingly painful every time Holo throws a tantrum and Lawrence just beats himself up over it instead of occasionally telling her to get over herself.
    The dynamic of their interactions was incredibly well crafted back in book 5, but has become more and more formulaic and lazy since then.

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  2. Their character growth, or lack of it, was really frustrating to me. I didnt get that sense of it during the volumes leading up to this one. However i agree they need to bicker/argue more often to finally get to that stage in their relationship where they can reach an understanding like with real couples. It was S&W that taught me that real couples do this to sort out their problems a lot faster. And that was volume 3.

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  3. Spot on. The earlier novels really invited introspection and coming from watching the anime, I really loved Lawrences deeper more mature character - aware of his flaws but still confident in his qualities. However, instead of growing together, recently it actually felt like he's internalized his inability to win skirmishes with Holo to the point where he automatically assumes he fucked up anytime she gets angry.


    Now to be fair, once I got past the first major disagreement (The part where Holo flips her shit because Lawrence got outmaneuvered by Fran), volume 12 actually became quite excellent. So good in fact that it felt like I had just started reading but in fact three hours had passed and suddenly the novel was over. That hasn't happened to me with a SnW novel since V5, which gives me hope.


    So yeah, thanks for writing these reviews. I really really appreciate your style of detailed commented synopsis.

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  4. I'm in part 15 now. Drunk Wolf translation is a bit odd but I can deal with it.
    The books are good. Really good. Not perfect of course, but especially Holo as a charackter became much more acessible for me again after it pretty much lost me for a while. I'm actually a lot more ok with what went on (and didn't) in 6-11.
    SnW love status: rekindled.

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