I am a fan of Spice and Wolf. Yet, I haven’t read any of the light novels. I haven’t read any light novels for that matter. I grew up reading behemoth books like those found in the Wheel of Time series. I decided to fix this little problem.
Light novels are an interesting format. The illustrations scattered throughout the first volume of Spice and Wolf are charming. The art style is expressive and compliments the text well. The illustrations fill in the gaps in the proses’ character descriptions and match up well with the anime’s art. The writing style is different from what I am used to reading. The first book reads like a folk tale. The story would be perfect for reading aloud. Many of the descriptions reminded me of oral tales like Beowulf.
Unfortunately, I am a fast reader, but I enjoyed the few hours I spent with the first volume. I average one page a minute on books like Robert Jordan’s. I burned through Spice and Wolf a little too fast. The anime follows the story closely, only a few details change. The dialogue is crisp and well translated. Although English lacks formal old speech (outside Old English), Holo’s formal, careful speech shines on each page. The dialogue makes Lawrence and Holo come to life in ways description cannot do.
The book opens with Lawrence, the traveling merchant passing through a town celebrating a harvest festival. His brief stay nets him a certain girl with ears and a tail that resembles a wolf. Fortune and misfortune follows when the merchant promises to see the woman wolf to her home in the north.
Reading Spice and Wolf is a pleasant way to spend an afternoon. The story is unique. It lacks villains and evil threats. Instead the story focuses on economics, merchant schemes, and money. Characters are not evil. They are simply human. I find the method of storytelling refreshing. Holo and Lawrence are grounded in a richly sketched world.
I recommend this series if you enjoy banter and solid characters. There is little action, however. Business is the centerpiece for conflicts. Don’t expect fights and blood. Fights do break out, but they are limited in scope. Spice and Wolf doesn’t offer earth shattering conflict that changes the world. It is a story about life and companionship that is easy to identify with. I will be reading more of this series and look into more light novels. The light novel format is a nice break from the massive (800+ pages) works I normally read.