Author: Isuna Hasekura
Publisher: Yen Press
Rating: Teen (13+)
Release Date: December 2011
Synopsis: “Lawrence and Holo take a respite from their travels north, but a true businessman never rests! It isn’t long before an opportunity for profit in the town of Lenos presents itself to Lawrence; one that could fulfill his dreams of owning his own establishment. But as always the promise of great reward carries with it great risk – and risk is never greater than when one plans to use a werewolf as collateral!”
Hey, remember me? I used to post reviews here? No? Well, I can’t blame you for that since it has been awhile. Definitely longer than I intended it to be. And there are a few reasons for that but the main one is that I was sent the fifth volume of the Spice & Wolf light novels to review and haven’t been able to finish it. And without finishing it, I can’t really give it a proper review. I can, however, review my inability to produce a review. Or something. Roll with me here, guys.
This isn’t my first encounter with Spice & Wolf. I’ve seen the first season of the anime and about half of the second season. I even reviewed volume one way back when. My struggles weren’t due to the common issue of not knowing what is going on. No, the problems I had come down to finding it a hard book to not put down – and not entirely for negative reasons.
The pacing of this series, in any form, is a very slow and steady one. For this reason I found I didn’t really feel like reading the book for long periods at a time. It’s a good book to sit and relax with but not one for a marathon sit on the couch. This isn’t such a bad thing since a good calming read is called for every now and then, but it is not exactly conducive to finishing a book around a deadline.
I also faced an issue early on which frustrated me, as well as confused me a bit, and that was the awkward translation for the paragraphs. I had to ask a friend of mine who speaks Japanese how paragraphs work in that language. The answer I got was that they do exist but are different than in English. That said, an English translation should make the text readable for an English audience and I don’t think this one really did all it could. There were far too many one-sentence paragraphs that did not need to be separated from those above and below and thus it made the flow of reading very choppy. What is especially odd about this is the fact that I don’t remember having a similar issue with the first volume. Perhaps it simply wasn’t as much of a problem with that book.
The next issue I have, however, was in volume one and that is the need of the author to handhold the reader when it comes to explaining what is going on. I sometimes get sick of the old writing adage “show, don’t tell” but I really wish someone would pass that message on to Isuna Hasekura. It wasn’t even necessarily a problem with exposition; the narration just had to explain every little thing and what it meant, even when what it meant was pretty obvious to the reader.
The final thing that I did not care for in this volume was the illustrations, or rather the choice of what the illustrations were of. The ones in the part of the book I read were really just character portraits and didn’t show any scene of particular note. This might have been fine in the first volume but not in the fifth.
Spice & Wolf still has amazing characters with dynamic relationships, even though I found the pacing led the main Lawrence/Holo relationship to get sort of stuck in a not-quite-but-almost romantic spot. The new character, Eve, was just introduced at the point which I last read and was beginning to get my interest up again. Because of this I’ll probably finish reading the book eventually, since I am curious about what happens (and also because I’m pretty stubborn when it comes to these sorts of things).
A bad manga is easy for me to review because you can get through it pretty quickly. A bad text-only book however takes much more time and unfortunately with this one I found myself flashing back to my university English classes where I struggled (and failed) to keep up with the reading list. And so, while I hesitate to classify Spice & Wolf volume five as a bad book – notably because I still don’t know how it ends – I can’t really recommend it to anyone and I have a feeling that is something that will not change.
One last note before I go and tackle a waiting pile of manga: when the first English volume came out, I actually defended the cover that Yen Press put on it in order to appeal to non-manga readers. However, when this book arrived, the first thing I did was take off the hideously ugly slipcover and recycle it, leaving me with the much better anime-style illustration. It really was just terrible.
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Book provided by Yen Press for review purposes