Funny story here, I didn't actually mean to get a copy of this book when I did. Back in August I had my mom place a RightStuf order for me (since I was going to be out of town when the final Utena set went on pre-order and I was afraid they would sell out of the rings before I had a chance to order) but a few things went screwy, my mom accidentally placed two orders instead of one and I didn't know about this until TRSI had a Yen Press sale and I went to add this volume to my cart and discovered that not only was it already in one of my orders but it had shipped as well. Oops, although I wasn't too unhappy at this turn of events since I wanted to read the volume soon anyway, especially since volume four was not covered by the anime (season one covered volumes 1 & 2, season two covered volumes 3 & 5) so I was curious to see if there was a reason Brains Base had chosen not to animate this novel.
Spice and Wolf by Isuna Hasekura, illustrated by Jyuu Ayakura
Here is the American cover which is also better than the previous ones but the plain white background bothers me, sure there are regular novels with white backgrounds but it's usually a very minimalistic style cover and this just isn't minimalism, especially with that kind of font used for the title.
Summary: About a week after their last adventure, Holo and Laurence are searching for an abbey they heard about in Kumerson that has a large collection of pagan tales and hopefully more information on Holo's lost hometown. But when they arrive in the village of Tereo they encounter unexpected resistance and an interesting arrangement between the village and the nearby town of Enberch.
The Good: I'm not sure why this story wasn't adapted into the anime version (perhaps it's too similar to the next story?) because it was a fairly solid story that uses yet another point of commerce for it's conflict and has a rather clever solution in the end. Holo and Lawerence's relationship continues to progress forward slowly (it's a little hard to remember that the novels only have a short gap of time between them, that makes the speed the relationship is developing at seem much more realistic) but there certainly is progress for both of them.
The Bad: The ending does feel a little bit like a deus ex machina (funny enough, it both kinda is and is supposed to be seen as one) but I still thought it was a clever solution. Elsa (the priest in Tereo and one of the major characters) felt a little flat to me despite Hasekura's attempts to make her a more rounded character however. She had quite a few scenes and made decisions but never seemed to have a lot of personality to me and I simply had a hard time caring about what she was doing as a result. The other side characters were much more interesting (such as the village elder, the miller and the bar keeper's wife) so I was sad that Elsa felt so dull for the entire story.
The Art: The illustrator for Spice & Wolf is the same as the previous novels so the art remains unchanged. The designs are a little too simple for my taste (which is odd, generally light novel art is more intricate than manga art which is turn is more complicated than anime artwork) but I really do like Holo's look on the cover.
So another good addition to the series, now to hope that it stays that way for the remaining 13 volumes. Funny enough this is the only Yen Press series I'm not behind on, really hoping that next year I can take advantage of more of TRSI's sales so I can try to stay that way since it's so frustrating to be volumes behind on the releases.