Book Review: Spice & Wolf Volume 4

Spice & Wolf Volume 4 cover

I hope that everyone is doing well, and enjoying their weekend.

Things have been going fairly well, now that the noise pollution is not so bad, and I can get to work on doing something that I can enjoy.

As most of you guys know, there have been quite a few titles released at the end of March that I could not get to because of unexpected expenses, and I purchased a few books this week so that I can get caught up.

So far, I have been able to cover most of those titles and only three remain.

Today, I will be reviewing one of those remaining titles, which is called Spice & Wolf Volume 4 by Isuna Hasekura.

As I have given a series synopsis in an earlier post, I will not go over it again.

Lawrence and Holo continue on their journey to find Yoitsu, and with information concerning a monk that might just have stories of Yoitsu, they head for a small village where somebody who knows of the monk's location is said to live.

However, when they get there, they find out that said person has died and that their true destination might be under their nose, but a calamity dealing with poisoned wheat may hinder the duo's ability to gain and use info, because the villagers want to take the easy way out.

While it has taken me a bit longer than originally planned to get to this volume, I have to say that I liked this book quite a bit.

From the moment that I opened up this book and started reading, I suck right back into the world of Spice & Wolf for any reason, though I do have to satisfy the same needs that all humans have to deal with.

Even though Isuna does not have a decent track record of holding my interest, considering how I got bored quite a few times when going through World End Economica episodes 2 and 3, he has been quite good as capturing and holding my attention for most of the Spice & Wolf series so far, and this is really turning my opinion of him around, even if he has not gained as horrible of a reputation with me as John Grisham has.

After all, this was the second book in a row that things did not feel tedious at some point, and it makes me want to give Isuna some major applause.

The content of this book may not exist in either of the two anime adaptations, but I am still hoping that things could be this exciting once I get past the events covered by the two anime adaptations, otherwise I would regret trying out this series.

I also liked how quickly things progressed.

While Spice & Wolf is not known to be a fast-paced series, nor are any of the books exactly as long as many of the top novels in the most famous best seller lists, things can become really tedious if nothing happened for too long, or it took too long for things to get resolved.

Fortunately, Isuna has learned the importance of changing the pacing of his works within the short span of a year, according to Isuna Hasekura in the afterword of this book, and it makes me want to give him some major applause.

Readers want to see writers improve throughout the course of their writing career, except for a few unimpressive moments in the World End Economica series, I can see those improvements quite clearly. Nice work, Isuna.

If he can keep this up, I have no doubt that Isuna will be able to maintain the quality of this series and continue to meet my expectations.

Another nice thing about this book was how I found myself laughing quite a bit.

While the kind of humor present is not unique to the series, there were still a few parts that I felt like chuckling, especially because this is the first time I have encountered the events this book.

The funniest of which had to do with religious beliefs and how it was used to try to force conversion.

Now, many people should be aware that I am not exactly fond of religious groups in our society, especially the one that I belong to, but if it is fulfilling its true purpose of helping people rediscover the courage to live their lives, instead of trying to make them conform to the standards of the group because they believe it is what makes people happy, I have absolutely no problem with existence of religion as an institution.

In the case of this book, when the town that regularly traded with the village that Lawrence and Holo visited came to fix the problem with the wheat, the church clergy chastised the village for not worshipping a god that did absolutely nothing for anyone instead of a false pagan deity, calling one of Lawrence's new acquaintances a false servant of God and their church “the one truth faith.”

I found this funny for two reasons.

First, as most people are aware, there are numerous times in history where religious group, especially Christian denominations, go into various regions and force inhabitants to convert their beliefs, and seeing how the town posing a threat to Tereo was trying to do the same thing, I found it kind of funny, even considering how some of the pagan gods that are rejected by that church actually exist in the universe of Spice & Wolf.

Of course, if you guys want a more recent comparison in our society, think of ridiculousness of the debate of whether God exists or not, and how neither side can prove that their position is correct one, since many, but not all,” atheists out there rely on what is known as argumentum ad ignorantiam, or argument from ignorance, according to a page on the domain belonging to the University of Texas at El Paso, which is basically saying that claim A must be true because claim B cannot be proved, or A must be true or false because it cannot be proved or disproved.

Yes, religious nuts or devout believers, as well as many others try to prove their point through argumentum ad ignorantiam, but that does not change the fact that this is partly hilarious because that is exactly what the church clergy are doing here by saying that an evil spirit protected Tereo because nobody in the village got sick, whereas somebody in Enberch supposedly died from the wheat.

Logical fallacies might weaken arguments, but, in fiction, they can create some incredibly funny moments, and seeing how Isuna Hasekura used this perfectly, it makes me want to give him quite a bit of applause.

The other thing about this that made me chuckle the most was how the clergymen kept calling their church “the one true faith.”

As I mentioned in my review of The Hound of the Baskervilles, many people in the church that I belong to believe, like many other followers of various religious group, that it is “the one true faith,” though it is because they think a certain scripture verse says that God declared it, “the only true and living church on the face of the whole Earth, with which I, the Lord, am 'well pleased,” instead of looking at it and realizing that it is a hope or wish, and they even declare that other Christian denominations are not correct because they think that Christians believe that God is some formless entity, even though both my church and the various Christian denominations believe that God is three distinct beings, according to a post by Andrew S. on Wheat & Tares.

Seeing the clergymen make these kind of claims, which are not unique to any one group or periods of history, I cannot help but laugh at how these guys want the citizens of Tereo believe that their church is God's Church, when God's Church is not a church that people can actually in any particular location, since I think that members of any religion can become a member of God's Church without converting from one religion to another, though I will not deny that there are groups out there that truly cannot be considered a part of God's Church.

 

Honestly, if human beings stopped doing something as idiotic as this, then I would not be as disappointed religion as a whole, as each group would be much more respectable.

Then again, if things improved that much, I do not think that I would be able to find things funny in any series or be able to like characters because they are doing what a few strongly religious people cannot do, such as accept people regardless of whether they believe in multiple gods, a god, or that no god exists.

Still, that does not change the fact that this similar to what is seen in real life, and makes me want to give Isuna even more applause for making this the funniest thing in the book.

The thing that I liked the most though was how Lawrence, Holo, and their acquaintances faked a miracle to save the day.

Now, a lot of people these days think that there are no miracles, as science can supposedly explain everything, but they also probably cannot tell me what is not a miracle because many positive outcomes have a chance of coming true or not happening at all.

However, I will also acknowledge that not everything that happens in our world is the work of some divine being.

In the case of this volume, the troubles between Tereo and Enberch would not have been fixed if Lawrence and Holo did not cause something to happen that should not have normally happened.

Fortunately, they did occur and demonstrated why conjured miracles are so powerful in the eyes of humans.

Being a successful merchant or salesman requires a person to understand how humans act, and by having the characters talk about it and actually do it, it seems like Isuna really knows that what he is doing and the importance of a basic understanding of psychology when writing, which makes me want to give him a major round of applause.

Outside of those things, I cannot think of anything else I particularly liked, especially anything that could stand out on its own.

Because my interest was held from beginning to end, the pacing did not feel too slow, and that I was able to get some laughs from things I have not seen before in series, as well as demonstrating the power of fake miracles, this was one of the best books in the series.

Although I liked the book, there are some issues.

However, aside from things too minor to talk about, only one thing really bothered me.

Nothing was unexpected.

Now, many people following me will know that I have a huge interest in the detective, mystery, and crime fiction genres, especially considering that my Detective Conan reviews tend to receive more traffic than others, and more likes and such, and while I cannot judge every work like a work that belongs to one of those three genres, there are things that I want to see in other works.

In the case of the book, I wanted to discover things at the same rate as our protagonists, and be surprised by what they found out.

Unfortunately, things like their true destination could be seen from miles away.

Yes, I can notice quite a bit because I read quite a few works in the detective, mystery, and crime fiction genres, but since this is my first time reading through these events, I do not think anybody would have troubles figuring that the place that Holo and Lawrence seek is nearby.

Really, Isuna? Is this a sign of a well-written adventure story? I do not think that fans of adventure like piecing things together before the protagonist as much as fans of detective, mystery, and crime fiction like to piece things together before their favorite detective, and this disappoints me.

Then again, because I was not as utterly disappointed in this as I was with how obvious the mystery of Akai's fate was in volume 60 of Detective Conan, I can downgrade this aspect to a minor annoyance.

Fortunately, neither Isuna Hasekura nor Yen Press did anything to make this worse, at least when it comes to things about things will bug both first timers and fans of the series.

While there was only one issue with the book, it was not bad enough to hurt the quality of this book too much.

Despite the fact that there was one thing that took away from my enjoyment, the good outweighed it enough to make this worth reading.

I recommend this to fans of Spice & Wolf and those like a good laugh, though the former might enjoy this more as it is new content for those that only saw the anime.

As for everyone else, this might be worth giving, but it might be better to read the previous volumes first.

If you liked this review and would like to see more, please consider supporting me on Patreon, so that I can continue finding more worthwhile reads, and doing whatever you normally do when you find something that impresses you.

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Copyright © 2015 Bryce Campbell. All Rights Reserved.