by Matt Reeves
It's a sad fact that sequels usually fall short of their original predecessor. Very few times do authors manage to replicate the success generated by their first novel. This is especially true of bestselling books, for which expectations can be raised quite high in anticipation for their release.
In truth, sequels can be a very daunting task for any author. Not only are the world and the characters no longer new, but you are now faced with the task of making everything seem even more magical then it had before. A sequel can at times make or kill a book series's future, not to mention an author's potential career.
So of course, when I picked up the second book of Spice and Wolf, I was slightly worried. Would Hasekura's sequel fall short of my own high expectations? Could he make me fall in love with his world all over again?
For those unfamiliar with the book series, Spice and Wolf is the story of an average trade merchant and his not so average traveling companion. It's set against the backdrop of Medieval Europe during the strict rule of the Roman Catholic Church and introduces a world to readers that is as foreign as it is familiar. So what makes this book series stand out so much from the rest? The merchant's young companion of course. Though you'd never realize it by the way she dresses, she's a wolf.
No, I'm not describing her personality. She's literally a wolf, a living breathing wolf in human form.
To make a long story short, she entered into an agreement with the young merchant. As long as she repays all her expenses, she can accompany him on his way north towards her old homeland. Unfortunately, their journey proves to be far from serene and with the Church ready to burn the young girl at the stake should they discover her, there's never a dull moment for the two.
Volume 2 continues the journey from where it stopped in the original debut. This time around, Lawrence finds himself in deep trouble from a business deal gone sour. Faced with substantial debt and no legal way of repaying it, the young merchant must accept a plan proposed by his female companion that is more than borderline illegal.
With that little bit of description out of the way, I have an announcement to make. I am in love with this book series.
Not only did Hasekura manage to write a book as gripping and enchanting as his debut, he managed remarkably to write a sequel that proved even better! Whether it was by the improved writing, the deeper character development, further hints of romance, the more detailed world or the wittier comebacks, Spice and Wolf, Vol 2 grabs readers by the throat and finds no trouble in pulling them back through time with ease.
As with my previous review, I cannot find anything wrong with this book series so far. It is YA perfection wrapped in a neatly tied bow with bright attractive wrapping paper. The translation is top notch, the typos are nearly nonexistent and the paper quality is as high as always.
To be quite honest, this book series is coming dangerously close to becoming my all time favorite. It's already moved up to third place. One more stunt like this from Hasekura, and well, I may well soon have a new book taking center place in my heart, if it hasn't already.
Spice and Wolf is one of those unusual book series that really do deserve more attention than they are getting. With a storyline that stands to redefine werewolf fiction in America, a cast of characters that reach out from beyond the black and white print, and pages that nearly flip by themselves, it's a book series that almost anyone, fans of wolves or not, can come to love.
There's another two months to go before Volume 3 is released this December. My pre-order is already placed, and after you read this book, I suspect so will yours.
Note: This is a direct sequel to the first book. As such, it is not recommended that first time readers of Spice and Wolf start with Volume 2. It is highly recommended that readers interested in this series start with the first book.