Spice & Wolf, Volume 7: Side Colors

~written by Isuna Hasekura
~illustrated by Jyuu Ayakura
~translated by Paul Starr

Side Colors is the seventh volume in Isuna Hasekura's light novel series Spice & Wolf, illustrated by Jyuu Ayakura. The volume is actually a break from the main series and collects three side stories together. The novella "The Boy and the Girl and the White Flowers" and the short story "The Red of the Apple, The Blue of the Sky" were first released online. The second short story, "Wolf and Amber Melancholy," was written specifically for the collection. Side Colors was originally published in Japan in 2008. Yen Press' English edition, translated by Paul Starr, was released in 2012. I am actually rather surprised by how much I have been enjoying the Spice & Wolf novels; I find that I am quite fond of the two leads--Lawrence and Holo. Since I have been following the series, it made sense that I would pick up the seventh volume.

Side Colors, begins with "The Boy and the Girl and the White Flowers," which takes up the first half or so of the volume. Klass and Aryes, a young boy and girl, have recently been evicted from their home when a new lord takes over after the previous lord dies, apparently without publicly naming an heir. Their journey isn't an easy one and they are about to run out of food when they are approached by Holo, a wolf spirit, in the form of a young woman. The story takes place centuries before Holo meets Lawrence. It is probably because of that that "The Boy and the Girl and the White Flowers" was my least favorite story in Side Colors. Simply put, I missed Lawrence. But the story does show a younger Holo, one who hasn't yet been overwhelmed by a melancholy loneliness and who acts much more as a trickster character. Granted, she has always been and still is mischievous.

Happily, Lawrence is in both of the short stories included in Side Colors. "The Red of the Apple, The Blue of the Sky" takes place during the first volume of Spice & Wolf, not long after Holo and Lawrence started traveling together. Of the three stories collected in the volume, this story most closely fits the mold established by the Spice & Wolf series proper and includes economic elements as a part of its plot. However, my favorite story in Side Colors is the final one, "Wolf and Amber Melancholy," which takes place during Spice & Wolf, Volume 2. Unlike the rest of Spice & Wolf, which is primarily told from Lawrence's point of view, this story is seen from Holo's perspective. It's a refreshing change and it's clear that Hasekura had a tremendous amount of fun writing it.

Technically, Side Colors is written in such a way that doesn't require much previous knowledge of Spice & Wolf. But at the same time, I'm not sure that the collection would actually appeal to someone who isn't already a fan of or at least familiar with the series. The stories really aren't that strong outside of the context of the novels. Because of this, "The Boy and the Girl and the White Flower" is probably the weakest of the three vignettes since it is the furthest removed form the series proper. Both "The Red of the Apple, The Blue of the Sky" and "Wolf and Amber Melancholy" read like they could be deleted scenes from their respective volumes. Although I wouldn't say any of the stories are essential reading, they do make a nice addition to the Spice & Wolf series.

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