Rachel Aaron also writes as Rachel Bach and is author of the thoroughly enjoyable science fiction Paradox series – read my review of Fortune’s Pawn here and my review of Heaven’s Queen here. So would I like her fantasy anti-hero Eli Monpress?
Eli Monpress is brilliant. He’s incorrigible and he’s a thief. He’s also still at large, which drives Miranda Lyonette crazy. Things are about to get exciting for Eli. He’s picked a winner for his latest heist. His target: the Duke of Gaol’s famous ‘thief-proof’ citadel. But when he goes head to head with one of the richest men in the world, will he have met his match?
I read the first book The Spirit Thief and although I enjoyed it, this sub-genre isn’t my absolute favourite. But knowing that this author is worth reading, I continued with the second book – and suddenly really bonded with the characters. It helps that each one of them is in serious trouble in this book. Both protagonists, Miranda and Eli, are accomplished and powerful, so ensuring they both suffer major reverses that truly threatens them takes some canny plotting.
We also learn more about Joseph and Nico, Eli’s sidekicks in this book and the story encompasses their own character journeys more comprehensively during this book. One of the intriguing aspects that makes it compulsive reading, is while each book takes us on a slice of Eli’s life, there is also a larger story arc involving the likes of the Storm Lord and the Shepherdess. They occasionally turn up and clearly have some sort of interest in the main characters – though we get the strong impression that attracting their interest is invariably a Bad Thing.
The world building is deftly managed, with magical system and environment that hang together without overlong explanations. I love the notion that everything has its own spirit and wizards simply have the ability to communicate with these spirits and can persuade or dominate, depending on whether they are good or bad, while humans are deaf to these spirits. Aaron manages to get some nice touches of humour in many of these interactions, which keeps the books from getting too grittedly earnest, which can be one of the hallmarks of epic fantasy.
The story zips along with plenty of excitement – Aaron is very good at writing fights. We get plenty of action, bloodshed and excitement, along with the character reactions and I was unable to put the book down until I discovered exactly what happened to everyone. The climax was a real achievement – everyone was fully involved, which is far harder to pull off when following a group of characters than Aaron makes it look. She also ties up the storylines threading through the book completely satisfactorily – although thanks to those big powerful characters lurking in the background, we are aware that Eli and Miranda have a slew of adventures waiting for them in the next instalment.
If you enjoy fantasy and appreciate plenty of action and humour, along with an engaging magical system, then track down this series – it’s worth it.