The Spirit Thief by Rachel Aaron
(Legend of Eli Monpress, Volume One)
Published by Orbit UK, October 2010.
Sample of the first two chapters: HERE.
Review by Mark Yon.
This debut novel, the first of three books to be published in a matter of months, is a sparky introduction to what promises to be an entertaining series. Though it is nothing particularly new, it is engaging and fun, and will bring a smile to many a reader.
What is the winner for me here is the tale’s engaging tone. It’s light, fun and not particularly deep nor dark. It plays with the genre in a style that was reminiscent to me of early David Eddings. For many, that’ll be recommendation enough.
To the tale, then. Eli Monpress is an Errol Flynn type hero, a swordsman, renegade wizard and thief with the ability to talk to inanimate objects (that have once lived) and persuade them to do his bidding. This leads to his undoing at the beginning of the tale, but he manages to escape Allaze Prison faster than you can say ‘With one bound, he was free!’ Now rather bereft of funds, he then apparently kidnaps and holds for ransom Henrith, the King of Mellinor.
At the same time, redheaded wizard and Spirit Council messenger, Miranda Lyonette, arrives at Allaze Castle with her ghosthound Gin. Bearing a belated message she finds herself involved in the recovery of Henrith, not to mention capturing Eli and take him back to the Spirit Court for sentencing.
Unfortunately the deposing of King Henrith has led to his older brother, the exiled (and rather insane) Prince Renaud to arrive in Mellinor and take his place. Eli and Miranda find that in order to restore order they have to work together with Eli’s bunch of mercenaries to restore Henrith to kingship and remove Renaud, as well as deal with the opening of an ancient relic and the appearance of an equally ancient Spirit god.
So: a quest novel, with a touch of flirting thrown in, and a range of unusual (If not particularly new) characters, with enough of a knowing wink to keep things on the right side of fun. Eli is a likeable enough rogue, Miranda’s a strong heroine, King Henrith is not as stupid as initially portrayed and I also liked the laconic humour of Gin the ghosthound. The dialogue’s pretty sharp, the pace is frantic and the overall vibe is of a writer having a lot of fun with the telling of the tale. In terms of the world here, the idea of spirits being used by wizards and who work in alliance with their Spiritualist friends is not new but admirably done, and the actions of the characters are sensible within the environment set, though at times they are a little close to the realm of far-fetchedness, which in a Fantasy novel can take some doing! Nevertheless, perhaps reminiscent of Chris Wooding’s Ketty Jay series but in a Fantasy setting, there’s a lot here for readers to like, if perhaps at times one or two too many ‘inescapable escapes’.
The ending is one which sets itself up nicely for the next book in the series. The Spirit Rebellion follows next month, followed by The Spirit Eater the following month.
For readers just wanting something to entertain, without having to think too deeply about the whys and wherefores of such actions, this is fun, though fun that makes sense. This is what I would like Karen Miller to write like, but this has a better internal logic and better world building.
A promising debut and one from a writer to watch in the future.
Mark Yon, October 2010