Friday, March 11, 2011

The Spirit Thief Legend of Eli Monpress

I stumbled across a series of audiobooks a few months ago that looked intriguing so I put them on the-to-be-listened-to shelf and forgot about them. I was still immersed in a history audiobook at the time and couldn’t think about listening to anything else because it was so damn good.

When that tale was told I was left somewhat bereft, because when a story that good ends, one that had captured my attention and imagination for so many days, there’s a sense of loss when it’s over. Isn’t there supposed to be more? Why isn’t there more? I want more.


So in want of something more I sifted through the waiting pile and decided to jump genres and head back into some fantasy. I can’t help it, I geek out on a good epic fantasy, because hey. DRAGONS. ‘Nuff said.

The Spirit Thief captured my attention by mentioning that the main character, Eli Monpress, was a thief and a wizard in the description. And he’s decided to kidnap a king. Good start.

And it was.

The Spirit Thief, The Legend of Eli Monpress, by Rachel Aaron, is a fun, quick witted, clever fantasy with plenty of adventure.

The type of magic Ms. Aaron has crafted is one I’ve not encountered before in all the years I’ve been reading/listening to fantasy and it’s a wonderful concept. The interaction with the Spirit world is well thought out and, in keeping with the rest of the book, fun. Especially Miranda’s relationship with Gin, her Spirit Hound. I wonder how I can get one of those because he would be one cool pet!

The world is credible and doesn’t stray much from the high fantasy renaissance type expected but that certainly doesn’t detract from the antics of Eli and his companions.

I like that the language is current and does not get all Middle Ages formal. Some may find that a little out of synch with the world, but it fits the characters and story.

So here's what you get when dive into the tale with Eli Monpress, The Spirit Thief.

Eli Monpress wants to become the most wanted thief in the Council of Thrones. Or at least he wants his bounty to be the highest one possible, his goal of one million gold standards, a pretty high price for his handsome head indeed.

To this end, Eli decides to kidnap the King of Mellinor and ransom him for some gold and the promise of a large bounty. Eli lets himself get captured and then escapes his dungeon cell by convincing the door spirit to let go of the iron holding onto the door. Right there I was hooked. He talked the door into letting him go! Eli, while not a Spiritualist, is a skilled and clever wizard, who finds that he can coax and cajole the spirits to do his bidding with guile, charm and some slick conversation. It helps that the spirits see something bright and shiny within Eli that draw them to him and being the thief he is, Eli takes full advantage of it.

Along with him for this adventure, are his companions Josef, a taciturn master swordsman who is in possession of the greatest awakened blade in the land, The Heart of War. Josef has a conflicted relationship with this great sword and wants to earn the title of greatest swordsman without relying on the magic that thrums through the Heart of War, even as it is his to utilize. This predilection to go it alone almost gets our earnest swordsman killed.

Nico is not without her own brand of magic, even if she is mysterious and a little dark. She can flit through shadows at will and for a tiny young woman, she has supernatural strength. She is Josef’s shadow in all things and seems to require his guidance and protection despite her talents. Her devotion to Josef is evident and his faith in her complete which makes this the deepest relationship in the series of books so far.

Heading to Mellinor to capture the errant wizard for crimes against the Spirit Court is Miranda Lyonette. The Spirit Court cannot tolerate Eli’s blatant disregard for the rules of conduct between human and spirit and he defies those rules with every action, not to mention his penchant for stealing whatever captures his fancy. Miranda is a strong Spiritualist, guided by her utter commitment to her spirit oaths and determined to bring Eli to justice for his crimes.

Things get a little complicated when Eli and team kidnap Henrith the King and his exiled brother comes back to claim his rightful place, while professing the desire to save King and Kingdom from the hands of Eli Monpress.

Except this Pretender King is a Spirit Enslaver, who was banished from Mellinor for being a wizard in a land where wizards are unwanted and the only thing he really desires is finding ancient artifact within the families treasury to dominate Mellinor and rule over it with an iron fist. He’s a little bitter about his banishment.

Miranda and Eli, along with Gin the spirit hound, Josef and Nico, end up in a reluctant partnership to take back Mellinor from the Pretender King and manage to wreak some havoc in the process of cleaning up the situation.

All in all, it’s a wickedly fun romp of a tale, either in paper form, or in the audiobook version, which I enjoyed immensely.

Luke Daniels does an excellent job narrating, mixing up the accents and vocal arrangements for the different characters. He brings Eli, as well as the rest of the crew, alive in such an amazing manner that it’s hard to turn off the car when I get home.

The Spirit Rebellion and The Spirit Eater are just as wonderful, with new secrets revealed and a gathering darkness on the horizon for the Council of Thrones, and Eli no doubt, as the stories progress.

After the enjoyable hours listening to all three books, back to back, I'm really anticipating the next two in the series as they become available.