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Wednesday, February 15, 2012

The Spirit Eater by Rachel Aaron w/ bonus review of Spirit's Oath (Reviewed by Mihir Wanchoo)


Read An Excerpt HERE
Order “The Spirit EaterHERE
Read FBC Review of "The Spirit Thief"
Read FBC review of “The Spirit Rebellion
Read FBC’s Interview with Rachel Aaron

AUTHOR INFORMATION: Rachel Aaron lives in Athens, Georgia with her family. She has graduated from University of Georgia with a B.A. in English Literature. She has been an avid reader since her childhood and now has an ever-growing collection to show for it. She loves gaming, Manga comics & reality TV police shows. She also blogs on a semi-regular basis on the Magic Districts website along with a host of other authors.

OFFICIAL SYNOPSIS: With the pressure on after his success in Gaol, Eli Monpress, professional thief and degenerate, decides it's time to lie low for a bit. Taking up residence in a tiny seaside village, Eli and his companions seize the chance for some fun and relaxation.

Nico, however, is finding it a bit hard. Plagued by a demon's voice in her head and feeling powerless, she only sees herself as a burden. Everyone's holiday comes to an untimely close, though, when Pele arrives to beg Eli's help for finding her missing father.

But there are larger plans afoot than even Eli can see, and the real danger, and the solution, may lie with one of his own and her forgotten past. If only Nico could remember whose side she's on…

CLASSIFICATION: The Legend of Eli Monpress is a classical fantasy series set in a medieval world of sorts; the style and settings of the story invoke tales popularized by Terry Brooks and David Eddings with a huge slice of Terry Pratchett.

FORMAT/INFO: The Spirit Eater is 422 pages long divided over twenty-two numbered chapters and a prologue. Narration is in the third person via many different characters such as Eli Monpress, Miranda Lyonette, Nico, Josef Liechten, Slorn, Benehime the Shepherdess, Alric of the League of Storms, Sted and a few other minor characters as well. December 1, 2010 marked the mass market and e-book publication via Orbit Books.

ANALYSIS: The Spirit Eater is the third book in the Legend of Eli Monpress series and one whose review is long overdue. I had read the book a few months after its release but somehow due to my own laziness never got around to posting the review. So today when Spirit’s Oath (prequel novella) is being released, I realized this would be a good chance to review both stories. In a quintet series this is book III, so to discuss its plot will mean that there will be spoilers for the first two books. I’ll try my best to avoid major spoilers so read ahead with caution and only if you have read the previous two books.

The book begins with an event occurring nearly two years before the events of the first book and like its predecessors, shines a light on a pivotal event featuring some of the main characters, in this case being Josef & Nico and this being their first meeting. The story then begins as Sted the ex-league swordsman is looking for revenge against Josef. He manages to track down Slorn for a better sword than the last one. His search reveals a bit more about Slorn’s past and then he ends up with more than he bargained for. Miranda Lyonette is back with the Spiritualist court with her name cleared from the events of the first book. She is then approached for by another faction of the court and soon is given more details about the going on in the courtly realms. Lastly there’s Eli, Josef & Nico who are approached by Pele to search for her father Slorn who has suddenly gone missing. All in all while Eli wants nothing but to lie low but his friendship with Slorn stands in the way of that sensible plan and then there are larger events afoot which involve the Shepherdess, the league of Storms, Demonseeds and the Demon of the dead mountain. This time around Eli is outmanned, outwitted and out of his reach when it comes to magic.

This book follows a crucial pattern like its predecessors and the focal point of this book is Nico. This is a bit of a giveaway from the title and after the events of the previous book, its high time the author decided to reveal more about her, her not-so-unique problem and the underlying problems of the world. This book also acts a wonderful transitionary volume for the series as its no longer a light hearted comedy like the first book and while it does retain all of its charm, humor & likability, it also takes a dark sheen over the plot. While many might think that the author is suddenly changing her plans and shifting gears, rest assured this is all part of the overall series scheme. The author had long ago revealed that she had planned the series arc before she started writing the books and each book would focus of a main character. This book focuses on the most endearing one among them.

The story has a lot of things going for it namely its pace and plot twists, while the reader’s grasp of the world is suitably widened. The main revelations in this story have to do with demons and demonseeds, and this was very especially tantalizing to read about. I was very curious after all what was revealed in the second book and so with this book I had high expectations which were suitably & generously met with. Characterization is similar to the first two books and while the character cast is increased, the author does her best to make the new characters as much interesting as the old ones. Humor has always been a highpoint for this series and with this book, it takes its first dip which I think has more to do with the plot matter. Its still funny but due to the darkness inherent within, it does not produce as many laugh-out-loud moments as say the first one. The plot line also encompasses some terrific SF edges to this fantasy story and I had asked the author about it in her interview and she replied by saying:

The Shepherdess and the “what is going on with this world” questions are the big plot of the series, and the closer we get to the end, the bigger these problems get. They play a big roll in book 4 and book 5 pretty much is nothing but dealing with these problems because things are really going to hell.”

It’s very much evident from this book as to how screwed up things are and how much down hill the future seems to be. After reading all the revelations and plot hints for the future books, I can’t wait for June to get my hands on Spirit's War.

Drawbacks being similar to the first book are present in this one as well, the characters act a bit stereotypical and this perhaps will be the biggest flaw experienced by most veteran fantasy readers. Also the ending has a huge revelation for one character but it has a bit of "Deus ex Machina" feel to it which robs its sheen. This series however has been very clearly marketed for the type of fantasy it is and one can’t really complain in the third book that the reader didn’t know what type of book it was going to be.

CONCLUSION: Rachel Aaron’s series is progressively getting better with each book and with Spirit Eater, she not only ups the ante but also darkens the world of Eli Monpress in many a twisted way. Combining action, humor and plot twists to come up with an exciting story, the Spirit Eater is the best book of this series and now it remains to be seen how it all ends in the forthcoming books.



Order Spirit’s Oath HERE

OVERVIEW/ANALYSIS: Spirit’s Oath is a novella which acts as a prequel to the main series; It focuses on Miranda Lyonette and is set four years before the events of the first book. It's being released today as a "thank you" from the author & publisher to the fans of the series. The book features Miranda as a twenty year old who has just taken her spiritualist vows and also gotten hold of a wind spirit. Things however aren’t looking good for her when her family drags her back to her home and reveal what plans they have for her.

Her parents and younger sister don’t share her enthusiasm for her spiritualist duties and want to marry her off to a man, who wishes to enter the higher social circles and his marriage to Miranda will pave that way. What he doesn’t count is Miranda’s attitude and the presence of a certain ghosthound whom readers will recognize from the latter books. The tale is about nineteen thousand words but feels much longer than that due to the sheer excitement, which is packed into the story. Miranda’s stubbornness and her innate sense of justice is brought to the fore very strongly and this was an aspect which I enjoyed reading.

The book is a bit predictable due to the nature of all prequels, this is something that is very hard to avoid. This book is no stranger to such a theme however the author tries her best to make the eventual ride a pleasant one as much as possible. It is a book which thoroughly integrates Miranda’s past with her story in the future saga. I very much enjoyed this trip as it showcased the formation of the bond between her & Gin. I can’t wait to see where she ends up in the next book as in the end of the third book, her life takes a rather strange turn and she gets a new partner as well. Kudos to the author for giving the reader a short but vital look into the past of one of the main characters of the saga.

3 comments:

Nayan said...

I have loved Rachel Aaron's books and Eli Monpress is one of my favorite characters. Desperately looking forward to read Spirit's oath and Spirit War. Thanks for the review Mihir.

Richard R. said...

I have it in the Omnibus The Legend of Eli Monpress which contains the first three books. Haven't read it yet, but plan to soon. I must say the edition you show has an absolutely awful cover.

Elfy said...

As I've said before I preferred the original covers. I don't however like the cover for the omnibus, but to each their own. I'm really waiting on Spirit War (June seems a long way off at this point), the only thing I didn't like about The Spirit Eater was the title, for some reason it just didn't trip off the tongue the way the others did. Highly enjoyable book and it was interesting to see the story expanded and go in a slightly darker direction than I had thought the series may.

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