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Thursday, October 7, 2010

"The Spirit Thief" by Rachel Aaron (Reviewed by Mihir Wanchoo)

Official Rachel Aaron Website
Order The Spirit Thief HERE
Chapter Excerpt [1st two chapters; pdf format]

AUTHOR INFORMATION: Rachel Aaron lives in Atlanta with her family.
She graduated from University of Georgia with a degree in English Literature. She's fond of reading from her childhood and now has an ever-growing collection to show for it. She loves gaming, Manga & reality TV police shows. This is her debut.

PLOT SUMMARY: Eli Monpress is talented. He's charming. And he's a thief. But not just any thief. He's the greatest thief of the age - and he's also a wizard. And with the help of his partners - a swordsman with the most powerful magic sword in the world but no magical ability of his own, and a demonseed who can step through shadows and punch through walls - he's going to put his plan into effect.

The first step is to increase the size of the bounty on his head, so he'll need to steal some big things. But he'll start small for now. He'll just steal something that no one will miss - at least for a while. Like a king…

CLASSIFICATION: For the most part, The Spirit Thief is a classical fantasy novel set in medieval times, the book invokes tales akin to those popularized by Terry Brooks & David Eddings in the early 80s.

FORMAT/INFO: The Spirit Thief is 310 pages long divided over twenty-eight numbered chapters. Narration is in the third person via many different characters such as Eli Monpress, Miranda Lyonette, Renaud, Nico, Josef Liechten, Marion & King Henrith. The Spirit Thief can be read as a standalone novel, but it is the first volume in a series of five books. There's also an "Extras" section which has an author interview as well as an excerpt from the next installment, "The Spirit Rebellion".

ANALYSIS: Rachel Aaron is an author who came out of the left field when I noticed her books in Orbit's fall catalog. What drew me to The Spirit Thief was that the blurb promised a fun caper and there were two more sequels within the next couple of months as well. I checked out the excerpt on her website and found that I enjoyed and wanted to read more. So I requested a review copy from the author & Orbit readily obliged.

The first chapter introduces us to the titular character, Eli Monpress as he's locked away in a jail. He then proceeds to charm his way on the door as he convinces it to go back against its primary function of being a door and makes his escape so he can go on his way to complete the job. The second chapter introduces us to Miranda Lyonette, a spiritualist from the Spirit Court who is chasing Eli Monpress and his gang; she makes an entrance riding her ghost dog Gin who is a rather scary creature but extremely intelligent as well.

Eli's gang consists of Josef Liechten, a swordsman with a rather special sword and even more talent and Nico, a rather thin girl who wears a huge cloak and certain special cuffs and has a rather special presence (so to say). Eli wants to keep on increasing the bounty on his head which currently stands at twenty thousand since his ultimate aim is rather extravagant. His current plan to kidnap the king and demand ransom seems to be going well, when Miranda's presence causes a snag and an early encounter between the two showcases who is deadlier.

Complicating the whole situation is the reappearance of King Henrith's elder brother, Prince Renaud who is a wizard on his own and seems to fill in the regal post rather quickly, and of another person who is searching for one of Eli's gang with a plan of his own. Then the story proceeds on its linear track with enough twists and surprises to keep the reader amused and entertained. The book ends on a nice climax and also gives the reader something to ponder about, namely Eli Monpress's abilities and his origin.

There are hints of a deeper picture, especially in the League of Storms, an organization which seems to be the "magical military" and which searches for something that may be cataclysmic. Josef and Nico seem to share something meaningful since they have a past history which will most likely be explored in future volumes and could possibly be a focal point for the series.

The world building is medieval in origin and the magic system is based on the all around presence of spirits, especially in inanimate objects. There are major and minor spirits which can be reasoned, coerced and counseled with for granting their favors. The Spirit College serves as a training ground for Spiritualists (or wizards for a simpler term). They are taught to protect the world around them and gain the respect and services of spirits and thereby rise in rank. The League of Storms seems to guard against mad wizards, destructive demons... though not much is revealed in this series opener & there's the enigmatic person who seems to know the most about Eli and his special abilities.

The Spirit Thief was a great page turner and the characterization was well done, though a bit predictable. Rachel Aaron's greatest strength is that she has written a very engaging tale and the world scenario seems to have more surprises in store for the readers as the storyline will be unraveled in the future books. This book was a nice surprise and a complete winner for me.

Rachel Aaron has written a fun story which can be best described as "Terry Brooks Meets Scott Lynch" in a lighter vein. This book is a refreshing change from the gritty wave that fantasy seems to riding right now and is a nice throwback to the light classical fantasy. A very enjoyable read and with further sequels to follow soon, I'm sure the author has some neat plots planned for the readers. I'm hooked on for this series and will be following it eagerly.

Liviu's Short Take: In contrast to Mihir above, I cannot say I enjoyed The Spirit Thief that much and I have no plans to read more in the series, though I liked well enough the author's writing style to try a more interesting book by her.

In a nutshell, I found The Spirit Thief taking itself too seriously for a light fantasy, and being too light for a serious fantasy so my suspension of disbelief soon found itself suspended so to speak, though the engaging style of the author kept me fast reading it to the end, hoping it will get better content-wise. Sadly, it never did...

When I got an unexpected arc of The Spirit Thief (C from me for the author's narrative energy), I thought it will be something similar to the lighter but very entertaining and fun Lex Trent Versus the Gods by Alex Bell, but the first pages disabused me quickly since as mentioned the book is taking itself way too seriously for what it is, so try the excerpt linked above since I think it will be enough to decide if you want to read it or not.


Yiota said...

Sounds like a really interesting book. I will have it in mind!
Thanks for posting about it!

Yiota @

redhead said...

I'm actually really looking forward to this book. I love caper stories, con job stories, the idea of charming an inanimate object to do or be something else. I know it's not going to be super high literature that's going to change my life, but this series seems like a really nice way to spend the afternoon.

BookwormAngel24 said...

Why haven't I heard of this book?!? Now I want to read it sooo bad. I hope the library has it!

BookwormAngel24 @


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