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Friday, July 13, 2012

The Spirit War by Rachel Aaron (Reviewed by Mihir Wanchoo)

Read an Excerpt HERE 
Order “The Spirit WarHERE 
Read FBC's Review of "The Spirit Thief
Read FBC's Review of “The Spirit Rebellion” 
Read FBC's Review of “The Spirit Eater” & “Spirit’s Oath” 
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 occasionally on the Magic Districts website along with a host of other authors.

OFFICIAL BLURB: All Eli Monpress wanted was the biggest bounty in the world. He never meant to have obligations, or friends, but master swordsman Josef Leichten and Nico, the daughter of the dead mountain, have saved Eli's life too many times to be called anything else. And when a friend upsets your plans and ruins all your hard work, what's a thief to do?

After years of running from his birthright, Josef is forced to return home and take up his title as prince. War is coming for humans and spirits between the Immortal Empress and the Council of Thrones, and Josef's little island is right in the middle. But conquest isn't the Empress's only goal, she has a personal vendetta against a certain thief.

What started as a simple side trip to help a friend is rapidly turning into the most dangerous job of Eli's career, but he can't back out now, not when Josef needs him. But when you're under attack from all sides, even the world's greatest thief can find himself cornered, and it's going to take all the fast talking Eli can muster to survive the next few days.

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 Scott Lynch with a huge slice of Terry Pratchett.

FORMAT/INFO: The Spirit War is 507 pages long divided over twenty-seven 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, Den the warlord, Nara the Immortal Empress, Tesset, Sara, Etmon Banage and a few other minor characters as well.

June 5, 2012 marked the Trade paperback and e-book publication of The Spirit War via Orbit Books.

OVERVIEW/ANALYSIS: It’s always harder to review series books, the further you get into the series. For one, most of the plot points become spoilers for previous books, secondly it becomes a bit harder to keep repeating why you like this world or the over all series and lastly the highs of the previous volumes keep raising the bar of expectation to its zenith. So in spite of all the afore mentioned reasons, the Spirit War, book four in the Legend Of Eli Monpress series completely enthralled me and has lead me to believe Rachel Aaron is an author destined for dollops of fame and success. Once again to reiterate the following review might contain spoilers for the previous three books as otherwise it will be very hard to even speak or write about its plot (though I’ll try my best to keep them to a minimalistic level). So for those readers who haven't read the first three books, consider yourselves warned.

The Spirit War opens after the tumultuous events of the Spirit Eater but the prologue once again gives us a look into events past, focusing on Josef and how he procured the Heart of War. The first chapter however introduces us to characters that have been alluded to, but haven’t officially made their presence known. These characters are Den the Warlord and Nara the Immortal Empress, these two have a connection and Den is looking to catch the Empress on her word. He does manage to find her as well as subvert her mood to his wishes and its from here the basic plot begins. The reader will then meet Eli, Josef and Nico on the other-side of the world as they are waiting for Eli's newest bounty; things however take a crazy turn when Josef’s picture adorns the bounty wall besides Eli with his bounty being higher than Eli’s as well. This peculiar bounty alerts Josef to his family and heritage summoning him and they journey back to Osera wherein a whole new cauldron of troubles awaits them.

Miranda on the other hand, has gone with Slorn and soon gets to know one of the fundamental aspects of the world they inhabit. Fate however put her on a crash course with events occuring in Osera but there are a slew of things and plot twists that occur in between & will have to be gleaned by the reader themselves. This book contains many plot threads, some singular and concerning a particular character and others that focus on many and concern everyone. The basic gist is that the Immortal Empress has decided to reclaim a title that she deems she has lost and her fury has been refocused on Osera wherein the heart of the story lies.

This book following the previous books pattern by focusing on one character’s background and this time its Josef’s turn. Not only do we learn that he’s a Prince but also that his future kingdom is now in sights of the Immortal Empress. Josef as a character has always been intriguing and in this book we learn a lot about his past, his choices and the main reasons why he has become the man he is today. There’s also a bunch of plotlines dealing with the horrific issues of the world (as touched upon in book III), namely the presence and meddling of the Shepherdess, the containment of demon seedsand the overall mystery of the origin of the world and beyond. There are a few answers given but now everything hinges on the last book as it will have answer every question that has arisen so far as well as end the saga on a thumping note. But going by the way things have panned out so far, I have every confidence that the author will surprise us and end the saga on an enthralling note.

One of the biggest surprises in this book is the revelation about the world’s past and the Shepherdess’s role in it. We have had some pointers previously, however in this book we get a lot more information about it. Also this leads to an even more dangerous conclusion as all is definitely not well in the world and not only do the great spirits know it, but the humans are slowly realizing it as well. The character cast is the biggest one featured so far and suitably so as there are multiple plot threads in this book and the author admirably handles them all. This book was a lengthy one however it does not waste any of its pages, the increased length serves to encompass a huge story that is action packed and character driven at the same time.

Characterization is always important with an increased cast and in this book the author admirably showcases all characters with their flawed but understandable viewpoints. This was extremely helpful as otherwise the book’s plot ran the risk of seeming ludicrous. The characters who have been in the background so far like Slorn, Sara, Tesset, Etmon Banage, etc are given more page time as per the story dictates and this was a smart move on the author's part as they reveal more about the world and a bit about the secrets of the world as well.

The only complaint I could have from this book is while Miranda in the previous books has always been a headstrong character, in this one she comes off as bit over zealous. Usually portrayed as "feisty" and protective of her spirits, but herein, I felt her character came across a bit shrill in the climax. This is just my observation and many others might think otherwise on it. The other main characters Nico & Eli do have their parts to play but they sort of take a back seat to Josef in the earlier two-thirds of the book however in the climax they each have their own battles to fight and again have life-changing  events occur in the end. The book also ends on a cliffhanger that will have the readers clamoring for the final book and to help is the fact that the book also features a chapter from Eli’s POV from Spirit's End which helps satiate the wait until November. 

CONCLUSION: Rachel Aaron spectacularly writes about the world wherein spirits are alive and part of everything. She makes the characters come alive and entraps the reader amidst her literary creation. Thought this book is not the way to start the series, it is a fine indicator of how good a writer she is. Grab a copy of The Spirit Thief to begin the series and know that you are in for one hell of a comical & highly entertaining ride.



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