The Legend of Eli Monpress is such a classic romp of a fantasy tale. The world building was solid, the magic system entertaining and fascinating. I love the idea of every single thing on earth, from rocks to grass, from rivers to wind, having a consciousness of its own.But what made the story for me was the cast of characters. There was a lot of character development here, especially in the form of the relationships between characters. Miranda and Gin, Josef and Nico, Eli and, well, everything, were all such fun relationships to read about. I’m a big fan of motley crews, and Eli’s ragtag group is about as motley as they come.
The first book in the omnibus, The Spirit Thief, starts as almost a classic heist story mingled with a kidnapping. However, Eli attracts trouble and the straightforwardness doesn’t last for long. He has a giant bounty on his head, and his main goal in life is to raise that bounty to an astronomical sum. This goal obviously attracts plenty of attention, and bounty hunters are always on his trail. But his main concern isn’t the bounty hunters, but the Spiritualist closing in on him for crimes against wizardry. The tables turn again and again throughout the story and, while there were certain elements that were predictable, on the whole there were plenty of twists and turns to maintain my attention.
The second installment, The Spirit Rebellion, picks up where the first leaves off, with more focus on Miranda and the Spirit Court. She’s suffering for her part in the events of the previous book, and those who hate her master are twisting events to use them against Miranda’s mentor. Through a random string of events, Miranda meets up with Eli and the gang once again in the duchy of Gaol. All is not right in the seemingly perfect town, and the Duke of Gaol turns out to be a heinous villain, the like of whom I haven’t come across often. So once again thief and Spiritualist much begrudgingly come together to save the day. My favorite side element of this story was getting to meet Slorn, a wonderful character who reminded me a bit of Beorn from The Hobbit, and learning more about Nico’s magic coat.
The Spirit Eater, the middle novel in the five book series and the last in this omnibus, is really all about Nico. We learn so much about her history, and how she came to be a member of the gang. I love her relationship with Josef, and I find her lack of deeper relationship with Eli and interesting difference. While there was more to the story than just gaining a deeper understanding of Nico, that’s what made the book for me.
A writing choice I’ve found very interesting in this series is the decision to sink all of the character development into side characters instead of the eponymous character. While Eli is compelling and fun, he hasn’t developed much depth so far, but that actually works great for the story. In a way, it reminds me of Oliver Twist. Oliver has always seemed to me like the backdrop of his story, allowing characters like Fagan and Nancy to shine. Eli feels the same to me. He’s the most charismatic backdrop ever, but for me he’s definitely the backdrop.
While plot wise they have little in common, this series reminds me of Michael J. Sullivan’s Riyria so far in that it feels like classic fantasy with modern vernacular. It’s fun and light, but it’s not shallow; there’s enough depth here to keep me interested in the characters’ well being. And once again, I really appreciate how clean Aaron’s stories are. I could hand this book to a ten year old without feeling a shred of hesitation, although it’s unquestionably written for adults. The more I read from Aaron, the more I adore her.
Now, to see how the series wraps up in the second omnibus…
You can purchase a copy of the first omnibus here, with free shipping worldwide!