The Legend of Eli Monpress by Rachel Aaron
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Series: The Legend of Eli Monpress (Books #1-3 of 5)
Genre: Fantasy, high fantasy
Published: February 2012 by Orbit (UK and US)
Rachel Aaron’s debut fantasy series, The Legend of Eli Monpress, was so addictively entertaining and fun that I blasted through all three books in the first omnibus in just four days.
It had been quite a while since I have so much fun reading a series, one which also keeps getting better as it progresses.
“Lady, if you are here to warn the king about Eli, then you’re a little late.”
“You mean he’s already stolen the artifact?”
“No. He’s stolen the king”
Eli Monpress was an arrogant, mischievous and irrepressible thief (my favourite kind of character, of course). He is also a wizard. Aided by his companions, Josef Leichten – a talented swordsman with the world’s most powerful sword – and Nico – a girl with an incubating demonseed within her and who can travel through shadows – Eli has a mission. And this is to create the largest bounty ever in history to be placed on his head. The culmination of Eli’s high-profile heists had thus attracted the attention of the Spirit Court (a governing body of wizards) who sent its most promising protégé, Miranda Lyonette, to apprehend the infamous rogue. These four form the main characters of the series as each of their stories were progressively developed and unveiled from one book to the next. Miranda was probably the one whom we get to know the most of in the first book, The Spirit Thief, while Eli was initially given a more mysterious persona such that one wonders why this dude was so special.
Eli was indeed quite extraordinary, and that knowledge was not withheld for too long as the Prologue in the sequel, The Spirit Rebellion, provided a flashback of him as a young boy, which revealed as much as it teased. There is also a better balance between each of the main characters’ POVs from here onwards. The third book, The Spirit Eater, then provided more focus on Nico and her inner struggles as the bearer of an unusually potent demonseed that is threatening to overpower her humanity.
The magic of this world was centered around the powers inherent in all things through its spirits. From the trees to rocks, doors and floors, fire, wind and water, and of course, humans – everything has a spirit and the larger the object or element, the greater its powers. Wizards are humans born with the ability to listen and commune with these spirits, and hence able to employ their powers through various means. This could either be a spiritual bonding for mutual benefit or through coercion or enslavement. Then we have Eli’s more charming method, which is… something that I am not going to mention in this review. The spirit-based magic is both fascinating and fun. It can get quite hilarious especially when the spirits of various objects converse with the human wizards. I adore this concept and it is one of the main reasons why I find these books so enjoyable. As a side-note, it does seem that the author has a fondness for spirit magic because a different form of it also appears in the Heartstrikers series, another favourite of mine.
The plots across all three instalments can appear to be repetitive as somehow Eli and Miranda will always end up in the same place through some convenient twist of fate. And while the danger or trouble escalates, one does get the notion that our main characters will pull through somehow. However, these are minor issues for me because of the sheer entertainment value presented by these books.
Eli’s friendship with Josef gave me vibes of the duo in Riyria, except that the personalities are sort of reversed with the latter being the dour and serious one. The storytelling and narrative style also reminded me of the Riyria series; a light-hearted fantasy that is easy and effortless to read with great characters, humour, page-turning action and sufficient gravity to keep it from being just a comedy of sorts. Don’t pick this up if you are looking for deep, dark or complex plots. If, however, you need something more delightfully enjoyable, I do recommend this series wholeheartedly.
The ratings for the individual books as follow.
The Spirit Thief: 4/5 stars
The Spirit Rebellion: 4.5/5 stars
The Spirit Eater: 4.5/5 stars
Review originally written in 2018.