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Fantasy Review: ‘Spirit’s End’ by Rachel Aaron

Ah Eli Monpress series, your time is ending way too soon.  I know I should be happy.  After all, I get a satisfying conclusion to a series that has avoided turning into a repetitive serial.  A series that has avoided bloat.  A series that truly did get better with each and every book.  And it is not like the author is leaving, she has something new in the works so I will get to read her stuff again.  But I sure will miss about new adventures involving this tight cast.  I’ll miss you Eli, and you Josef and Miranda.  And Nico, wonderful Nico, I think I will miss you most of all.

I am actually a bit amazed at how well Aaron tied up all of her loose threads in this book without making it feel like a checklist.  Unanswered questions are answered.  Questions I didn’t even know I should be asking were answered.  Better still, these questions were answered within the framework of yet another interesting adventure for the heroes.  Of course the fate of the very world is at stake but unlike many stories that use the old cliché I felt it was a perfectly reasonable escalation.  We have learned as the series progressed just why our favorite characters were at the center of everything going on; with a hand guiding them through much of the time.  So it doesn’t feel contrived at all to find the cast central to everything important as the world is crumbling around them.

There is so little to say without getting into to spoilers.  Fans of previous books will love the way the book continues to build, Aaron has walked the line between exciting and over the top delicately throughout and for the most part handles it great.  Everything a fan loves about the characters continues, including their strong bonds that have defined the series.  I had some frustrations in the middle of the series with the “spirits” angle being forgotten for plot convenience at times, but saw none of that here.  And the final details of the relationship between humans and spirits was something I would have never worked out on my own, but made perfect since.  Just great.

I was a bit turned off by Miranda’s story.  While all the characters have some Mary/Gary Stu qualities, Miranda’s backstory doesn’t really justify the respect she gets.  Her final plan is accepted by people who don’t even know her, and accepted almost without question.  And with the constant escalation of danger I felt the author was a bit too willing to have characters live through sure deaths a few too many times; there was always a convenient power source to heal up injuries for the next round.

Rating this one has to be done in two ways.  For the book itself it is a solid outing with a few minor annoyances.  A solid four stars.  But as a series ending it spoils us.  The author stopped before I tired of the characters, and as mentioned wrapped up the story better than I through it could be.  And that I feel is worth the full five stars, with a sum adding up to more than its parts.

5 stars.
 

Fantasy Review: ‘The Spirit War’ by Rachel Aaron

With truly horrible covers and very little publicity, the first three books of Aaron’s series flew completely under my radar for a long time.  It wasn’t until they were put together in an omnibus, The Legend of Eli Monpress, that I discovered this very fun series.  Eli Monpress is the greatest thief in the world, and his ultimate goal is to get enough notoriety to have the largest bounty ever placed on his head.  He is doing so in a world were every thing has a spirit, with some people having the ability to persuade or control them for their purposes.  After a fairly cartoonist first book, the quality in book two went up, followed by a third book that took the story down a much more serious path.

Which leads to The Spirit War, forth book in the series.  While the series isn’t turning into a dark tale and has kept some whimsy, this book defiantly keeps the more serious tone, with stakes that are higher than ever.  The heist plot lines are gone, and while Eli and his crew still have the skills needed to be great thieves, those skills are now needed to save the world.

While Eli is still  present, this time the story is more focused on Josef, the swordsman of the group, who is called back home to take his place as Prince of an island nation, surprising his friends in the process.  Of course Nico(the third member of the group) and Eli have no choice but to follow along, where they soon find themselves helping prepare for war against the Immortal Empress, ruler of half the world.

This is not a complex book, reading more like an adventure tale.  The joy in it come from the three main characters slowly learning a new piece of each others past, enormous clashes between spirits, and the different way’s the groups less lawful skills come in handy in each situation.  As a continuation of the series I can’t recommend this book enough to people who are yearning for fantasy that is fun and less grim than the average series.  The ending was the best of the series, even if it ends with a cliff-hanger.  With an epic confrontation brewing, the ending would have seemed too simple if Aaron hadn’t done so well in showing what a sacrifice was needed to make it happen.

Some small things hold the book back.  Intrigue is not a strong point, and the first third of the book suffers from trying to include it.  All the politics and betrayals were way too easy to spot, i knew who was going to cause problems almost from the character introduction.  And as unique as the “everything has a spirit” angle is, it is often conveniently forgotten to advance the plot. 

Pros: Tries to be fun, good banter between characters, a strong ending.

Cons: The spirit angle has constrained the author in some ways, and the politics truly are cliched.

4 stars.

Unrelated to the review, but for discussion only.   Did anyone else who read the book see possible illusions/homages to Feet of Clay by Pratchett or The Black Company by Cook?

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