The Spirit Eater (The Legend of Eli Monpress)
It’s common in science fiction and fantasy to get into a series, be forced to wait for the next book as the author stalls out, and have to look for something comparable to tide you over. After the long wait for Scott Lynch’s next Gentleman Bastards novel, I went out and found myself something new to fill the gap: Rachel Aaron’s Legend of Eli Monpress. The third book, The Spirit Eater, has deepened the tale by focusing on Nico, the young girl who holds a demon within her.
(Description nicked from B&N.com.)
“With the pressure on after his success in Gaol, Eli Monpress, professional thief and degenerate, decides it’s time to lie low for a bit. Taking up residence in a tiny seaside village, Eli and his companions seize the chance for some fun and relaxation.
Nico, however, is finding it a bit hard. Plagued by a demon’s voice in her head and feeling powerless, she only sees herself as a burden. Everyone’s holiday comes to an untimely close, though, when Pele arrives to beg Eli’s help for finding her missing father.
But there are larger plans afoot than even Eli can see, and the real danger, and the solution, may lie with one of his own and her forgotten past.
If only Nico could remember whose side she’s on.”
I’ve actually had this book for a while, but I hadn’t gotten around to reading it until recently. I was reminded of it when I had the opportunity to read book four early, but that obviously required reading book three. So I picked this one up and blazed through it in about a day and a half. I’d forgotten how readable Aaron’s writing is. She doesn’t clutter the page with extraneous details, but she makes sure readers are firmly in the scene and invested in her characters.
And it’s the characters that really make this series shine. Eli is his usual cocky self, Josef the swordsman displays a wry acceptance of circumstances that belies his apparent function as a meat shield, and Nico is someone that you’d really like to hug if not for that pesky demon issue. This book turns the spotlight on Nico and her past, allowing her to regain some memories and causing her to question her usefulness to her companions. Aside from the main plot, a good amount of conflict comes from her internal struggles as she battles not only her own self-worth issues, but also the whisperings of the demonseed inside of her that wants to take her over completely.
Speaking of the plot, it becomes obvious in this book that the author is working up to something big. Whereas the first book in the series was lighter and seemed almost like a one-shot story, with each book Aaron is weaving more and more of the world and its conflicts into the plot. And she’s not saving all of the cataclysmic events for the final novel—there are plenty of moments that have their own ripple effects. From a simple story about a thief who wanted to be worth one million gold, the author is leading her readers through a complex web of intrigue and magic that can only get more intense.
These novels are some of the most entertaining that I’ve read in a long while. They’re the summer action movies of the fantasy genre, filled with twists and turns and things that go boom. You won’t fail to be entertained by Mr. Monpress and his friends! The first three novels are now available in an omnibus edition, so you have the chance to get into this unique series before the next novel comes out in June.
This review appeared on Owlcat Mountain on May 24, 2012.