The Spirit Thief by Rachel Aaron
The Spirit Thief (The Legend of Eli Monpress)
What’s the appeal of a thief as a main character? My money’s on the chance to watch a clever plot unfold. With movies like Oceans Eleven and books like The Lies of Locke Lamora, the thief has gone from obscurity in D&D games to a viable guy to root for. New author Rachel Aaron brings a new face to the lineup with Eli Monpress, the thief who wants to be worth one million gold.
We join Eli in prison, captive of King Henrith of Mellinor. After persuading the door to open up and let him out, he does what nobody expects: he steals the king. Hot on the heels of this crime, the wizard Miranda arrives, hunting Eli in the hopes of preventing another crime. Something dangerously magical lurks in Mellinor’s royal vault, and if Eli gets his hands on it, who knows what will happen?
And yet even more dangers are swirling around Mellinor. The throne’s vacancy has left the way clear for Henrith’s exiled brother Renaud to return and take control. The funny thing about Mellinor is that magic is outlawed; and, the funny thing about Renaud is that he’s a wizard. Something is most definitely rotten in the state of Mellinor, and the funniest thing of all is that Eli may be their only hope of salvation.
This novel was not what I expected from the teaser on the back cover. I thought that I’d be reading a tale focused solely on Eli, but it’s much more about an ensemble cast. Just as much time is spent on Miranda and on Eli’s companions Josef and Nico as on Eli himself. This isn’t a drawback, but it wasn’t what I expected. It does provide some depth to the tale that might have been lost in focusing solely on one character and his goals.
And those goals are a little thin. According to the book’s extras, the idea for this novel came from a D&D campaign in which a thief wanted to be worth a one million gold bounty. It’s a fun goal, but I would have liked to see a few more hints as to why Eli wants this. I doubt anybody, fictional or not, would go to this much trouble “just because”, and I’d like to see more of the reasons behind this. I’m sure that the future novels will flesh this out, but it would have been nice to get a few more nudges in the direction of the truth.
But that’s a small complaint. Overall, Aaron has created a unique world with a magic system that I definitely want to see more of. Wizards consort with spirits of various kinds and carry them in items such as jewelry. And then there’s Eli, whose relationship with the spirit realm is unlike anything seen before. The opening scene, where he persuades a door to fall off of its hinges and let him out of the dungeon, is humorous and immediately draws readers in. As far as I’m concerned, Eli’s demonstrations of his power are among the book’s strongest moments.
While falling prey to a few first-timer’s mistakes, this series is definitely one to follow. The Spirit Thief is a bang-up beginning to what promises to be an intriguing and unique tale of magic and mayhem.