Review: The Spirit Thief by Rachel Aaron

The Spirit Thief by Rachel AaronHow did I get it: The library, but I will be buying myself a copy of this book and its sequels very shortly.

Why did I get it: Something about the cover intrigued me and I have a thing for con men in any medium.

How I would rate it: 5 out of 5 stars – Amazing! I wish it had gone on forever and I want more right now!

My Summary: Eli Monpress is a master thief so it stands to reason that he deserves to be worth a large reward if captured. The best way to ensure he’s worth money is to steal something that will people will surely miss. And what could be better than kidnapping a king? With the help of a master swordsman named Josef and a demonseed named Nico, he aims to succeed.

But what ought to have been a fairly simple process becomes very complicated when Eli and his crew find themselves dealing not only with resourceful and determined wizard named Miranda but a swordsman, a banished wizard, and a secret treasure. It looks like Eli just might have gone after much more than he bargained for.

My Review: This book was awesome! As I said earlier when I was about halfway through this book, I think the major reasons why The Spirit Thief worked so well for me is that it’s vaguely Pratchett-esque and there’s also a whimsical quirkiness that reminds me a bit of manga and anime, especially Hayao Miyazaki’s films.

I was amazed to discover that I liked every character in this book. Eli, Miranda, and Miranda’s ghosthound Gin were my favorites, but I really liked Josef, Henrith, and Marion too. Nico was all right, but I think I will end up caring more for Nico as time passes. The spirits were really easy to like too, and I loved the effect Eli had on all of them. I did think the bad guys were fairly typical in terms of one wanting to be the best swordsman and the other wanting to be the most powerful wizard, but I didn’t think that was really a problem. I loved watching the “good guys” find a way to work together and then seeing how everyone’s powers worked in combat situations including Miranda’s.

Another aspect of the book that really, really worked for me and has me a little concerned about future installments, is that I throughily enjoyed the lack of romance in The Spirit Thief. Some books need romance, some books don’t. This book did not need romance.  Now Miranda and Eli had issues with one another, but they were both just people having different approaches to people, magic, and morality that had to eventually band together and snark. I found that to be really, really absurdly refreshing. I think Josef and Nico will probably get together, which is fine, but I hope that Eli remains as hellbent on stealing things and making friends with spirits as much as possible during the course of this five book series. I like that he cares about his crew and gets along well with basically every plant, rock, and branch in creation, but I also really, really like that his life does not revolve around any one person besides himself or increasing the size of the bounty on his head.

The world worked for me too in that sometimes it’s actually refreshing to read a lighthearted fantasy that dealt with interesting, but too terribly complex issues that weren’t going to ever result in a war or the end times for the world the characters live in. The humor throughout was great, and I felt that there was originality in this book in terms of its concepts if not in regards to the world’s magic system or fighting system in of themselves. I really didn’t mind the magic and fighting being fairly straightforward since it was all very interesting to read about and very well-written.

I strongly believe that not all books have to reinvent the whole entire wheel to be unique. Besides, I can’t think of many books where the spirits/embodiments of every living thing and inanimate object made from natural resources talked to characters in a way that wasn’t distractingly pointless or just plain irritating. And no matter what a writer does, some things are going to be familiar to a reader if the book is set in a fantasy realm. Magic and sword fights are probably at the top of that list.

As far as the magic was concerned, the spirits added enough originality to the mix for my tastes. I’m sure the next few books and learning about the characters, especially Eli and Nico’s back stories, will add even more complexities and new twists. As for the fighting, I also found that interesting because of the swords and Josef’s inability to hear/care/see spirits. Aaron was careful not to have these scenes drag out for too long, and I was glad to see that all encounters, magical or physical, yielded some kind of result in a timely fashion.

The only aspect of the book I disliked the least was this random mysterious character named Benehime who showed up in basically two scenes. I’m sure she’ll matter later on, but really even her short interferences were baffling to me. All she seemed to do was be smug and mysterious and then hit on Eli in order to indicate how special he was. I imagine this was there so that people would realize there was more to Eli than met the eye, but I don’t think I needed those scenes in order to reach that conclusion.

Speaking of conclusions, what a great book! Much like with The Iron King, I cannot be less than 110% in love with this book. I loved it. I love it still. Already I sort of want to read it again. Considering my fairly epic Godzilla-sized To Read list, that’s just about the highest compliment I can give a book.

Besides, if no one else is that excited… Clearly that means I can have Eli Monpress all to myself. Which is excellent news.

About April

I'm a librarian, reader, and writer whose main goal in life is to be able to swim in books the way Scrooge McDuck swims in money. Although my reading choices will always be wildly eclectic and I never plan on leaving any genre unexplored, my favorite reads tend to be Fantasy, Young Adult, Science Fiction, Gay Romance, or Historical Fiction. You can e-mail me at inspector[dot]librarian[at]gmail[dot]com.
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19 Responses to Review: The Spirit Thief by Rachel Aaron

  1. Redhead says:

    You had me at “con men”.

    and then you had to throw in Miyazaki and the nice lack of romance. I SO need to read this book!!! it just looks like so much fun. and seriously, when are con men anything but fun?

    • I was had at “con men” too if it makes you feel better. 🙂 And I think I’ll probably be babbling more about Eli tomorrow since I can’t think of anyone else who I want to be My Book Boyfriend at the moment.

      But yes. This book was terrific! And sometimes it is just SO nice to not have romance involved. And I agree. You can’t not love con men. It’s impossible.

    • Noel says:

      Redhead – Ahaha…your first line is the best. Because, let’s admit it, con men in fiction are sexy.

      April – Enjoyed the review. Your ending line makes me laugh because I’ve been there before. ;D As a matter of curiosity, have you read The Lies of Locke Lamora? I doubt it’s very similar to this book beyond the thieving/conning aspect, but I wondered.

      • Aw. Well, you can laugh more about it tomorrow. 😉 I’m doing this weekly so Eli is going to get the honor of being a first official My Book Boyfriend. Because I’m obsessed.

        You know I tried reading that book and I did enjoy it, but I got totally distracted by other things. I have been meaning to go back to it, but I’ve noticed that a lot of reviews where the readers who really liked Scott Lynch didn’t think the humor in this book worked so I think maybe i just had the opposite problem. I still want to give the book another shot though.

  2. Noel R. says:

    I hear you. And I’m not surprised that you got distracted away from Locke Lamora. It’s a good book, but if anything happens to your attention within the first 150 pages (when it’s most confusing), putting it down might be too easy.

    I’ve been tempted to do the My Book Boyfriend as well. My problem is the whole finding an image part! I don’t think I could find adequate images, and my character drawing skills are rather atrophied at this point. I’d hate to mangle them. Though, for the first one, I could sort of cheat since he’s featured on the cover of one of the books in the series. =D

    Can’t wait to read about Eli, though!

    • Definitely. And since then my reading list has been epic.

      Yeah I have to admit that part is difficult. I’m just going to go with actors that look sort of like how I imagine them looking. But it’s hard to find a picture that measures up completely to a reader’s imagination.


  3. Redhead says:

    Con men ARE sexy! and that raised eyebrow and twisty smile help too. 😉

    Ahh, Locke Lamora and Scott Lynch. my dream-boys. Seriously. the other day in my dream, Scott Lynch phoned me and we talked for a half hour. and my husband was cool with it! Eli would have a chance at being my book-boyfriend if Locke Lamora hadn’t been in the picture first.

    Scott Lynch’s sense of humor is most certainly darker than most, as is the language. Two things that could be a quick turn off, or if you’re a little sick and twisted like me, a total turn on.

    • Hee. You could probably have both as your fictional boyfriend but I know what you mean.

      I definitely want to read his stuff at some point. The humor did work for me but yeah… it’s a hazard of reading a lot of books at once. Some just are easier to get thru than others. I think with the first Locke Lamora book I just was taking my time with it and it kept being due back at the library before I could get far enough into it.

    • Noel R. says:

      Phone conversation with Locke Lamora! ROFL. Ooh, my god, you kill me. Who is this awesome person I’m talking to? 😀

      But I hear you. The other night I dreamed I was hanging out with Jarod from the 90’s show The Pretender. Because he’s adorable, and I love him. It doesn’t hurt that his actor is also gorgeous. If I decide to do the book boyfriend meme one day, I’ll have to let him stand in for one of the characters. ;D

  4. LOVED this book the mostest out of the series, although the 2nd book is quite excellent and hilarious! 🙂 I hope you find the rest of the series as enjoyable – and I cannot wait until the next installment!

    I loved this magic system – it seemed so unique, and I loved how Eli’s interactions with the spirits that baffled Miranda!

    • Oh awesome! It would be hard to top this first book, but as long as it’s fun and hilarious I will be pleased. And I’m so glad there’s still 2 more after these 3.

      Same here. I really loved the idea of the spirits and Eli and Miranda working together was very amusing to read about. 🙂

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  8. Mel S says:

    I loved this book as well. You’re right it is refreshing to read a book without a romance sub-plot – and not really miss it at all! 🙂

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