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Book Review: Spirit’s End by Rachel Aaron

Spirit's endTitle: Spirit’s End

Author: Rachel Aaron

Series: The Legend of Eli Monpress #5

Genre: Fantasy

Rating: 4/5 stars

The Overview: Eli Monpress is clever, he’s determined, and he’s in way over his head. First rule of thievery: don’t be a hero. When Eli broke the rules and saved the Council Kingdoms, he thought he knew the price, but resuming his place as the Shepherdess’s favorite isn’t as simple as bowing his head. Now that she has her darling back, Benehime is setting in motion a plan that could destroy everything she was created to protect, and even Eli’s charm might not be enough to stop her. But Eli Monpress always has a plan, and with disaster rapidly approaching, he’s pulling in every favor he can think of to make it work, including the grudging help of the Spirit Court’s new Rector, Miranda Lyonette. But with the world in panic, the demon stirring, and the Lord of Storms back on the hunt, it’s going to take more than luck and charm to pull Eli through this time. He’s going to have to break a few more rules and work with some old enemies if he’s going to survive.

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The Review:

If you are a fantasy-lover and have not yet had the pleasure to read The Legend of Eli Monpress, you are missing out. This series has some of the best world-building of any series I’ve ever read. Combine that with great characters, a cool magic system, originality, an engaging plot, and a fantastic writing style, and you can begin to see why I hold this author and series in such high regard. Aaron is such a great writer that, in my opinion, there’s not a single element storytelling from a craft standpoint that she doesn’t do brilliantly.

With that said, you would think composing this review would be a walk in the park, however, I’ve stalled on writing it longer than any other book this year. I loved how it wrapped up all of the conflicts of the series. It was a beautifully epic series that deserved an epic ending, and that’s exactly what it got. I feel really guilty for saying this, but I think the ending may have been just a tad bit too drawn out. It essentially took up a full third of the book, making me hold my breath uncomfortably for a really long time. There was so much momentum going into this last book that I don’t know how Aaron could have done it any other way. I wanted to know what happened badly enough to devour it in one sitting, but definitely had one of those Lord of the Rings (film) moments where I wasn’t sure if it was actually ever going to end. As with the LOTR, although it felt drawn out, I couldn’t tell you which part I felt she should cut… it was all essential to completing the plot and everything needed time to fully flesh out (not to mention the dozen or so amazing characters that needed proper resolution). Anyway, I think you can see why I’ve had such conflict over this one. Let’s suffice to say, now that I’m finished with the series, I eventually loved where it ended. We ‘ll leave it at that.

I’m actually kind of sad it’s over – I thoroughly enjoyed these characters, some of which are now among my all-time favorites (Nico, I’m talking to you). This is one of those books I will definitely go back and reread, if for nothing else than to study the craft because, seriously, Aaron is brilliant. The good news is, I just found out she published a space opera trilogy under the name Rachel Bach, so you’d better believe I will be devouring those as soon as I can get my hands on them!

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by Niki Hawkes

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Book Review: The Spirit War by Rachel Aaron

a1Title: The Spirit War

Author: Rachel Aaron

Series: The Legend of Eli Monpress #4

Rating: 4.5/5 stars!

The Overview: Eli Monpress is vain. He’s cocky. And he’s a thief. 

But he’s a thief who has just seen his bounty topped and he’s not happy about it. The bounty topper, as it turns out, is his best friend, bodyguard, and master swordsman, Josef. Who has been keeping secrets from Eli. Apparently, he’s the only prince of a rather feisty country and his mother (a formidable queen who’s every bit as driven and stubborn as he is) wants him to come home and do his duty, which means throwing over personal ambitions like proving he’s the greatest swordsman who ever lived.

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The Review:

I want to start out by sharing the overview for the first book:

Eli Monpress is talented. He’s charming. And he’s a thief.

But not just any thief. He’s the greatest thief of the age – and he’s also a wizard. And with the help of his partners – a swordsman with the most powerful magic sword in the world but no magical ability of his own, and a demonseed who can step through shadows and punch through walls – he’s going to put his plan into effect.

The first step is to increase the size of the bounty on his head, so he’ll need to steal some big things. But he’ll start small for now. He’ll just steal something that no one will miss – at least for a while.

Like a king.

I don’t know about you, but that short teaser convinced me right away that I wanted to give the series a try – and it was even better than I could have imagined. The first three books have to be, by far, one of the most memorable trilogies I’ve ever read. There was a high level of originality and it was spectacularly funny without ever crossing over to stupid or overdone.

I have to give major kudos to Aaron for pulling off two things you rarely see done well in fantasy: creating a feel of wonder, and doing so using almost poetic imagery. A lot of authors try to introduce wonder into their stories but it usually comes off ridiculous rather than awe-inspiring. Aaron pulls it off in a cheeky, fun manner without losing any more serious and thought-provoking overtones. She did this through exceptional character development and dialogue and introducing epic world-building and magic systems. I can’t say enough good things about this series. I am hooked, and will definitely read anything Aaron publishes in the future.

Surprisingly, compared to the first three novels, I thought the Spririt War started out a bit slow. Luckily, it was still rich, quality writing, so the pace didn’t bother me like it might have in other books. Regardless, the slower pace can be attributed to Aaron’s choice to expand on some minor characters and introduce some new ones, which means that she couldn’t possibly take it any faster if she wanted to develop them properly. I have criticized authors in the past for telling their stories from multiple viewpoints. I believe the key to doing this well is making sure all of your characters add directly to the overall arc – with each perspectives taking nothing away from the story’s momentum. All of Aaron’s viewpoint characters help maintain this momentum, adding a complexity to the story that still blows my mind.

Aspiring writers out there, including myself, could learn a lot by studying the way this author weaves the story, creates and maintains characters, and describes her world. She brings things to life and does so in a beautifully effortless manner. I will definitely be rereading this series for tips because there were moments of pure brilliance in every aspect of her writing.

Recommendations: As I said before, this series is whimsical without being ridiculous. I find myself recommending it to many types of readers because it’s one of those stories that has appeal for all ages (but for the sake of a few “scary” moments, I keep the recommends to 10+). It is probably best for fantasy lovers who are in the mood for something different. Its also my number one choice when someone says they want something “fun” to read.

by Niki Hawkes

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