I first came across Rachel Aaron while storming the local Hastings for something to read at work. The title had caught my eye several times before, but it was such a small book I was worried I would finish it too quick. Despite my reservations, I ended up getting the first book, The Spirit Thief, and I’ve never regretted it.
The characters in Aaron's books are clever and detailed without being campy,
like a lot of authors end up with. The plot lines are simple, but not mind-numbingly
so, and the characters come together in such unique ways that you can almost
believe it was fate. The settings are unique, and the landscapes are
imaginative. And let’s face it, who doesn't love walking into a world where the
world can talk back when you do something stupid.
Despite all of this, I was somewhat disappointed with the third book, The
Spirit Eater. Don't get me wrong, everything I loved about the story was still
there, but there was a bump in the story development of certain characters and
not in others. The story is written through the viewpoint of several different
main characters throughout the series: Eli Monpress, the clever spirit talking
thief; Josef Lichten, the taciturn warrior with the most powerful magic sword
created; and Nico, a child-like girl with a demon's seed in her chest. All of
these characters are interesting in their own way, but of all of them, Eli gets
the least amount of story development in the series.
This isn't to say he doesn't get any story-line; you get to learn little
things about him throughout the other books. It's just that Josef and Nico have
been more of a focus point over the last several books, starting with The
Spirit Rebellion. The Spirit Eater was almost entirely about Nico and her past
and how they affect her current struggles. The Spirit War was no different -
the storyline was, for the most part, told from the perspective of Josef, with
little nuggets of Eli thrown in from time to time.
Now, this could be a way of highlighting the fact that Eli is going to be
the real focus on the, next, and final book. But it just seems silly to have a
series called "The Legend of Eli Monpress" and not have him as a
focal character. In my opinion that is the problem with having a story told
from multiple perspectives. When you go from person to person every other
chapter, it makes it hard to sympathize with any specific one.
Anyway, let’s get to the heart of the matter: The Spirit War.
Let me first say that I loved the book. For the most part, the story is about
furthering the storyline about Josef, the warrior turned thief's-aid who
travels with Eli because he wants to find a challenge. He carries the Heart of
War, the most powerful awakened sword ever created. What are awakened swords?
Well they are weapons that have wills and souls of their own and tend to have
special abilities that make them more powerful than others. In the story, Josef
gets called back to his homeland, Osera, by a bounty poster that has a higher
pay-out than Eli's, which irritates Eli to no end, and he and Nico decide to
The storyline, without getting into too many spoilers, is simple: The
Immortal Empress (a character who has been mentioned in passing throughout the
series, but never really explained) is returning for a second war from across the
ocean, Josef's mother wants him to do him a favor, and the Council of Thrones
(not to be confused with Game of Thrones, another story entirely) is trying to
get the Spirit Court to help them in the battle to come. Needless to say there
is a lot of drama, some witty repartee from Eli, and a character who just wants
to destroy things in the most Hulk-like fashion imaginable. (Cause let’s face
it, Sted was the most interesting thing in the last two books)
The story is told in segments from different characters, some new, but most
recognizable from the past books: Eli, Josef, Nico, and Miranda Lyonette, the
Spirit Courts representative chasing Eli, without much success. I have to say
that the story from Josef’s perspective was interesting in certain ways because
he is so quiet that it makes it hard for him to be a very likeable character. He
is also so taciturn that for almost every paragraph you could just have him
grunting something to someone and it would have carried the same meaning. But,
that was Josef’s past, this book paints him in a much better light. The
chapters involving Eli’s perspective are more revealing, but also cast him in a
very poor light. Without going into too much detail, don’t expect Eli to play
the hero until much later in the storyline.
My biggest problem with sharing perspectives in stories is that most times
you have a problem caring about any of them. Brent Weeks Night Angel Series was
like that. The story changed to so many different people that it made it hard
to really connect with any of them. Rachel Aaron's stories are much better in
that they spend a little more time with each character in turn, and she's spent
so much time developing them that each character comes off on its own without
needing the main character there to give them a leg up.
The setting takes place between three different locations: Osera where the
defense location is being prepared, the city of Zarin, where the Council and
Court are located, and across the ocean on the other continent, where the
armada is being prepared for invasion. I had a hard time with the settings on
this particular book, just because the scenes for the new island, Osera, were
so dull that even Eli comments on them. But I have to say that the image of the
armada being launched made up for it in spades. Let’s just say that the term “Palace
Ships” aren’t just there for fun.
The story is exceptionally written, and a lot of plot holes are filled up from
the previous books. My main problem with The Spirit War's story telling style
is that there are no flashback points. There are people and events referred to
in the book, but they are never given details about them other than "he
remembered seeing that person", or "that happened back in the
woods" type of details. If you have spent a hiatus waiting for The Spirit
War to come out and didn't read the previous book, The Spirit Eater, then you
might want to re-read it before you start. The reason is that there are a lot
of details in Eater that come up in War.
The ending was, for the most part, anti-climactic, but don't let that be a
deterrent. The Spirit War was the turning point for The Spirit End, which is
the next book in the series. In my humble opinion, the previous books have all
led up to this moment. If The Spirit Rebellion was to highlight Miranda,
The Spirit Eater was to highlight Nico, and The Spirit War was for Josef, then
Eli’s time to shine should be coming up in the next book, and I sure can’t wait
Some of Eli's past has been hinted at and explained, but the biggest plot hole
has always been about Eli's connection to the mysterious Shepherdess, who all
the spirits pay tribute, and whenever Eli has had encounters with her, he has
always been antagonistic to her. The next book looks to be a lot about this
missing period, and the end to The Spirit War leads up to this spectacularly.
All in all, I would say that The Spirit War was an excellent book as far as
the series goes, but as a standalone book, as all books should inspire to be,
it was only lacking in a brief sense. Hopefully, the next book will be
different, seeing as it is coming out in November, but we will have to see. I
would give The Spirit War an 8 out of 10.
Below will be an Amazon link to the book, always remember, a review is just
one persons opinion. This book was amazing, and I would suggest it to anyone
who has been reading the series as well as suggest the first book, The Spirit
Thief to anyone interested in getting into it for the first time.
The Spirit War -
The Spirit Thief - http://www.amazon.com/The-Spirit-Thief-Legend-Monpress/dp/0316069051/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1339539087&sr=1-1