Sunday, January 20, 2013

Review: Spirit's End by Rachel Aaron

Ah, after so long a hiatus doing...well you will just have to wait to find out what I've been up to since my last review (and no I'm not done with it, I'm just taking a bit of a siesta from it,) it's good to be back in the saddle working with what I love: reading and writing and generally making a nuisance of myself. I've put off reviewing the last two books I read for many different reasons, but two of them stand out the strongest. One, both authors I love dearly and want to do justice to their work. And two, I had to come up with truly critical things to say while overcoming the first issue.

Now anyone who's read my work knows that I am strongly in favor of being brutally honest and saying exactly what I thing about the work from a, well just say, deconstructing point of view. I want to know why people did what they did. I want to know why the author said something truly inane (see Mark Lawrence's Prince of Thorns review for that) or why a writer emphasizes such nonsensical facts (See Daniel Abraham/M.L.N. Hanover's work for details on why emphasizing a name can be redundant.) The problem with these two books I am going to be reviewing this month is that they are by good authors, who made rather obvious story flaws to my eye, but I like the authors so much I want to censor myself to say how good the books are, and that's just not me.

So, seeing as this is a new year, I think I've taken enough time from my readers, and it is time to batten down the hatches, trim the sails, and say what I've been struggling to say since before Christmas, starting with Spirit's End by Rachel Aaron.

For anyone who doesn't know, Spirit's End is the final book in the Legend of Eli Monpress series. The series takes place in a world where spirits live in everything: trees, water, air, mountains, etc. and there are people out in the world who can communicate with them. Eli is one such person, and uses his abilities to become the greatest thief the world has ever known, with the biggest bounty. Joining him on his crusade, are two people: Josef, the greatest swordsman with the greatest awakened blade of all time, and Nico, a woman with a demon-seed in her that gives her great strength, and the ability to travel through shadows.

In the final book, I would like to give a short summary of what the plot entails, but I can't. I don't mean I morally can't, or that I just can't find the words. I literally can't give a summary of the book, and that brings my to my first gripe. There is no cohesive plot. Now I know, a lot of writers are of the opinion that you should write from your characters actions, not from a stationary plot, but here is a brief description of the book. "Oh, I need to do something. I want to do this! You can't do that...Well what can I do? What do you think you should do? I know! What? I'm not going to tell you, I'm just going to do it." Almost every major event where you think, well now they finally have what they need to do, the author decides that that would be too easy. It all sounds like an interesting plot twist, I know, but it actually becomes rather trying when you read thirty pages of dialogue and inner monologue only to find out everything you just read has nothing to do with whats going to happen. There were times while I was reading that I had to stop, set the book down, and shout up at the heavens, asking why I just wasted half an hour reading something that wasn't important enough to the characters, let alone the reader.

Now I have reviewed one of Rachel's previous books, Spirit War, and most of my gripes from the last book still stand. There are characters that were referenced that I hadn't read about in three books and didn't remember who they were anymore. In addition to this, there was a poor editing job done on the book. There were several times that a character named Den was credited for something that happened in books previous to Spirit War when he wasn't even around. I know who she meant, but I still was confused enough to have to ask the author on Twitter if she had mentioned him in past books and I had just missed them. Note to reader: if you are reading the book and get confused, she meant to say Sted, not Den.

On a positive note, this book is actually a credit to Eli Monpress. In my last Rachel Aaron review, I commented that it was lacking in actually developing her title character. All the other characters were so much more interesting with better back stories and more developed personalities. Eli has always been so two dimensional. His reasons for doing things are petty and self gratifying, and every time we get a true glimpse at his character, he snatches it back like a rug under your feet. This time, we get a little more reason for why he does what he does, but in my opinion, it might have been too little, too late. Eli has this issue with wanting to be noticed, wanting to prove his worth, but honestly, the fact that he has no will to sacrifice any of his needs (which, while being important to him, seem gaudy to me) makes him seem kind of selfish and wishy washy. It all gave the feeling that the other two characters, Josef and Nico, really held the story aloft.

Now Rachel Aaron has said that this book is the final story in the series, and there have been several jokes made about how people have messaged her saying that they can't wait for the next book. This just reminds me of an old writers adage: There is no good way to end a series. No book series will ever have a satisfactory ending because readers always want more. If you kill off your character then people will complain that they shouldn't have died and that the story can be picked up by a secondary protagonist. If you leave them alive, then of course there are going to be more adventures for them to go on, regardless of the fact that the main villain is dead or gone. Readers, here is my only word of advice: if the author ended the series, its because either they didn't want to write anymore of it, or they don't have anywhere to go from that point. No amount of shrieking is going to convince an author to pull a story out of a hat for your amusement. They probably want to make something new and exciting.

Now as far as people thinking there is going to be another book, I can understand that. Spirit's end had a definite feeling of being unfinished. What's going to happen to Sarah and Banage? The Spirit Court has a lot of work to do, what are they going to do? Eli is still at large and wants his bounty even higher. There are new and exciting things going on in the world for him to take advantage of. In my humble opinion, I do believe that Rachel Aaron could do another book, based on the fact that at the beginning of each book there is a chapter giving a brief view of the characters life in the past. There are so many stories that could be given: how did Miranda become Banage's apprentice? How did Eli and Josef meet? How did Nico become a demonseed? Do we have a prequel book to expect from Aaron? I think that would be an excellent prospect.

My last gripe before I go on to my final opinion is something that I brought up in my last writing piece. I was reading through Spirit's End, enjoying the ending, when - oh my god, Nico is blonde?! When did that happen? I read through the book, and there was not one detailed description of the characters really after The Spirit Thief. The only real description is that Josef is muscular with a lot of scars, and that Nico is young with a black cloak. There is almost no description about Eli except when he takes off his shirt to show his burn scar. Other than that, I have no idea what these characters look like. I know it's pretty petty to expect a good description in every book, but I have nothing to go on for these characters.

I would recommend Spirit's End to people who are very into the series, and I would recommend a good read through from beginning to end to people who have not read it before, just make sure you don't take too long of a break between books. But the one question I do have for Rachel Aaron is this: When can we expect the next Legend of Eli Monpress book?