The Spirit Thief

By Rachel Aaron

The Spirit Thief by Rachel Aaron
This is the debut novel from Rachel Aaron, one of a three book series being released over consecutive months by Orbit and it's a terrific, fast-paced, fun-filled, fantasy yarn that you can't help but enjoy.

It's the story of Eli Monpress, dashing rogue, master wizard and self-styled 'world's best thief' who treats his daring thefts as mostly a bit of fun while his main goal is to have the bounty on his head reach one million in gold. His small team consist of the warrior, Joseph, bearer of the magic sword 'The Heart of War' and whose clothes seem to consist of mostly concealed blades and a young woman called Nico, whose quiet demeanour hides the fact that she carries within her a demon seed. We meet Nico as he is charming his way out of a prison cell in his most daring theft yet - to kidnap the King of Mellinor - not so much for the ransom, although it will come in handy, but to increase significantly the bounty on his head. Chasing after Eli and his crew is another wizard, Miranda, fresh from the Spirit Council and her enormous ghosthound, Gin. While Miranda is determined to let nothing come in the way of her bringing down the famous Eli Monpress she soon finds that she must join forces with him when both their plans are turned upside down by a greater evil than either of them can face alone.

It's fairly safe to say that there's nothing truly original here, although Aaron's magical system where everything around us, trees, rocks, earth, water etc. has a spirit and a wizard's power is derived by persuading these spirits to perform tasks for them is nicely constructed. The wizards come to an 'accord' with the spirit and in return for doing the wizards bidding, the spirit gets a safe haven in which to live. Needless to say, a bad wizard will enslave a spirit to his own ends and a good wizard would never stoop so low as to enslave anything. It all works very nicely and is played out very simply in service of the story.

The plot is fairly conventional, the good guy and the bad guy forced to team-up is standard fair in lots of genres and it plays out as expected but the real charm of The Spirit Thief is in the characters, but more specifically, in the way the relationships between them play out. Eli, despite being a thief, is hugely likeable and moreso the more you get to know of him. His 'crew', Josef and Nico are well rounded with their own distinct voices and the banter and teasing between the three rings very true and makes the whole greater than the sum of the parts.

Miranda comes across as, not so much uptight, more 'professional' in her manner but the relationship she has with Gin softens her out and makes her more human while the obvious contempt in which she holds Eli and the subsequent frustration she suffers when she realises he really is that good are beautifully layered within the verbal sparring between the two. The only let down in the characters is the pantominme villain although he plays his part well and is shorn up by an interesting henchman with a burning desire to fight Josef and his magic sword and frankly I would have liked to have known more about him.

Being a short book it gets to the final showdown pretty quickly and while once again the end result is nothing unexpected, getting to it provides a few surprises and the climax is genuinely exciting and sets up some interesting things for the next book, The Spirit Rebellion, which I'm throughly looking forward to.

The Spirit Thief is published by Orbit, through Little Brown, and is available from, Blackwell and all good book stores.

As you might expect, Rachel Aaron does have a website but beware, here be spoilers. You have been warned.

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