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The Spirit Thief
Rachel Aaron
Narrated by Luke Daniels, unabridged
Brilliance Audio, 8 hours, 19 minutes

The Spirit Thief
Rachel Aaron
Rachel Aaron was born in Atlanta, GA. She went to the University of Georgia to pursue English Literature with an eye towards getting her PhD. She currently lives in a 70s house-of-the-future in Athens, GA with her family.

Rachel Aaron Website
ISFDB Bibliography

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Sarah Trowbridge

In the kingdom of Mellinor, in the deepest dungeon below the castle Allaze, the master thief and gifted wizard Eli Monpress uses his talents to their best advantage to break out of prison and kidnap King Henrith right out of his own throne room. Eli is asking a king's ransom but this operation is just one part of an elaborate scheme that unfolds gradually over the course of the entire book. It turns out that Eli's goal is to force the bounty on his head higher and higher, aiming to become the thief who summons the price of one million gold standards. Other details of his quest slowly surface as the story progresses.

Despite the book's title, Eli Monpress is not so much a spirit thief as a spirit whisperer. He has an uncanny way with the spirits of inanimate objects, both living and non-living, natural and manufactured. In a world where most wizards either enter into contracts with spirits to make use of their power (the good guys), or enslave the spirits and drive them mad while draining power from them (the bad guys), Eli simply converses with the spirits in an everyday tone of voice. And he is remarkably adept at charming them and persuading them to do whatever he wants. Whether it's rocks, trees, or the door to his prison cell, Eli Monpress knows just what to say to the spirits within the objects, and can talk them into just about anything.

A diverse cast of characters assembles to assist and oppose Eli in his efforts, some of whom have their own complicated agendas to pursue. There's Miranda Lyonette, a wizard/spiritualist dispatched from the Spirit Court to apprehend the thief, and Gin, the giant ghosthound who is her steed and faithful companion. There's Renaud, the king's brother, freshly returned from eight years of exile for his disgraceful aptitude for wizardry. Coriano, a bounty hunter, seems to find common cause with Renaud, until his true objective comes to light in due time. Eli's sidekicks include Josef, a master swordsman, and a mysterious, small, thin girl in black called Nico. Untangling the knot of alliances, betrayals, conversions and double-crosses is a challenge at times, and one that is not complete until the very end.

Eli Monpress himself is charming and memorable enough, but the rest of the ensemble of characters sometimes seem a bit lackluster by comparison. It doesn't help that Luke Daniels does not bring much variation to his delivery of the different characters' voices. Gin the ghosthound's growly voice is distinctive enough, while Coriano sounds enough like Inigo Montoya to be instantly distinguished from the rest. Daniels injects a certain cocky, boyish swagger into Eli's lines that makes him easily recognizable most of the time, but otherwise the listener is often left confused as to who is speaking. In a story with this many characters crowding the stage, that can be a problem.

First-time novelist Rachel Aaron has created an intriguing fantasy world with plenty of potential. In the final scenes of The Spirit Thief, all surviving characters are on the move. A number of unanswered questions and loose ends point the way to the subsequent volumes in the continuing series of The Legend of Eli Monpress.

Copyright © 2011 Sarah Trowbridge

Sarah Trowbridge reads (and listens) compulsively, chronically, and eclectically. She is a public librarian in a suburb of Atlanta, Georgia.

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