I have finally finished reading the epic (I'm going to use that word a lot in this review) 3-book collection The Legend of Eli Monpress (and there's still two more books to go! I'm currently reading the next one, No. 4 -- The Spirit War).
And may I just say...
Well done, Rachel Aaron. *slow clap* Well done.
The first book, The Spirit Thief, is a great heist story. It's full of epic sword fights, kick-butt characters, witty repartee, etc. The ending is a big finish, a grand finale, and you think, "Oh, wow, that was really cool!" and then you go on to the next book, unaware of the depth of epic-ness that is to come.
Then you start in on The Spirit Rebellion. Really cool, thriller-type story with sneaking around, some character background, and a tyrant that *really* needs to be overthrown. Epic fight at the end that raises the stakes even more. We begin to see twists and turns in characters' stories, and the tangled relationships they're involved in.
And then you read The Spirit Eater and start to understand just what exactly is going on. It's waaaaaay bigger than you've imagined and things are getting pretty serious for our beloved trio. This one has more...darkness involved. An inkling of the danger our characters are in (pretty deep) starts trickling into your brain and you start worrying that one of them (any of them!) might just keel over and die. It's a mystery -- shadowy, with more threatening villains, and the answer to a question we never thought to ask. It's almost a throwaway conversation -- but it *isn't* and that's where Rachel's brilliance appears (like it has everywhere through the books) -- we've built up to this point and have barely noticed. And then WHAM! There it is. And then the stakes are raised EVEN HIGHER. FOR EVERYONE.
I kept reading each book and thinking, "HOW IS RACHEL GOING TO TOP THIS?!?!?!" And you know what? She topped each ending. Every. Single. Time.
I don't even know what could happen in books four and five.
Let's just say I scrambled to find a copy I could beg, borrow or steal so that I could finish the series stat.
I'm serious -- I literally begged friends for a copy of book four, The Spirit War, so that I could keep going.
What I love about Rachel Aaron is that she knows how to keep an epic story light while at the same time explore the depths of a fantasy world (and to some extent, the characters' backstories). She also handles multiple main characters extremely well -- I feel like I know the trio. I could travel with this group. I also know the person chasing them, and I can't help but sympathize. They are a slippery bunch to catch (and hold onto).
Her books feel big, expansive -- the universe she's created feels real. I can picture the countryside the trio travels through, I know what they look like, I can see the castles and buildings they thieve from, and I can feel the food they eat in my hands. I can see their world so clearly.
While the series isn't YA or middle-grade, it hits a nice medium -- it isn't 'adult' in theme. It's a really epic fantasy with elements of several genres mixed in (and is low on the romance scale, which of course you know delights me). It's a saga, a story whose scope is far greater than what you first see.
I think this series would be perfect reading for a long summer or winter. I'm already sad that it's more than halfway over. While I'm trying to rush through and see what happens, I'm also lingering because I know once I read the last book, I have to say goodbye to Eli, Josef and Nico (and Miranda and Gin).
And that's just gonna be a sad, sad day.