Just a few weeks ago saw the release of Rachel Aaron’s entertaining and light-hearted debut novel The Spirit Thief. Now, fast on its heels, we already have the sequel The Spirit Rebellion (2010) — and even better, the third book, The Spirit Eater, will be here around Thanksgiving. Isn’t it wonderful when you don’t have to wait a whole year for the next novel in a series?
This second installment in THE LEGEND OF ELI MONPRESS takes place right after the events in the first book. Spiritualist Miranda Lyonette, heading back to the Spirit Court, finds herself on the wrong end of a political witch hunt after her involvement in the recent events in Mellinor, more specifically the escape of the notorious wizard thief Eli Monpress. Eli, meanwhile, is on the road with his companions, the swordsman Josef and the demonseed-girl Nico, as usual out for mischief but also to purchase a new coat for Nico. The Shaper wizard constructing the coat demands a certain rare sword as payment, and wouldn’t you know it: one of those swords just happens to reside with the Duke of Gaol, who has recently advertised his brand new, ultra-protected and supposedly even “Eli Monpress proof” citadel. If there’s one thing Eli can’t resist, it’s a challenge…
Even though the first book in this series was quite enjoyable, its small scope and relatively short length made it feel more like an elaborate prologue than a full novel. It’s nice to see that The Spirit Rebellion moves in the right direction in both regards: the story covers more ground both in terms of time and space, resulting in a more solid novel. Even better, it effectively builds on several elements that were introduced in the first book and uses them ingeniously and sometimes surprisingly. Explaining this in more detail would lead to spoilers, but suffice it to say that the brief hints at hidden depth in The Spirit Thief are further developed here, and hopefully this trend will continue.
However, The Spirit Rebellion still feels a bit thin at times. Especially the plotting is at times too transparent and obvious: character A wants object B as the price for performing a service for Eli, and it just so happens that object B is in the hands of Count X, who is obsessed with catching Eli — so Eli of course heads there. Separately and for an entirely different reason, Miranda ends up being sent to the same location, inevitably leading to the two protagonists meeting again. It’s all too convenient to be believable.
If Rachel Aaron occasionally plays fast and loose with improbable plot manipulations, and if her characters are still a bit on the thin side, it’s usually easy to forgive because The Spirit Rebellion is once again an engaging, fun fantasy romp. The characters still bicker a lot, there’s once again a conversation with a door, and it’s becoming increasingly clear that Eli Monpress is incapable of ever being boring. Despite the novel taking a decidedly dark turn towards the end, The Spirit Rebellion is for the most part another entertaining, action-packed and slightly silly novel that should get readers excited for The Spirit Eater, due out in November. Your enjoyment of these books will vary greatly depending on how you approach them: if you’re, say, a book reviewer always on the lookout for flaws and plot holes, you’ll probably end up muttering to yourself quite frequently. On the other hand, if you’re willing to suspend your disbelief, go along for the ride, and (most importantly) not take everything too seriously, you’re once again sure to have fun with Eli, Miranda and company.