Backlist Burndown Review: The Spirit Thief by Rachel Aarron
Series: The Legend of Eli Monpress #1
Also by this author: Nice Dragons Finish Last
Published by Orbit on October 1st 2010
Length: 8 hours 19 minutes
Eli Monpress is talented. He's charming. And he's a thief.
But not just any thief. He's the greatest thief of the age - and he's also a wizard. And with the help of his partners - a swordsman with the most powerful magic sword in the world but no magical ability of his own, and a demonseed who can step through shadows and punch through walls - he's going to put his plan into effect.
The first step is to increase the size of the bounty on his head, so he'll need to steal some big things. But he'll start small for now. He'll just steal something that no one will miss - at least for a while.
Like a king.
I chose this book for both a Backlist Burndown feature (it’s been on my TBR for a while) as well as my Swords and Sorcery square for Reddit Fantasy’s Bingo.
Quite frankly, I was quite excited to finally have an excuse to bump this up my priority list and finally read it. I’ve heard the series highly recommended and, really, who doesn’t love a story about a thief? Especially one who gets to use magic and has some pretty interesting friends. Not to mention the gall of trying to increase the bounty on his head. It just sounds like an incredibly fun book and set of characters.
The story, overall, is fun, starting out with Eli, the greatest thief of all time, stealing not the typical salable items, but rather a King. I mean, sure, you hear stories of princesses being stolen in the night and held for ransom or whatever other nefarious reasons someone might have to steal them. But stealing a king is a bit more unexpected, not to mention ambitious.
I think I had two issues with this book, which unfortunately, turn out are not trivial when it came to my enjoyment. First, while one the surface, the premise of each of the characters sounds intriguing, in execution I don’t feel like they were fleshed out enough to feel any connection to them, including Eli. It was just missing something for me, and I decided while the concepts were good, there just didn’t seem to be enough there to fully engage me. Perhaps readers that prefer action over characters, this will not be an issue.
The other area I struggled with is that everything just felt over the top for me. There were certain scenes I am guessing others will love, but just didn’t work for me. For instance, persuading a door to let him through. I often don’t do well with anthropomorphic creatures, so anthropomorphic inanimate objects is just something that rarely works for me. Like I said, others will love this aspect, and that’s great. It just wasn’t for me and probably creates more of a detachment from the story in my case.
And then there was the humor, often a sticking point for me. Unfortunately I think choosing the audiobook production probably made this humor harder for me to swallow. Eli is a character that is supposed to be funny, and I was at the mercy of the narrator’s performance. How he delivered the lines and jokes may have been spot on with what the author intended, but I would prefer a bit less overt delivery of the jokes. You can say the same joke multiple ways, and the emphasis can really impact how it is received. When I have control of the emphasis, I can tone down overt humor a bit (if that makes any sense to anyone else). The performance in this made it a more over the type of humor than I enjoy. Please keep in mind, I often struggle with overt humor in books, so if you don’t just ignore me.
Overall, I think it is a decent book, but was likely not a great fit for me. I may have done better with the print version, but I suspect even then I would still have listed most of the same concerns, especially with the characters, just the humor may have worked better for me.
I have challenged and committed myself to reading at least one book from my backlist every month and posting the review on the last Friday of the month. I invite anyone interested to join me and link up their own Backlist Burndown reviews. I will offer the link at the bottom of my monthly Backlist Burndown reviews, and also will keep a running record of the reviews on my Dracarys! Backlist Burndown page available from my top menu.