The Legend of Eli Monpress: a review

The Legend of Eli Monpress cover

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, and a demonseed who can step through shadows and punch through walls – he’s going to put his grand plan into effect.

Because Eli won’t rest until he’s amassed a fortune. Step one in his plan is to increase the bounty on his head, so he’ll need to steal some big things. He’ll start small for now though: he’ll just steal something that no one will miss – at least for a while. Like a king . . .

The edition that I read contained The Spirit Thief, The Spirit Rebellion and The Spirit Eater. I haven’t yet read The Spirit’s War or Spirit’s End…they’re next!

I was recommended the series by Lea Fletcher, who sold me on the first line; “In the prison under the castle Allaze, in the dark moldy cells where the greatest criminals in Mellinor spent the remainder of their lives counting rocks to stave off madness, Eli Monpress was trying to wake up a door.” And if that isn’t one of the best opening lines you’ve ever heard, I don’t know what is.

The Spirit Thief is, I think, my favourite of the three – simply for being so much fun! The first two books are quite light-hearted, whereas the third gets slightly darker. In many ways the trilogy reminds me of Jen William’s Copper Cat series – irreverent, witty, fast-paced, exciting and enthralling. The addition of darker themes to the later books is an interesting edge, but makes the series no less readable.

Overall, Miranda (and Ghost) make good antagonists, and the trio of Eli, Joseph and Nico are an excellent foil, both for each other and for the wider world. The series of prat-falls, mistakes, coincidences and plans that make up Eli’s stroll through life are brilliantly written, and the plot – both overall and for specific scenes – is excellent. The characters are enthralling and entertaining, and it says a lot for Aaron’s writing that even someone like Nico, who rarely speaks for the first two books, is as compelling as Eli’s charming and cynical thief. The characters are realistic and Eli is both despicable and likeable, which is no mean feat to pull off! Miranda is staid and moralistic, but never boring, and always understandable; the tension between her and Eli – and their wider respective circles – is brilliantly done.

There are also a wide range of secondary characters, each with their own motives and details, and they very much add to the world. Over all three books, the world-building excellent; there are some lovely details that get brought out in later books, but they never overwhelm to start with. In addition, the magic is never over-explained while still being unique, complex and incomprehensible to the vast majority of characters; I really liked that the difference in magic between Miranda (and the Spirit Court) and her allies/adversaries was explored without descending into lecture or exposition.

The third book starts to get more serious, which I believe continues on into the final two books of the series. While still as exciting, it brings wider themes – betrayal, loyalty, the fate of the world, that sort of stuff – into the mix. While I enjoy the revelations and the exploration of some of the character’s secrets, it is a different type of read, and it is less fun. However, having said that, I still devoured the books – they’re no less interesting or excellent for the change.

So – get them! Read them! I loved these books; the first one will grab you and you won’t be let go until the end of the story.

The two omnibuses are The Legend of Eli Monpress and The Revenge of Eli Monpress.