Review: The Spirit War by Rachel Aaron

The Spirit WarThis book was a personal purchase.

(Description nicked from B&N.com.)

“Eli Monpress is vain. He’s cocky. And he’s a thief.

But he’s a thief who has just seen his bounty topped and he’s not happy about it. The bounty topper, as it turns out, is his best friend, bodyguard, and master swordsman, Josef. Who has been keeping secrets from Eli. Apparently, he’s the only prince of a rather feisty country and his mother (a formidable queen who’s every bit as driven and stubborn as he is) wants him to come home and do his duty, which means throwing over personal ambitions like proving he’s the greatest swordsman who ever lived.

Family drama aside, Eli and Josef have their hands full. The Spirit Court has been usurped by the Council of Thrones and someone calling herself the Immortal Empress is staging a massive invasion. But it’s not just politics — the Immortal Empress has a specific target in mind: Eli Monpress, the greatest thief in the world.”

I’m willing to grant Aaron the extra time that it took to get this book to print, because it’s the best one in the series so far.  A lot of Eli’s history, which has only been hinted at previously, comes out in this story.  Readers will learn about his parentage, his connection to the Shepherdess, and where his incredible affinity for the spirits originates.  Above all, it provides a context for a lot of what Eli has done in the previous novels.  Yes, we know that he wants to be the most wanted criminal ever, but in this book, we get the reasons why.

Readers also get more information about Josef.  It’s not just his status as a rogue prince, either; his biggest identity is as a swordsman, and those origins are revealed here as well.  There are even some revelations about Nico and the demonseed that she carries.  But the biggest reveals are those about the nature of the world these characters inhabit and about the spirits.  Things that have happened in earlier books are now getting clearer, and I’m glad that the author chose to spill some secrets at this point, because the satisfaction of getting those answers adds to the book’s excitement.

And there’s plenty of excitement to be had.  The Immortal Empress, the near mythical figure who has been mentioned in the other books, resurfaces and decides to invade the lands across the ocean.  The battles are bigger and the stakes are higher, both on a global scale and for Eli personally.  I really enjoyed watching the action play out in the book’s second half, because the tension builds to the point that it’s almost unbearable.

This series is a whole lot of fun—snappy dialogue mixes with memorable characters and an ever-evolving plot to keep you reading late into the night.  This is the kind of tale that you give to your friends when you want to get them as hooked on fantasy as you are.  The Spirit War is a great tale, and it makes me even more eager to see what happens in the final volume.