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. He’ll just steal something that no one will miss - at least for a while. Something like a king.
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This is the first book in a series and IMO, it is the weakest of the three. That said, this is a charming fantasy that introduces really entertaining and endearing characters and a really interesting system of magic. Because of that, and because I wouldn't want a first novel to turn people off of the series as a whole (which gets better and better with each book) I am still giving the story four stars for this review.
Basically everything is the world is imbued with a certain amount of 'spirit' or self-awareness and power. Most little spirits are asleep most of the time and owe a sort of allegiance to greater spirits who correspond to different elements such as Air/Winds, Earth/Mountains, Water/Rivers, Fire/Volcanoes, etc.
There are wizards who make deals to align with certain spirits to carry them around in rings on their fingers, making friendships and trading their protection for the ability to call on the spirits' powers when needed. These 'Spiritualists' also protect the spirit world and try to make sure that the spirits aren't being misused or taken advantage of.
Into this comes a Thief, Eli Monpress, who is determained to have the highest bounty ever taken placed on his head. He has a secret ability that helps him in his work that is explained during the book and is basically your charming rogue character- but he is REALLY charming and fun to listen to.
He travels with a swordsman who carries an 'awakened blade'- a self- aware sword that is unstoppable when it is in tune with its wielder. The swordsman, Johan, also has a mysterious young girl as a companion. She wears a huge magical coat and and manacles.
A young Spiritualist, Miranda Lyonette, who is talented and takes her work VERY seriously, is dispatched when the Spiritualist Court learns that Monpress has kidnapped the king of a country that doesn't even believe in magic. She rides off on her companion Ghosthound Gin (think sort of like the dragon in the Neverending Story- you totally want one, you know you do!) and they ride off to apprehend Monpress.
But things are much worse than either group bargains for and the Thief and the Spiritualist end up forming an uneasy alliance. One thing I particularly enjoyed is that the author stays away from any cliched romance and really is interested in developing each character as a person.
When you throw in things like an all-powerful demon trapped under a mountain, a mercurial Lady who seems to be the mystical protector of the world with an unhealthy interest in Eli Monpress, an eerie 'League of Storms' who have the job of hunting down smaller demon seeds which have escaped into the world, a bunch of panicked and mostly useless courtiers and a resourceful librarian- this story goes from action to farce to magic to combat and back very comfortably and I had a fun time following it.
I like heavy-duty real, gritty, violent fantasy very much. But after some George RR Martin or Joe Abercrombie, these books are really refreshing! Well written and the characters and world only get more interesting as the books go on. These are clever, and the combat scenes, while less gory than the authors I just mentioned, are well thought out and suspenseful. I've read all the books so far in the series and will be getting the others from Audible too. My 12 year old son is listening to this book now and also really enjoying it.
First thing I did after listening to this book was look for the sequel. I admit I'm not a fantasy connoisseur, as this genre is for me a bit of a guilty pleasure. But this story was quite amazing in my view. Eli is a wonderfully built character with a lot of humor, I loved Gin, the massive Ghost Hound, I loved Miranda... It all kept me gasping for air, not wanting to go to sleep and basically wishing those 8 something hours would not finish.
The narration is also very good, fluid and with a little role-play, just the way I like it. Kudos on the book!