The Spirit Rebellion (The Legend of Eli Monpress #2)
Rachel Aaron is rapidly becoming one of my go-to authors for light, fun fantasy that will consistently plaster a smile on my face. A far cry from the scowling and grim-faced fantasy that I still enjoy Aaron’s The Legend of Eli Monpress offers a more jubilant take on the genre that offers an original premise and a surprising, and ever-increasing depth. My thoughts on the series’ first novel The Spirit Thief can be found here and I’m rather ashamed to admit how long its taken me to get around to listening to the series’ second book The Spirit Rebellion.
The Spirit Rebellion picks up almost immediately after the previous novel. Miranda Lyonette has returned home only to find herself facing a none-too-warm welcome. Bearing the Great Spirit Melinore she has become the target and eventual victim of political maneuvering in the Spirit Court by a man whose motives are far from the ideals that Miranda espouses. Cast out and on the run Miranda finds herself languishing in self-doubt before she is offered a job by one of the Great Winds to find a wayward wind. Eli Monpress, with barely any time to rest, picks his next target: the “thief-proof” citadel of the Duke of Gaol. Obviously a trap, Monpress presses onward anyway. Of course the well-ordered Duchy, under the rule of the vaguely OCD Duke, has no idea what kind of havoc that the irascible Eli Monpress can incite.
As in the previous volume The Spirit Rebellion keeps its light tone but manages to slowly add a bit more detail to the world and characters. The novel’s early focus on Miranda offers more information about the inner workings of the Spirit Court enough to show the corruption and venality of some members. Miranda’s exile also offers some examination of the intra-spirit political structure. Josef continues to be an intriguing character and his relationship to the Heart of War is explored in more detail over the course of the novel. Aaron also introduces to a new (and totally awesome) character in Heinrich Slorne; a crafter and swordsmith who lives a house made of awakened spirits. Slorne’s wife, like Neko is also a demon seed and their interactions allow Aaron to explore in more detail what is going on with Neko and provides some excellent groundwork for the what happens in the next book.
The Spirit Rebellion’s prologue offers some insight into Eli’s history. Aaron does an excellent job in the prologue of hinting at several facts. These facts are later confirmed with a nice subtle touch a chapter or two later. Further into the novel you meet Guiseppe Monpress, Eli’s father, and the playful rivalry between the two combined with their divergent ideologies regarding what it means to be a thief serves to further support the novel’s earlier revelation about Eli’s character as well as make for some rather entertaining reading.
The Spirit Rebellion serves up an entertaining cadre of villainous types. Whereas the The Spirit Thief featured a villain out for a single momentous power grab the more subtle maneuvering of the Duke of Gaol was a better match to the crafty manipulations of Eli. The brutal and brutish Berric Stedd (I’m probably spelling that wrong, I did listen to the audio) makes for an excellent counterpoint to the calculated and honorable swordsmen Josef. In pitting most of the character’s off against villains that serve as foils Aaron uses these confrontations to shine a light on the internal conflict faced by the heroes as well. Victory over the villains in The Spirit Rebellion is less about saving the day and more about evoking change in the heroes.
The Spirit Rebellion isn’t a perfect novel but its flaws are more byproducts of its form than the fault of the author. The Spirit Rebellion is a classic fantasy adventure in the truest sense and while the intersection of the various threads might strain credulity the well-crafted nature of the narrative is indicative of the genre. In truth if the various narrative threads hadn’t met up The Spirit Rebellion would not be nearly as entertaining (for example Eli’s impersonation of Miranda would have been way less amusing, that was a part of the novel I absolutely loved). This is an airy fantasy full of quirky world building that even at its darkest (which isn’t all that dark) still manages to leave you smiling.