The Spirit Rebellion is the second book in the Legend of Eli Monpress series by Rachel Aaron, following The Spirit Thief. The third book, The Spirit Eater, is also available now, and all three books were released in an omnibus entitled The Legend of Eli Monpress in February. Spirit’s Oath, a prequel novella about how Gin and Miranda met, was also released last month. The rest of the series will be completed this year with The Spirit War in June and Spirit’s End sometime in the fall of 2012.
Since this is a review of the second book in the series, there will be spoilers for the end of The Spirit Thief. I reviewed it here if you’re interested in learning more about the series starting with the first book.
The Spirit Court had sent Spiritualist Miranda Lyonette to capture Eli Monpress, the self-proclaimed greatest thief in the world who was worth 55,000 gold due to the great bounty on his head – a bounty he’s intent on seeing increase until he is worth more than anyone in history. Yet Miranda’s plans of capturing the famous thief and wizard went awry when it became clear there was a much greater evil to be concerned with than restraining Eli, who was more a mischievous inconvenience than an evil man. Miranda set aside her mission, and instead worked with Eli to save the people of Mellinor and its Great Spirit, which would have drowned Mellinor if Miranda did not offer to contain it. Eli got away, but Miranda was confident that she made the right decision.
However, the Spirit Court does not appear to agree with her priorities or understand that by becoming a vessel for the Great Spirit of Mellinor she saved both the spirit and the people of Mellinor. When Miranda returns to them, she is promptly arrested and charged with the crime of conspiring with Eli Monpress to steal the Great Spirit of Mellinor for her own. She and Master Banage, who has been preparing Miranda to succeed him, both recognize that this is purely a political move made by one of Banage’s enemies. That doesn’t change the fact that Miranda must go to trial, although she has been offered a way out – if she agrees not to confirm or deny her guilt at her trial, she’ll be made a Tower Keeper, which will make her immune to the worst outcomes even if she is found guilty.
Miranda is outraged and refuses to accept these terms if it means she cannot tell the truth about what happened in Mellinor. Despite testimony from the Great Spirit himself, Miranda is found guilty at her trial and banished from the Spirit Court. Her banishment means that all her promises made in the name of the Court no longer apply, including the contracts she made with her spirits. Miranda’s honor forces her to choose to fight for her spirits and the promise she made to them, and she flees the court with her spirits and her ghosthound, Gin. Even exiled, Miranda is found by a spirit who requests her help. All is not right in Gaol, and she may be the only one with the ability to make it right.
Meanwhile, Eli is on a path that will also lead him to Gaol. In return for a replacement for Nico’s jacket, the creator of the new jacket asks for a favor instead of money from Eli’s abundant funds. To pay for the jacket, Eli is supposed to obtain a specific type of sword that is very rare. Eli is never one to turn down a challenge and when he learns one of these swords is being held in the supposedly thief-proof home of the Duke of Gaol, he can’t resist the opportunity to prove this claim false.
The Spirit Thief was a fun fantasy adventure that piqued my interest about the rest of the series. While it was somewhat traditional in some ways, it did offer a unique setting in which all objects had spirits and wizards were those who could communicate with these spirits. It had a few intriguing hints about the larger world with the glimpses of the League of Storms and the White Lady. By the end, I was invested in two of the characters – Eli, the charismatic thief and wizard who could convince nearly anyone or anything to do his will, and Miranda, an honorable representative of the Spirit Court of wizards assigned the task of capturing Eli. I had high hopes that the next book in the series would be even better.
While the general consensus seems to be that it is a better book, I thought The Spirit Thief worked better as a first book than The Spirit Rebellion did as a second book. The Spirit Thief gave me all the right ingredients to make me want to continue reading the series, and even though the sequel was definitely enjoyable, I’m not sure whether or not I’ll continue the series. I’m certainly not opposed to reading the next book since I really did have fun with this one – it’s more a matter of wanting more depth in the characters by the time I reach the second book in the series. With all the series I’ve started and the books I want to read, I need a little more to convince me a series is worth continuing, although there was enough I liked about this book that I’m not ruling out reading the third book either.
Some of the mysteries mentioned in the first book are built upon in this one, and I was completely satisfied with how much was revealed. The Spirit Rebellion gives us more about the White Lady, Eli’s past and family history, politics in the Spirit Court, demonseeds, and the Heart of War. The information given struck a great balance between giving readers more information but leaving out enough that there is still plenty to explore in the next books.
While the new knowledge gained worked for me completely, the pacing was a little bit uneven. It had a very strong start with some interesting implications about Eli’s past right in the prologue and Miranda’s homecoming and trial. Eli’s part of the story took a while to really get going for me, though, since he wasn’t as vibrant as in The Spirit Thief. Instead of talking to spirits, antagonizing Miranda, and pulling off heists, he, Nico, and Josef started the book by getting Nico a new jacket. I can completely understand why some time was spent on this since a lot of what we learned about demonseeds took place in these sections, but I did find them a little dull. Out of his party, Eli is the only one who really has personality so I’d much prefer reading about one of Eli’s schemes to learning more about Nico or Josef.
Once Eli did begin focusing on a new plan, his parts were much better, particularly once he met up with Miranda closer to the end. The two of them are great together, and I love how Miranda hasn’t given up on capturing him. The way they clash is so much fun – they have such a similar mindset when it comes to spirits, yet Eli is so loose about other things (like thievery) and Miranda is so much more straight-laced and honorable. (I do want to note that when I say they are great together, this has nothing to do with romance or what seems like a potential romance in the works. I’ve seen a lot of people say they thought this was a romance from the covers so I just want to clarify that there has been no romance at all in these books so far.)
As with the first book, I still like both Eli and Miranda a lot as characters and that’s the major reason I might read the third book. Unfortunately, they are the only characters who are at all compelling and I didn’t think any more dimension was added to their characters than in the first book. Miranda was shown to have a devotion to duty and honor in the first book, and she still does. She does struggle with what it means to truly serve the spirits, but her character still seems to be defined by loyalty, dutifulness, and competence without any other defining characteristics. Likewise, Eli continues to be self-assured and quite fun to be around, but we also don’t learn a whole lot about him as a person that’s new. There is more learned about his past, certainly, but not a lot more about who Eli really is. It’s emphasized more that he does not believe in forcing spirits to do one’s will, but that was shown in the first book. While I enjoy reading about both of them, they weren’t incredibly deep characters to begin with and I would like to see more depth with both of them.
Josef and Nico had a little more time in the spotlight in this book, but they both really need to be fleshed out a little more if they’re going to be important characters with their own scenes apart from Eli. Josef is still the swordsman and Nico’s still a somewhat quiet girl with a growing demonic problem. More is explored about the parts that make them special – Josef’s reluctance to use his magic sword and what it means for Nico to harbor a demon. None of this gives them more personality or makes them truly shine as characters, though.
The Spirit Rebellion is an entertaining book, although it does have a few slow parts once it gets past the very beginning. It had more about the interesting plot points and setting that I wanted. However, I would have liked a little more from the characters, despite the fact that I still really like both Eli and Miranda. It also suffered a little from the lack of time spent with Miranda and Eli together that was so enjoyable in the first book, and my favorite parts were after the two met again closer to the end. While it was fun to read, I’m not sure The Spirit Rebellion gave me quite enough reason to continue with the series – but I’m certainly not ready to rule out the possibility of reading the next book, either!
My Rating: 6.5/10
Where I got my reading copy: Review copy from the publisher.