The Spirit War is the fourth installment in Rachel Aaron’s Legend of Eli Monpress, a series that started out as a light and fluffy read but has grown continuously darker as it progresses. This most recent novel continues that trend, and also is considerably more epic than any of the first three volumes – our heroes are all over place in this one, momentous events are afoot, and – the title holding what it promises – there is a war going on (even though the actual fighting, once it happens, seems to bear a greater resemblance to computer game boss fights than to actual military encounters). After novels that were centered on Eli and Nico, this time it is Josef’s turn, and we learn about his background and how he became what he is, and The Spirit War tells (among other things) of how he manages to come to some sort of peace with his past. We also find out a lot more about the wider world the series’ events are set in, and we finally get a cliffhanger that, even though it was clear that this would have to come to pass eventually, is none the less evil for that. Rachel Aaron seems like such a nice person in interviews and on her blog, I really would not have thought her capable of being so mean to leave her readers with that ending… At least Spirit’s End, the final volume in the series, will be out in November already, and I for one am counting the days until then.
The Legend of Eli Monpress may not be the most original fantasy series in recent years (it is fairly conventional, but still manages to breathe new life into tired tropes) or the deepest and edgiest (even as things grow darker with each volume, this is still light reading and does not attempt to be anything else) but for me it consistently has been the one that was the most sheer, unabashed fun to read, that had me alternately chuckling with glee or gnawing my lower lip in excitement. It brought back something (a lot actually) of what I felt when I first started out reading Fantasy as a teenager, the spirit of colourful adventure and wide-eyed wonder that got me hooked on the genre, and that is so very hard to recapture as one grows older. Rachel Aaron does this admirably and without apparent effort, and I love the series for that.