Book Review: The Spirit Thief

Title: The Spirit Thief

Author: Rachel Aaron

Genre: Light Fantasy

Read: Dec 7-16, 2010

Summary: Ethereal fun.


Between a trip back east, mega editing on my own book, and another parental visit last week I only had time to read five or so novels in December, about a quarter of my usual rate.

Don’t confuse this fun little book with The Lightning Thief, which I also just read and reviewed. The SPIRIT Thief straddles a fairly unique line between totally straight up 80s fantasy and comedic fantasy the likes of River of Dancing Gods or Myth Conceptions. It’s not however as totally comic as those, and somehow seems a bit smaller and lighter (if that’s possible).

The voice is very good, and the opening scene brilliant. There’s a nice new magic system here, where every living thing has a spirit inside that wizards can bargin with, enslave, or what not. Like comedy fantasy Shinto. It’s not entirely evenly developed, but the book is at its best during the magic fights. Although they do have a certainly sketchy quality too them, where the action doesn’t feel entirely blocked out, but I still liked quite a bit of this. The master swordsmen are really nicely done, combining the intrinsic magic of the book with a slightly Robert Jordan-esque blade-master feel. There were moments that almost felt super cool.

The prose can be very wry, in a good way. Funny, without laugh out loud. A lot of this involves attributing emotion to inanimate objects, which given the magical system is perfectly in line. When it’s on, this is certainly very fun to read. But at the same time this levity makes it hard to take the characters too seriously, and certainly not their perils. So it works for and against. I found oddly marooned in a peculiar — albiet unique — tone.

For some reason it also reminded me a bit of Shattered World, one of my high school favorites. Probably because the protagonists is a thief. I maybe wanted it to feel more like that, but it doesn’t feel as big. Everything takes place in a fairly short time and place, and the stakes seem a little local. The light tone also works against the emotional intensity of the characters, and I for the most part feel that they existed to either service the plot, or like the author was more sure of their personality than the character. The villain in particular is of the “i’m very bad, and very mad, and bad at being mad” sort.

So overall I would call the book a snack. But a tasty one.

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