The Legend of Eli Monpress by Rachel Aaron is a omnibus containing the three first books in The Legend of Eli Monpress series: The Spirit Thief, The Spirit Rebellion, and The Spirit Eater.
The first thing I got to talk about is the magic system, since it is one of the most interesting parts of the books and really essential. The magic is based around animism. Animism is the idea that everything in the world has a spirit, the winds, the trees, doors, roads and so on. Here a wizard is someone who can hear and communicate with this spirits, ask them to do things.
Aaron does not only use these spirits for a interesting system of magic. They also feature as characters, adding, if I may, some unique character to the books. In fact, the first book, The Spirit Thief, starts out from the point of view of a cell door.
The cell door is the first in a line of scenes that introduce Eli, the main character, a wizard and thief. None of the first few chapters are from the point of view of Eli himself, but from the point of view of people (or spirits) who interact with him or deal with the fallout of his actions. This is a really interesting way to do it and I quite like it.
The first book, The Spirit Thief, is about the latest of Eli's schemes. Having already stolen a king's ransom, he has decided to step up his game by stealing a king and have a king's ransom delivered to him. He hardly has time to say "Trust me, what could go wrong?" before everything goes wrong. Turns out the king Eli has stolen has a long lost brother, who has no interest in getting his brother back or paying Eli his ransom.
Eli's team is made up of two other characters in addition to Eli himself. One is Josef Leichten, a man seeking to become the world’s greatest swordsman, who has attached himself to Eli because Eli's reward money is good at attracting opponents. Josef is followed around the Nico, a woman with darkness in her past.
One of the most interesting characters is Miranda. She is not part of Eli's crew but a Spiritualist, a order of wizards that has taken upon itself to police the proper use of spirits. She is tasked with the impossible: to catch Eli and bring him back to spirit court. In many ways her constant moral dilemmas are the best part of the book.
In The Spirit Rebellion the Duke of Gaol lets it be known far and wide that he has a completely thief-proof fortress filled with treasure. Everybody can see that the entire thing obviously is a trap for Eli Monpress. Well, everybody except Eli himself. To him it is just an irresistible target. Miranda also joins the fray but for a different reason. The spirit or the eastern wind asks her to investigate, because there is something very wrong in Gaol.
The third book, The Spirit Eater, is darker and better for it. A demonseed murders the wife of a Shaper, a friend of Eli's, and the Shaper sets of after it. Eli quickly gets involved, worried that his friend is outmatched. Miranda gets dragged into a special taskforce setup to catch Eli. The hunt for Eli has been stepped up and the Council is throwing some weight behind it. Behind it all the Demon is playing its games, getting everybody to dance to his tune.
These books start out as lighthearted, humorous sword and sorcery, but they darken as they go along, and get better for it. The omnibus starts out good with The Spirit Thief, but by the time I got to The Spirit Eater it was the kind of book that keeps you up 'til three in the morning.
The one thing that really bugged me at first was the language spoken by the characters. It was exceedingly modern, using modern turns of phrase and scientific terminology. It seemed quite out of place in a medieval fantasy world. But I must admit I got used to it and it ended up giving a unique voice to the books, making them stand out better from the average fantasy.