The Spirit Eater by Rachel Aaron

“I am king here.”

The Spirit Eater Cover.jpg

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With the pressure on after his success in Gaol, Eli Monpress, professional thief and degenerate, decides it’s time to lie low for a bit. Taking up residence in a tiny seaside village, Eli and his companions seize the chance for some fun and relaxation.

Nico, however, is finding it a bit hard. Plagued by a demon’s voice in her head and feeling powerless, she only sees herself as a burden. Everyone’s holiday comes to an untimely close, though, when Pele arrives to beg Eli’s help for finding her missing father.

But there are larger plans afoot than even Eli can see, and the real danger, and the solution, may lie with one of his own and her forgotten past.

If only Nico could remember whose side she’s on.

4 STARS

TW: death of a loved one, violence, medical scenes, slavery, body horror, abusive parental figures

Okay, these covers are killing me too, but LAST COVER DIGRESSION IN THIS REVIEW SERIES because starting with The Spirit War, the covers CHANGE!

ANYWAY.

This is it. This is where we finally learn more about Nico and it is a time. She’s been shrouded in mystery for so long, but that’s cracking open at last, with absolutely devastating effects. We learn more about how she and Josef came into each other’s lives, and about what she’s able to do when it comes down to the wire. Both of the first two books gave us glimpses of her power, but The Spirit Eater shows us just how much power Nico really wields, and how much more she might find herself in possession of if she plays her cards just right.

She really was the focus of this book, to be honest. I wish there had been more of Miranda, and maybe more of Josef’s backstory, since he remains so mysterious, but Nico was an incredible POV to finally dig into, and if that means sacrificing a little of the attention Miranda has previously had or the attention Josef could get, so be it. Nico’s eyes were the ones that most of this book needed to be told through, because her eyes are the ones that recognize the full scope of the dangers that are starting to press down onto the world. She more than anyone else understands the dangers posed to the spirits by demonseeds, and that insight is critical, truly so.

But of course, we can’t forget Eli, who remains as quick to talk as ever. His backstory is slowly unfurling too, with new glimpses of his family, both biological and chosen, and more on the reasons why he acts the way he does with such aplomb. Best of all, we’re starting to see what it means for him to be “the favorite,” and what cost the rest of the world is liable to pay for that.

It’s actually Eli’s role as the favorite and Nico’s confrontation of her past that make this book work so well: both of them are so, so invested in living free. They refuse to subordinate themselves to anyone, sometimes with great success and other times with a few hitches along the way, and everything they do is by their own choice. They’re stubborn characters to their absolute core (as are Josef and Miranda; it’s a happy little stubborn gang), and there’s something so satisfying about watching them dig their heels in and choose themselves above all else. And in choosing themselves, they often choose their loved ones, too. It’s never selfish. It’s simply grounded in doing the right thing for oneself instead of bending to someone else’s whims. It’s standing up to what seems like a greater power and saying no, not now, not today, not ever.

The only thing I really missed in this book was the thieving aspect of the series. Eli’s thefts are so ridiculous and spectacular, and they were mostly absent this time around. It makes sense, given that Nico took the lead POV most of the time, but I love my absurd conman stories, and was bummed not to have more in this installment.

And I suppose if I’m being honest, I have mixed feelings about Josef’s fight scenes. On one hand, they’re really interesting because they tease out the relationship between Josef and the Heart of War. They’re also clever, cleverer than you might expect from the team muscle. And at the same time, they read as very samey now and again: Josef gets into a fight, wields the Heart, also takes a beating, clocks out for three days to heal. There’s a pattern, and I’m hoping it breaks soon as Josef’s bond with the Heart matures.

Overall, though, The Spirit Eater was phenomenal, and I’m looking forward to finishing the series! It’s really brought me nothing but joy (and secondhand stress, I suppose, as I watch the characters try to survive TERRIBLE THINGS), and if a book can do that, then it’s a good book, plain and simple.

 

If you were a successful fantasy thief, what would you attempt to steal? Personally, I’d go after an entire library, but hey. Maybe that’s just me. Or maybe not! Let’s chat, and see who has the best fantasy thievery targets! And let’s all agree in advance that probably none of us are nearly so melodramatic as Eli Monpress. That takes skill.

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