Four years before the events of The Spirit Thief, Miranda Lyonette was a young apprentice Spiritualist on the cusp of a promising career. But on the eve of her return from bonding a wind spirit, a night that should have been a celebration, she finds instead that her father has come to take her home. Now, Miranda must choose between her duty to her family and her future at the Spirit Court. But while she’s trying to make her parents see reason and avoid an arranged marriage to a man she can’t stand, she stumbled across the one one spirit who needs her more than any other, a caged ghosthound who doesn’t want her help. To save him, Miranda will have to earn the dog’s trust, but what she gets in return is a friendship deeper than anything she expected.
CW: mild violence, controlling family
From the moment I was introduced to Miranda Lyonette and Gin the ghosthound, I absolutely had to know how they came to be friends, and their histories as separate characters. Thankfully, that’s exactly what Spirit’s Oath is about, and trust me, I’m very satisfied.
It’s not a particularly long novella, thank goodness, and it took me maybe half an hour at most to read (can’t go wrong with a quick read, after all). It also centers around what’s pretty much a single event that spirals out of hand: Miranda being pulled back under her family’s stifling control.
I couldn’t STAND her family, even the sister who was framed as more pleasant, because they see Miranda’s unhappiness among them, and they don’t care. Or, in the sister’s case, they do very, very little to ease the discomfort. You can tell that Miranda’s family doesn’t care about her the way they care about the family name, and by the end of the book, I was nearly as furious as Miranda was with their actions. It’s impossible to like their self-serving, controlling ways, and it solidly puts the reader in Miranda’s corner.
On the flip side, this did make basically every character except Miranda and Gin feel very flat and heavy-handed in their awfulness, but this isn’t a 400-odd page book. It’s about 50 some pages of novella that’s revealing that fun bit of backstory between two beloved characters, backstory we didn’t get to fully see in the series proper. I can forgive some heavy-handedness in this case, because I’m here for the history.
And Gin. Gin is the best fantasy dog ever, and I would honestly read hundreds of pages about him. We get to see how he and Miranda met, what drew them together and sealed their bond, and how they’re very, very alike in their origins. There’s a reason they get along so well, when so few humans have ever gotten that close to such a massive, dangerous animal. They’re both independent, proud, and willing to go to extreme lengths to make their own choices. Really, they’re just another example of the way the Eli Monpress series explores agency and the lack thereof, power and powerlessness.
I think I just wish there had been a little more. It certainly works as a short story, and it didn’t add in too many extraneous scenes that made it unwieldy, but I couldn’t help but feel Gin and Miranda together weren’t focused on often enough, and that’s what I showed up for. Despite that, though, it was a fun, short read about two delightful characters, and I very much even more than ever want to see this series turned into animation somehow. It’s really a pressing (Monpressing? ohoho…) need at this point.
So, that’s it! If you haven’t read the Eli Monpress series after all these reviews, I certainly hope you will now, and if you have, then I absolutely want to chat with you about it! Either way, let’s talk!