Eli Monpress is talented. He’s charming. And he’s a thief.
But not just any thief. He’s the greatest thief of the age – and he’s also a wizard. And with the help of his partners – a swordsman with the most powerful magic sword in the world but no magical ability of his own, and a demonseed who can step through shadows and punch through walls – he’s going to put his plan into effect.
The first step is to increase the size of the bounty on his head, so he’ll need to steal some big things. But he’ll start small for now. He’ll just steal something that no one will miss – at least for a while.
Like a king.
One sentence review: Clever magic and fun characters make for an enjoyable read.
One of my current vices is the SF Signal’s weekly list of ebooks on sale for $5 or less. It’s a great way to discover older titles (today’s was first published in 2010) or pick up earlier books in series when a new one is about to be released. For me personally, $5 is the price point where I’m more willing to take a chance on a title or an author I haven’t heard of before, and this is certainly a perfect example of how it can lead to truly pleasant discoveries.
If the summary of the book alone isn’t enough to grab you, then how about this: the opening chapter of our book finds our hero quite literally talking the door that is holding him prisoner into knocking out the nails that hold it to the frame, thereby allowing our hero to quite freely just walk out. I was hooked.
The magic here is certainly the most notable accomplishment of this book. Wizards in this world don’t do conventional magic: they get spirits in all the inanimate objects around them to do the work for him, and in this book we basically have three variations on the theme: the “good” way – making contract with individual spirits and calling upon their guidance, the “bad” way – enslaving individual spirits as needed and forcing them to do your bidding, and Eli’s way: buttering them up and just asking nicely. It’s a neat little system and it works rather well, allowing our protagonist to get away with activities that would otherwise be impossible. What’s nice is that there’s clearly a bigger force behind this talent. While the explanation will obviously unfold across the series, what we get is still nice because it’s clear this isn’t just a case of him being more powerful than everyone else. It makes you want to know what’s really going on.
Good magic can only take you so far, however, you have to care about the characters and the book is a success on that point too. Aaron keeps the main cast rather small, which gives her time to develop characters that feel distinct, and quite frankly fun. While Eli is decidedly clean as criminals go, he’s got just enough of an edge and pragmatism to buy that he actually is a thief. Josef is a swordsman in with Eli because he longs for a good fight, and Nico is a rather interesting character in of herself, but I don’t wish to spoil what makes her so interesting. Miranda, who has been sent by the “good” wizards to stop him so he doesn’t ruin their reputation is fun too. Her magic is strong, she has a good head on her shoulders, and best of all, Aaron didn’t see a need to try and hook her up with anyone: her job is her focus (as it should be). If I had any complaints, the motivation of the antagonist does feel a bit on the simplistic side, but we really don’t spend a lot of time with him and the action at the end of the book is enjoyable enough to be forgivable.
All in all this was an enjoyable first book in the series that did everything it should: it introduced you to the world, got you hooked on the characters, and intrigued to see where it goes next. If you’re looking for a fun read, give this a shot, I think you’ll enjoy it.
Verdict: Buy It