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Literature: The Spirit Thief

"First rule of dungeons," he said with a wry grin, "don't pin all your hopes on a gullible door."

The Spirit Thief is the first of a series of books by Rachel Aaron detailing the exploits of one Eli Monpress, a wizard and a Gentleman Thief. He is introduced having been captured by the realm of Mellinor, which by ancient tradition bans wizards from the land, and escaping by convincing the door to free itself from the tyranny of nails, hence the page quote. It then transpires that this is part of a scheme to kidnap the king of Mellinor and ransom him for a modest sum of cash, plus a truly huge pledge to his bounty should he ever be caught. However, it turns out that the king has a long-lost brother who is less than eager to see him returned to take the throne, and a Spiritualist from the Spirit Court has been dispatched to apprehend Eli before he further besmirches the reputation of wizards. And that's just the first book.

The series is composed of five books: The Spirit Thief, The Spirit Rebellion, The Spirit Eater, (which have all been published in an omnibus edition titled The Legend Of Eli Monpress), The Spirit War and Spirit's End. There is also a short story titled Spirit's Oath centering around an adventure of Miranda's before the series starts.


Contains examples of:

  • A Chat with Satan: Nico ends up having these, as does any demonseed that becomes advanced enough.
  • Action Girl: Nico and Miranda
  • Agent Peacock: Sparrow, though he has very interesting reasons for it, and switches to drab colours when employing stealth rather than diplomacy.
  • Always Chaotic Evil: The demons and demonseeds, especially in the eyes of the League.
  • Anti-Magic: The world's magic revolves around entering an agreement with spirits for them to help a wizard, or by enslaving them. However, this is completely useless against demonseeds, who eat spirits. The League has its own form of anti-magic to use against demon abilties though.
  • And I Must Scream: Being completely possessed by the Master can't be fun. Nor can being tortured by the Duke of Gaol. And of course, there's Renaud's little treat during the ransom exchange, then later with the pillar.
  • Armor-Piercing Question: Banage clearly tries this when he asks "Would you have done this to Eli?" while confronting Sara over how the Relay works, but she's too much of The Sociopath to care.
  • Asexual: The most prominent instance of a romantic pairing is Slorn and his wife Nivel, who intentionally isolates herself to protect everyone and dies in the third book, so they don't even interact onscreen. Between the main characters never even thinking about romance (Josef and Nico, for all of their devotion to each other, remain Platonic Life Partners) and any mention of marriage centering around politics, the books come off as a World Of Asexual.
  • Attention Whore: Eli can be this at times, as Josef notes in one conversation with Nico
    "If you want to do this Nico, I'm behind you, but only if you really want to. Don't let Eli make this about him."
  • Berserk Button: All spirits will flip out and try to kill a demonseed if they detect one, especially the stronger spirits, Gin included. Josef's berserk button tends to be when Nico is in danger, and vice versa. For Miranda, it's the abuse of spirits.
    • And as we see in Spirit's End, the thing that makes Eli do a complete 180 regarding Benehime (from reluctantly being her pet for forever to brutally insulting her and getting her truly angry for the first time in the series) is when she takes Karon away when he is sleeping.
  • BFS: Josef's Heart of War. Though 'BFM' might be more accurate, seeing as the Heart is a mountain transformed into a sword.
  • Blessed with Suck: Demonseeds.
  • Body Horror: The transformation of demonseeds into full demons.
  • Break the Haughty: Happens to Miranda to a degree at the beginning of book two, when she is arrested by the Spirit Court and breaks out, becoming a fugitive.
  • Broke Your Arm Punching Out Cthulhu: Happens to Josef regularly, especially in his book three battle with Sted. Also happens to Nico.
  • Captured Super Entity: In the first book, the "secret weapon" in Allaze's treasury turns out to be the Great Spirit of an inland sea which had been enslaved for generations, preventing it from flooding and drowning an entire kingdom.
  • Carnival of Killers: Everyone and his dog is out to get Eli and his team. Which is probably what you can expect when you're a notorious thief, one companion has a famously powerful sword, and the other is being hunted by the League of Storms.
  • Comically Serious: Josef, when paired with Eli.
  • Cold-Blooded Torture: Something the Duke of Gaol is known for.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle: In book two. Josef's attempts to fight the Lord of Storms when he comes for Nico.
  • Cursed with Awesome: While being a demonseed is horrible in every sense of the word, it does give you incredible strength and speed, superhuman healing, and the ability to step through shadows.
  • Dark and Troubled Past: Nico, definitely.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Various characters have their moments.
  • Deal with the Devil: In books two and three, Nico makes one, and suffers the consequences.
  • Demonic Possession: What all demonseeds suffer from.
  • Did We Just Have Tea with Cthulhu?: In book three Eli experiences this when he attempts to infiltrate the Dead Mountain, and finds the Master strangely accommodating.
  • Dysfunction Junction: Eli is blessed (or cursed, as he might see it) with Benehime's power and attention, Josef is a remarkable swordsman with the most powerful awakened blade, and Nico is a powerfully advanced demonseed.
  • Empathic Weapon: All spirits are conscious beings in this world, and awakened blades are no different. Weapons of note would be Josef's Heart of War, Sted's Dunolg the Iron Avalanche, Alric's Dunelle the Last Sunlight, and Coriano's Dunea River of White Snow.
  • Enemy Mine: In the final book, the imminent threat of all the demons in the universe coming to eat the world means that Nico, Eli and Josef have to work with the Lord of Storms, and the Demon of the Dead Mountain. No one of the three groups seems particularly enthralled with this plan.
  • Extended Disarming: Josef takes about thirty minutes to take off all his weapons. After he does so, he is searched by guards and relieved of at least four he 'forgot'. And even then, he refuses to part with the Heart.
  • Fiery Redhead: Miranda.
  • Fighting from the Inside: Nico and Nivel's struggle against the Master.
  • Final Battle: Each book so far has a battle break out between the protagonists and antagonists break out at the end.
  • Friendship Moment: Quite a few, mostly between Josef and Nico, Miranda and Gin, though Eli also gets a few with Josef and Nico as the story progresses.
  • Friend To All Living Spirits: Eli's talent, and partly why he's such a successful thief. It is also what makes Miranda such a good Spiritualist.
  • Gentleman Thief: This is Eli to the core.
  • Glowing Eyes of Doom: That's when you know the demonseeds really aren't just messing around.
  • Got Volunteered: Eli and his companions really didn't want to get involved in stopping the brand new evil dictator in Mellinor, but have no choice, mostly because it's their fault in the first place for kidnapping the king and creating a power vaccum.
  • Hearing Voices: Those lucky demonseeds again.
  • I Call It "Vera": Awakened swords all have their own names (see Empathic Weapon). Spirits in general seem to, even if they can't remember.
  • I Have You Now, My Pretty: This seems to be how The Shepherdess/Benehime acts with Eli.
  • Invisible to Normals: Non-wizards can't hear spirits, or communicate with them. Though obviously if a table decided to up and attack them, they'd notice it.
  • I Owe You My Life: Part of why Nico is so loyal to Josef.
  • Jerk Ass Gods: Benehime seems to be this with her attempts to manipulate Eli, as well as her treatment of the Great Bear, the West Wind, and the Lord of Storms. Most of the time though, she's just neglectful.
  • Karma Houdini: Sara. She creates enlaved, mad spirits in replica of Renaud's sandstorm to fight in The Spirit War, her Ollor Relay was as good as Powered by a Forsaken Child according to Banage, including the spirit of her loyal water spirit, she bound another human being as a sevant spirit for many years before killing him, and probably has many more horrible acts to her name. At the end of the books, all we know if that the rivers all hate her, but with Banage rushing off to her aid, it's likely that even that won't keep her down.
  • Knight Templar: The League of Storms are this towards demonseeds. They believe there is no possible help for seeds, so they must die. The Lord of Storms (the League's leader), is the personification of this, though his second, Alric, is more balanced.
  • Made of Iron: Tesset, who can even survive a building falling on him, Alric, because it's the nature of his League gift, Sted, for the same reason, and arguably the Lord of Storms, Nico and Josef (though Josef relies on the Heart of War for this).
  • Magnetic Hero: Eli's way with the spirits.
  • Mind Rape: The Master seems fond of employing this to force demonseeds to submit to his will.
  • Mysterious Past: Though we learn more about the main characters' pasts as the books progress. Josef being a prince especially came out of left field.
  • No Sense of Humor: The image that Nico attempts to portray, though Eli notices a few occasions when she seems to be fighting back a smile.
  • One Hero, Hold the Weaksauce: Eli's ability to convince spirits to do what he wants far exceeds that of other wizards.
  • Platonic Life Partners: Nico and Josef are incredibly close, extremely protective of each other, are the inspiration for so many Heroic Second Winds it's ridiculous, and even explicitly use the word 'love' in the text to realize how they feel about one another....and yet there is no hint of romantic or sexual feelings between them in the slightest.
  • Powered by a Forsaken Child: The Relay only works if water spirits are completely and totally isolated from the moment they are formed. Each spirit believes it is totally alone in its own private world, so their spirit unity allows vibrations to be passed between their parts. It's explicitly compared to locking a child in a closet for its entire life.
  • Power Limiter and Restraining Bolt: Nico's cloak and silver bracelets help her suppress and control her demonseed. The prototype was made for Nivel, who has been containing a demonseed for ten years.
  • Red Oni, Blue Oni: Eli is the red, Josef the blue.
  • Rings Of Power: Spiritualists keep their companion spirits in rings and other jewelry, so one easy way to spot this type of wizard is to count how many rings a person's wearing.
  • The Sociopath: Sara has several qualifications. On a reread, pay close attention to her first conversation with Miranda when she's talking about wanting to 'examine' how Eli works. That's her own son she's talking about.
  • Taking You with Me: In the last book, Nico grabs hold of the Demon Of The Dead Mountain as she is falling out of the world and drags him along with her. This particular instance of Taking You with Me is probably the Crowning Moment Of Crowning Moment of Awesome for the series, because by pulling him out of the world, Nico knows she won't die, but will be in absolute nothingness, slowly growing more and more hungry until she is completely insane just like the rest of the demons, and will be like this for all of eternity. She even tries to resist when Josef pulls her back in, because she believes she is too dangerous to live in the world.
  • Talking Your Way Out: Our first introduction to Eli has him doing this.
  • Think Nothing of It: Miranda genuinely believes the ideals of the Spirit Court, so she's occasionally surprised when people behave as if she's done something extraordinary when she upholds those ideals.
  • To Be Lawful or Good: Miranda faces this dilemma in book two.
  • Took a Level in Badass: Nico, after mastering the demon. Josef, after becoming one with the Heart of War, Miranda at the end of The Spirit War, once she becomes the Rector Spiritualis and the Lord of Storms in the final book, upon becoming the Hunter.
  • Undying Loyalty: Technically Eli, Josef and Nico are all undyingly loyal to each other, but the latter two are especially of note. Miranda and her spirits also regularly put their life on the line for each other.
  • Vitriolic Best Buds: Josef and Eli.
  • Wanted Poster: Eli, Josef and Nico each have one, but Eli takes great pride in his. We find out why in the final book.
  • Waif-Fu: Nico is terribly thin, due to the demon's constant need to feed, but it's also what gives her incredible strength.
  • Worthy Opponent: Coriano and Josef.
  • Wrong Genre Savvy: Eli occasionally makes the mistake of thinking that his opponents are as sneaky or roundabout as he is. In the second book he at first assumes the Duke of Gaol will try to bribe or trick him into revealing his stash of stolen items, instead of just torturing it out of him. In the fourth book, he pulls Osera's Spiritualist aside and slyly asks him to send a message to Zarin, only to be flabbergasted that no, Spiritualists don't have secret communication methods kept hidden from outsiders.