Within, we're introduced to a different kind of fantasy setting. One where magic is really just the control of, or better yet just the cooperation of, spirits that inhabit everything - from doors, to grains of sand, fire, water, birds, air currents, etc. A good wizard convinces these spirits to work for him or her and in return the spirits get energy from the wizard's soul. A corrupt wizard enslaves spirits to do his bidding, usually resulting in the death of the spirit.
Unfortunately, Eli's plan has unforeseen consequences, and Eli crosses paths with a spirit thief - one of those wizards that enslaves spirits. Eli also is confronted by a wizard sent to bring him to justice, Miranda Lyonette, working for the Spirit Court. Eventually, Miranda has to help him make right those unforeseen consequences, while Eli still makes off with the gold leaving Miranda and her ghost hound to return empty-handed.
Eli doesn’t work alone though. He’s joined by a master swordsman that carries a spirit blade that only he can use, and a quiet, diminutive girl draped in black that is much more than she appears.
This book has it all: humor, action, a great story, an interesting setting, and some great hints at things that are or might be happening just off-screen within the larger world. Those interesting things come up in the rest of the series.
The Spirit Thief is the start of The Legend of Eli Monpress series. It’s followed by The Spirit Rebellion, The Spirit Eater, The Spirit War, and Spirit’s End (the final book in the series). There is also a collection of short stories set in this world. The first three books were collected into an omnibus titled The Legend of Eli Monpress. While The Spirit Thief has a light-hearted tone to it, the series gets progressively a bit darker, but never loses it's sense of humor or that special something that drew me into the first book.
I've read all the novels save the final installment and the short stories. I’ll be sad to come to the end of this adventure. It is truly a refreshing spin on the traditional fantasy genre.