Spirit's End by Rachel Aaron
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I've complained in previous reviews of books in this series about the sudden left turn it took in (I think) Book 3, where the fun, exuberant heists and cons were abruptly converted into serious epic fantasy with cosmic stakes. I'm still annoyed by that. It's a good serious epic fantasy with cosmic stakes, but I didn't originally pick it up as that; I wanted fun heists.
Anyway, in this book, the serious epic fantasy with cosmic stakes comes to a great conclusion, well worth staying around for - and well worth pressing through the first part of the book, which, for me, felt less engaging than it eventually became later on. I think this was partly because it's been a long pause for me between Book 4 and Book 5, entirely because of the publisher's pricing policy (I was waiting for it to come down into the range that I'm prepared to pay for an ebook), and it took me a while to remember who all the characters were and their backstory.
One reason that I wasn't prepared to pay more for a trad-pub ebook is that these particular books aren't actually better edited than many indies (in fact, aren't as well edited as a lot of indies). There's nothing truly awful, but the author apparently doesn't know the coordinate comma rule, especially as applied to numbers, and either the editor doesn't know it either or has missed a great many. Likewise with homonyms (flare/flair, sometime/some time, sheaf/sheet, harrier/hairier, shown/shone, lest/unless, breaking/braking, principals/principles, leached/leeched - those last two are often hard to distinguish, but in this case it clearly should be "leeched"). The Restricted Archives become the Restrictive Archives two sentences later, and there are a few apostrophe errors, mostly with plurals. "Millennia" is used as the singular. I've seen far worse, but I've also seen a lot better, and would expect more from Orbit/Hachette.
However, those occasional issues, and my lingering annoyance at the genre switch-up, didn't prevent me from thoroughly enjoying the last part of the book. I was lucky enough to have leisure to read it at one sitting, which is exactly the way to read it. It takes the determination of the characters that's been established previously and shows them using that determination, and their various abilities (including, happily, Eli's cunning as a con-man) to resolve an apparently unresolvable and increasingly desperate situation. These are people who will do the right thing at any cost, which is the kind of character I like to read about; they're also ingenious, committed to one another, and prepared to set aside their personal conflicts for the greater good.
My overall verdict on the series is that, despite its disorienting shift of tone partway through and the less-than-fully-polished editing, it's thoroughly enjoyable and well worth reading.
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