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Friday, November 18, 2011

"Geist" by Philippa Ballantine (Reviewed by Mihir Wanchoo)

Order “Geist” HERE
Read FBC’s interview with Phillipa Ballantine
AUTHOR INFORMATION: Philippa Ballantine was born and brought up in New Zelaland. Shen then graduated from Victoria University of Wellington with a BA in English and Political Science. She also holds a Bachelor of Applied Science in Library Studies from The Open Polytechnic of New Zealand. She is an avid Podcaster and has often released podcasts of her own books. Her podcasts have been short listed for the Parsec Awards, and won a Sir Julius Vogel award. She has had three books published before this one. She is married to Tee Morris, the co-author of the Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences series. They both currently reside in Virginia.

PLOT SUMMARY: Between the living and the dead is the Order of the Deacons, protectors of the Empire, guardians against possession, sentinels enlisted to ward off the malevolent haunting of the geists...

Among the most powerful of the Order is Sorcha Faris, now thrust into partnership with the novice Deacon, Merrick Chambers. They have been dispatched to the isolated village of Ulrich to aide the Priory with a surge of violent geist activity. With them is Raed Rossin, Pretender to the throne that Sorcha is sworn to protect, and bearer of a terrible curse.

But what greets them in the strange settlement is something far more predatory and more horrifying than any mere haunting. And as she uncovers a tradition of twisted rituals passed down through the dark reaches of history, Sorcha will be forced to reconsider everything she thinks she knows.

And if she makes it out of Ulrich alive, what in Hell is she returning to?

FORMAT/INFO: Geist is 294 pages long divided over twenty-five numbered/titled chapters. Narration is in the third-person omniscient view via Sorcha Faris, Merrick Chambers, the Young Pretender Raed Rossin and the Rossin. Geist is self-contained and is the first book in the Chronicles of the Order.

October 26, 2010 marked the North American paperback and e-book publication of Geist via ACE books. Cover art is done by Jason Chan.

ANALYSIS: Geist was a book which I wasn’t aware of when it got released. I got hold of a copy of it this year when the second book was released. Geist seemed like a rural fantasy however when I read more about it, I knew it was set in an alternate world with a great catch.

In Geist we meet two Deacons; Sorcha Faris, a seasoned veteran of fighting geists, and Merrick Chambers, who is absolutely new to this whole protection gig. They are thrown together rather awkwardly when they are sent by their superiors to investigate a geist attack in a distant town. However they soon learn that nothing is as it seems and before too long Sorcha and Merrick find themselves embroiled in a conspiracy involving a previous contender to the land. Prince Raed Rossin is the other POV character who is also lead to this specific place through a random coincidence and he soon learns that there are some things which are much worse than inherited issues. The world of Arkaym introduced in Geist is a peculiar and dangerous one. I would like readers to hear this Podcast “In the Beginning” as it details a pivotal event in the history of the world which lead to its current state. It’s a telling of the first day the geists broke through into the world of Arkaym about one thousand years before the events chronicled in Geist.

The best thing about this book is its incredible setting & world structure. This setting wherein the world has been invaded by spirits from the other side called geists, is incredibly exciting to read about as it slowly brings about a thin edge of horror to the overall story. The story literally explodes from the first chapter and from then continues to increase its pace all through the end. The characters are a bit stereotypical to begin with however the author slowly hints and reveals layers about them which aids in making them more three dimensional. This process which is begun is not complete however the characters do manage to engrave themselves in the reader’s minds and with the promise of more to be revealed in the forthcoming volumes. It will be interesting to see how the author develops them and their intrinsic relationships.

The author has to be congratulated for her timing, as through out the story the twist and turns definitely keep the reader on their toes and have them wondering what will happen next. This specific factor along with Philippa’s ability as a gifted storyteller is what manages to make this tale rise above its ordinary beginnings. The cover art by Jason Chan is also good and adds to the book's plus points. Another funny thing that I noticed was when the two primary characters meet for the first time, the situation is pretty electrified and reminded me greatly of another series which I like. Right down to its kitty-kitty line! Lastly the magic system which is present in this story is kinda cool with the introduction of runes of dominion which are controlled by the Deacons and aid them in defeating geists. I felt this system was a pretty cool one and which should be further explored in the future volumes.

The downsides to this story are that while the story is fast paced and twisted, it’s slightly predictable. The character interactions seem contrived in a couple of situations and the main romance between the characters is one which the readers will like to root for however is as predictable as most Jennifer Aniston romantic-comedies. The main mystery is the big point of this book and will be decipherable to most veteran mystery readers however with the twist in the end manages to save itself from being entirely predictable.

CONCLUSION: A terrific start to a new series which has a devious magic system, terrible supernatural threats, assassinations and much more. With Philippa’s smooth storytelling abilities, Geist is a good freshman volume of the Chronicles of the Order and with Spectyr being already out, readers won’t have to wait too long in between the volumes. I was enamored by this book and can’t wait to start the sequel and see what further mysteries of the world of Arkaym are unveiled.


Bibliotropic said...

This is a book which I bought ages ago but still haven't settled down to actually read yet. it keeps tempting me every time I turn on my Kindle, though, and I'm going to have to make the time for it sooner rather than later. Your review made the book seem even more appealing!

Mihir said...

Hi Bibliotropic

I hope you give it a read soon. The book does offer an entertaining story and the plot has definite closure with a couple threads left open for the second book Spectyr.


Yiota said...

This one is one of the best books i've read this year! I loved how original and interesting it was :D
Spectyr was the same and now i can not wait for the 3rd book as well :)

Portugal said...

I read a lot of fantasy and after awhile it all begins to blur together. But Geist is different. It rocks from the first scene and continues on to the final words. It's got a lot of supernatural power, great battle scenes, tortured characters and even some romance.


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