Geist by Philippa Ballantine
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
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, 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?
It's refreshing to find a book that is truly driven by the characters. There is a real sense of who they are, what their goals are, and what drives them to do what they do. Plus, they're all interesting and strong characters that have a sense of morals and values that are portrayed in their speech and way of thinking without being stated outright. (And repeatedly. Over and over.. I have pet peeves. I know.)
Part of what I enjoyed most, and what really made the difference, is the characters are not children or young teenagers. They're all in their 20's or early 30's so their all well past the (annoying) angst-sodden period in their lives that I have read far too much about recently. (Why do so many authors go that route? But that's a rant for another time...) So, it's about time I come across something wonderful.
That's not to say Geist is perfect, though. I found, especially at the beginning, that it was difficult to get a sense of the world and what it looked like. The author really didn't focus on the look or feel of the city and it wasn't for many chapters that I really got a grasp on what the world was like. I hadn't read any descriptions of the novel before reading - aside from 'fantasy romance' I really didn't know what I was getting into. Urban fantasy, high fantasy or awesome fantasy? It really wasn't obvious from the outset.
Romance is hinted at throughout the first half of the novel and, given the set-up of the magic, it gives a sense of how the romance between characters will come about. There are some twists, which are not entirely unexpected, but it entwines nicely within the story and never seems odd or out of place. It works, and really pushes how the character-focused Geist is.
Honestly, Geist doesn't have a whole lot going against it. The characters are strong, the world is.. immense, and the potential it builds for the series is promising on many fronts. Altogether Philippa Ballantine gives us one really good book. If any of her other works are anything like this, I want to read them now.
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