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 not too often I run across a book that I feel has something truly original to offer. Much in the world of science fiction and fantasy seems to be someone trying to retell Star Wars or Lord of the Rings (themselves not entirely “original”). Finally in the form of Geist, Philippa Ballantine brings something to my bookshelf that’s a breath of cool, autumnal air. Not to push the comparison too far, while I was reading it there was some summer heat and the occasional slap of winter’s chill. Okay enough seasonal analogies (for serious seasonal analogies I recommend a powerful anti-histamine or possibly handcuffs for the writer).
The story starts off with an intense action scene that does more than just set up the pace for the rest of the book. You also get to learn a good bit about the world, Sorcha, and the odds stacked against her. The book’s not just about her though. It would be good enough if it was, but Philippa also introduces several other characters, each with hidden depths and secrets that go somewhere. Add to that a world that’s as complex as any other fantasy realm (without all the weighty exposition that bogs many of them down) and you have a book well worth buying.
When I got to the end of the book I wanted more and here’s where it gets really good. You can find out more about the world of the Order here. Several writers have pitched in to write short stories set in this world. If you like it as much as I did you can also look forward to Spectyr next year and Wrayth (probably in 2012).
If this is the first you’ve heard of her work then you’ll also want to go to her site and check out the rest of her stories, many of which can be had in podcast form for free.
I give Geist a hardy four and a half out of five Egons. So go buy it!!