Geist by Philippa Ballantine
Between the living and the dead is the Order of the Deacons, protectors of the Empire, guardians against possession, sentinels enlisted to ward off malevolent hauntings by the geists. Sorcha, among the most powerful of the Order, is called to a small settlement, But more is occuring than just geist activity. It’s a conspiracy of evil that reaches back to her own Abbey. Even if she survives, what hell would she be returning to?
Fantasy stories about demons, ghouls and other worldly beings are always rather hit and miss. Geist is one of those books that seems to both hit and miss at the same time, as Deacons Merrick and Sorcha try to prevent their world from becoming possessed by geists.
Geist is a pretty good read but I found that the book climaxed in the middle of the story, leaving me feeling rather empty and unimpressed after the final battle. Merrick and Sorcha are a great pair of characters as Sorcha is the grumpy older, experienced Deacon and poor Merrick tries everything in his power to live up to the expectations of his partner. What he lacks in experience he makes up for in his ability to diffuse situations. I haven’t read many books where I have actually liked both the main characters and their dynamic but I’m glad to say that this book succeeded in making me care for both.
Unfortunately for both of the characters, I found that some of their storylines, particularly the romance arcs, incredibly forced. Both characters fall in love remarkably quickly. While it does serve to push the storyline along, it doesn’t feel entirely natural, causing me to get slightly confused and annoyed at times that this storyline was pushed on me.
When I picked up Geist and started reading it was rather confusing, you are thrown into the action from page one and as such a lot of things happen in such a short time that it takes a few chapters to really figure out what is going on and understand the world. As the book continued, I found myself absorbed by the dilemma faced by Merrick and Sorcha as they have to face some tough decisions that truly made me feel nervous.
In all, the book was pretty good but after the great battle in the middle of the book, the rest of the story felt like needless extra. As I got toward the end of the book I felt like it was gearing up to a great finale that would make the long read worthwhile only to find that the final battle ended quickly and the main characters were barely involved in the outcome of the book.
I would recommend reading this book if you do enjoy stories involving other worlds and ghouls but I would reluctantly recommend that you read it all the way through. If anything I would say read it for the relationship between Merrick and Sorcha but story wise, it begins to fail once you pass the mid-point of the novel.
Anna Sheldrick, 6.5/10
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?
Geist is the first book in the series “Books of the Order” written by Philippa Ballantine. I have already had the pleasure of reading “Phoenix Rising”, a steampunk inspired story which Ballantine co-authored with Tee Morris. And with “Phoenix Rising” I really had the idea that Philippa Ballantine is a very creative author and I was more than pleased to see this shown again in Geist. The whole idea behind Geist felt, for me, rather refreshing and I like it when authors try to do something new.
The main idea behind the storyline of Geist is the supernatural. Geists are haunting the empire and are causing accidents ranging from pestering to murder. In order stop these threats there is a special order, the Order of Deacons, who have special powers to combat the geists. It is in introducing the concept of the geist (ghosts) that I first got interested in it. Steering directly away from the ever popular vampire and werewolves and going for an influence that is not often explored.
Geist is book that had me glued from the start of the first page: “It was good weather for a riot” being the first sentence should say enough. In the flashy action packed first chapter you get to meet up with Sorcha, the main protagonist of the story. She is an Active Deacon (I will come back to that). In the starting chapter you see a lot of things that are central to the story, this being an encounter with a geist, and you see Sorcha and her partner fighting against this lingering threat. And I must say that the fighting/combating the geists is a pretty cool concept. In the order there is division of Actives and Sensitives, where the Actives have the warrior/combative role and the Sensitives are there to help the Active in battle. Both have pretty cool abilities that they call upon by activating runes. For the Active they are located on their gauntlets. It was great to read about these runes and how they were flashily used in combating the geists.
There are several characters that you get to meet in Geist, the important ones are Sorcha, Merrick and Raed. Both Sorcha and Merrick make up a large part of the storyline. I was pleased with the choice of Sorcha, she is not a young character but already in her late thirties and this was shown nicely in her personality and also in how much she knew about the goings on in the Order of Deacons. She is hands-down tough, experienced and set on reaching her goals, though I could not really get the hang of if she really had pleasure in her work or that, by her relationship with her husband, she has gotten into a sort or routine.
It is mainly thanks to Raed that Sorcha’s personality softens. As for Raed, I just loved his character and what he could do. When I first read about him I did not know what to think of him but once he joined up and Changed, man I was in for a show and this was a cool twist. Then there is Merrick, who fresh out of academy gets to team up with Sorcha. Merrick, struggles with himself about what he is thinking of Sorcha. He is in his early twenties and forced to team-up with Sorcha and on one hand he shows respect towards her but on the other hand he is sometimes aggravated by her as well. There are many dialogues between Sorcha and the others and I found that with the world building and character developments, they all were nicely put together.
There is however one part that just felt out of line and I still can’t get my head around: The romantic scene between Sorcha and Raed. This was very sudden and not followed-up and although I can somehow relate to Sorcha letting go, as she and her husband are in a dead-end relationship but this scene could have been used much more.
As for the plot itself. There was a nice form shaping from the beginning chapters that you could follow easily. But just a third into the book I was completely off my track in what I thought would happen next. As Sorcha and Merrick, and by chance also Raed, make their way into Ulrich, the town that is being haunted. The story takes a whole different turn and had me guessing what would happen in the end. Especially in this part of the book you get to see Raed in his alternate form – pretty neat but also allowing the whole idea of the Order of Deacons to be questioned… Is everything what it seems? In the end I got the feeling that all was well… but is it..?
In Geist, Philippa Ballantine has managed, for me, to create a “Ghostbusters meet sword and sorcery fantasy” setting that was used in a neat way. Mashing up some elements of urban fantasy, epic fantasy and paranormal fantasy style, and creating a unique story. The big plusses of this book were for me the Order of the Deacons and what they could do, I want such a gauntlet! But also, going away from the often seen vampires and werewolves and opting for ghosts. Oh, yeah… the Merging… just brilliant. I will gladly see what the other books have in store for me, hoping for the same creativeness shown in Geist.
Jasper de Joode, 8.4/10
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