Book Review: Wrayth (A Book of the Order, #3)


Title: Wrayth
Author: Philippa Ballantine
Publisher: Ace
Release Date: April 2008
Length: 309 pages
Series?: A Book of the Order #3
Genre: Fantasy, Sci-Fi, Supernatural, Thriller, Romance
Format: Paperback
Source: Goodreads Giveaway
Challenge: n/a

Find the book: Website | Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble


In the Empire of Arkaym, the Order of Deacons protects and shelters the citizens from the attacks of the unliving. All are sworn to fight the evil forces of the geists—and to keep the world safe from the power of the Otherside… 

Although she is one of the most powerful Deacons in the Order, Sorcha Faris is still unable to move or speak after her last battle. Even her partner, Merrick Chambers, cannot reach her through their shared Bond. Yet there are those who still fear Sorcha and the mystery of her hidden past. 

Meanwhile, Merrick has been asked to investigate a new member of the Emperor’s Court. But when Sorcha is abducted by men seeking Raed Rossin, the shapeshifting rival to the throne, Merrick must choose where his loyalties lie.


*I received this book through Goodreads First Reads book give-aways quite a while back. I was concerned about starting the third book in a series, so Phillipa sent me the first two! Without that, I can honestly say I would not have enjoyed this book as much, and I definitely would not have understood s0me things that happened and the importance of so many things in this story.

Warning: this post may contain spoilers or necessary information found in the first and second books. To get acquainted with this series, read my reviews: Book #1 here and Book #2 here.

Again, Ballantine has produced a story that is jam packed with dedication to intricate details. The story of Sorcha and Merrick, the remarkable and ill-favored Deacons, have weathered several storms together, experienced what most Deacons don’t see in a lifetime of dedication, and have seen the corruption of their own Order (of the Eye and Fist).

Many years ago, the old Order of the Circle of Stars tried overthrowing the Empire and taking control. They fled to the underground, although all thought they had been destroyed. Sorcha and Merrick found out otherwise in the first two novels in the series, and it shook the bedrock and foundation of their ties to the new Order, which formed to protect the Empire and its citizens from geists, geistlords and other manner of unsavory things from the Otherside.

Unfortunately in their last promenade to save the Empire things did not go quite according to plans, and Sorcha was left trapped inside her own body, paralyzed. It is a terrible thing to have your mind running, hear and overhear conversations, and not be able to say or do anything at all. Despite her strong Bond with Merrick, it is not enough to bring her out of this stupor. Merrick has stopped visiting, and now the Abbey and Council want to assign him a new partner – after Sorcha has been kidnapped!

After their last run in with a geistlord, in the ruse of a goddess, Raed the Young Pretender has been on the run from Emperor Kaleva and in search of his traitorous sister and former captain, but this time he is on his own. His crew is dispersed, and his first mate is determined to find him – with Sorcha’s help.

Once again, there is trouble in Vermillin within the palace. Kaleva has taken a stranger, a minor noble by the name of del Rue, into close confidence to the disgruntlement of his sister. The more she inquires, the more he shuts her out. The identity of this man is no stranger to Merrick, who is left holding the bag when del Rue pulls a fast one on Kaleva and the princess and the future of Arkaym is in question.

This does not bode well for the Empire or the Order, especially after Sorcha makes a deal with a geistlord, the entire Order loses the power of the Strops and Gauntlets, the Abbey is destroyed, the Deacons are on the run and The Tormentor is again on the lose.

The Rossin, a geistlord who made a deal with his ancestors, has not left Raed. In fact, he is in leagues with Fensema, another geistlord who wheels and deals with the Rossin, and has innate ability to track and stalk the Rossin. The Rossin seems to operate more and more independently unawares of Raed the Young Pretender, giving readers a nice glimpse of the set-up of the fourth book. The Rossin even struck a deal with Raed in the search for his sister that the Rossin can now be subdued but still access Raed’s conscious. I found in this book that the Rossin is very much more tamed, and humane (an ironic twist, I know), than in the previous books, but I think perhaps this is just setting up the groundwork for what will occur in the next book.

Sorcha discovers the painful and terrifying truth of her own history and birth, explaining the many remarkable peculiarities about her and her strong Bond with Merrick. She uses this knowledge of her mother’s last few desperate hours to save Arkaym.

Nynnia, Merrick’s lost love, is still helping Merrick and Sorcha from the Otherside…and ultimately saving Arkaym, again. I suspect in the fourth book she will also make an impact, even though her character has since long departed.

You can continue reading the Book of the Order series with Ballantine’s fourth installment, Harbinger.

About the Author

Pip Ballantine

Born and raised in Wellington, New Zealand, Philippa is a writer and podcaster of fantasy fiction. Immersed in books from an early age, she moved onto to become a librarian. She’d been dreaming of being a writer since a teenager, but in the last ten years she’s devoted herself to it.

She’s the author of the Books of the Order series from Ace Books. Also, with Pyr books the Shifted World series, Hunter and Fox (2012) and Born and Made (2013).

Philippa is also the co-author of the Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences series, Phoenix Rising and the Janus Affair (2012).

Philippa currently resides in Manassas, Virginia with her husband and co-writer Tee Morris, their daughter and a clowder of five cats who keep them all in line.

Find the author: Website | Facebook | Goodreads

Author Interview: Jennifer Hines & Mindy Bigham

Consider this an early Christmas present, from me to you!

The two lovely ladies, Jennifer Hines and Mary Bigham, sat down for a nice chat about the series, Sacred Promises, they co-wrote. Read my review of Sacred Promises here.

Tell your readers something unique about yourself.

Jennifer: This can be a difficult question to answer about one’s self so we decided to answer for each other. Mindy says it’s my imagination. That it can sometimes go way out there. Personally, I think it’s the crazy things I do with my kids, like teaching them to write legibly with their feet.

Mindy: Jen says it’s my non-judgmental and limitless friendship, and that those are very rare qualities that make me unique.

Mindy (L) and Jennifer (R)

Jennifer: This one I blame completely on Mindy. She has been my inspiration and the one responsible for the literary monster I’ve become. I loved reading when I younger, but once I had kids the only books I seemed to have time to read were more along the lines of Dr. Seuss. Then after relentlessly trying to get me to read a series about sparkly vampires my excuses of not having any free time finally fell away, and I gave in. Reading four books in five days was only the beginning. We started perusing the book stores at lunchtime in search of new series to read.

A few months later I woke up from a dream and thought oh, that would make a good book, and so I got up and started writing it down. I brought it to Mindy to ask what she thought and the rest is history. We’ve been writing together ever since.

Mindy: I have always enjoyed reading. I can always pick up a good book and just relax and get lost in a story. I had Jen read a series (after about a week of convincing her that she could find time) and not long after we decided we can do this. It’s my hope everyone enjoys our stories and wants to read more.

How did you connect and start writing together?

Jennifer: Some of this I kind of explained in the previous question, but I’ll add on to it. We’ve worked together at the same company for a long time, and though we’re in different departments our personalities drew us together. We’ve been best friends ever since. In some ways we’re the same and other we’re polar opposites. I think that’s why we work so well together. And it sometimes makes our collaboration process very interesting.

Mindy:  Writing together is something we both really enjoy, and I like to think I bring out the best in Jen as she also does me as our minds can tend to drift off to daily living. We keep each other’s minds going, and keep each other on track with writing, editing and finishing in a timely manner. Sometimes we both need a push from each other.

What inspired your debut novel, Sacred Promises? What makes it special?

Jennifer: Abbey and Kaleb started as characters in my head and they developed into something greater than I had initially imagined. Together, Mindy and I decided this one would be perfect for our debut. It has an intriguing storyline and we thought readers would enjoy it.

Mindy: We actually started a series before writing Sacred Promises, but are not completely happy with it yet. Once we started writing Sacred Promises we just fell in love with the storyline and knew this was the one to start with.

Jennifer: The characters make Sacred Promises special. They have a life all their own, which pull readers into their world…or at least that’s my opinion, though it may be a little bias.

Mindy: I’d like to say we both truly love all the characters and have instantly formed a bond to each and every one of them since from the very beginning as I hope our readers do as well.

Book 1

Jennifer: My mind has a difficult time thinking in “small” terms. There were so many things I wanted to happen that they simply wouldn’t fit into only a single book.

Mindy: I love to read series. Single books are too short for me to read or write. Guess I like more details.

Jennifer: There will be three books in the Sacred Promises series. The first one is an introduction into Abbey’s world. The second, Warrior’s Oath which is scheduled to come out early Fall 2013, will dive more into the hardships Abbey will have to overcome in order to become the greatness she’s destined for. The final book (yet to be named) will wrap up all the lingering mysteries that occur in the first two books.

Mindy: I think the series could go on and on and as much as I would love for it too I think  three books provides enough for the readers to be satisfied once finished…I hope.

What’s the best part about writing this series?

Jennifer: For me, it’s the characters. I love how they develop from what I thought they were in my head, to what they actually become once they were on paper.

Mindy: I agree, but I also love the interaction between Abbey and Kaleb, and the struggles they must face. They want to be normal and have a normal relationship but have so much responsibility on their shoulders.

Could you tell us a little about your main character, Abbey?

Jennifer: Abbey is a normal teen, or so she wishes. She’s born into a position that doesn’t give her many options as to what she can do. Her responsibilities outweigh her personal wants and desires, and leave her stuck in a constant battle with herself to do what’s right.

Mindy: She wants to be a normal teen, but has so much responsibility, and tries not to forget that. It’s awesome to watch her grow as a person as the story unfolds.

Do you have any other books in the works? What are your future goals as writers?

Yes. Warrior’s Oath (Book #2 of the Sacred Promises series) is currently in the editing stage with book three in layout form. We also have an adult paranormal romance series called Dreama’s Destiny coming out in late Fall 2013.

Jennifer: I would love to make it to the NY Times Best Seller’s List, but until that time comes I plan on continuing to write books that also stimulate the reader in me. There’s nothing like reading your finished book and getting caught up in it like you’ve never read it before.

Mindy: I agree. I just want to continue to write and have people enjoy what they are reading and just relax. However Jen and I are not really the relaxing type and have more books planned long before we finish one. As long as our imagination works we will continue to write.

Book 2

Jennifer: The literary and publishing worlds are always evolving. Whether you want to be a published author or an indie one, the options available today are limitless. My advice would be to never take criticism to heart, yet use it constructively in order to grow as an author. Always follow your dreams and never give up on something you love doing.

Mindy: Do what you love. If you love to write, don’t stop. Get some reviews so you have honest unbiased opinions. Never give up on anything that you love doing, even if it is just for fun.

Where do you like to write?

Jennifer: I love to lock myself in my bedroom, put in my earbuds, and leave reality behind.

Mindy: In reality, anywhere it is quiet in my house. Having children can make you be creative with where you find that so majority of the time I am in my room. However, in my dream world I am sitting on a beach listening to the waves.

Which do you prefer: longhand or laptop?

Jennifer: Definitely laptop. Although any time an idea pops into my head I have to write it down. Because of that I have sticky notes and papers up all over the walls surrounding my desk at home.

Mindy: Laptop, but when one is not around I usually use the notepad in my phone.

What is your favorite genre to read?

Jennifer: I love YA, but I’m also becoming addicted to paranormal romance. Anything with magic, vampires, werewolves, shifters, etc. mixed with a good love story and I’m very interested.

Mindy: I agree with Jen on this one.

What are you currently reading?

Jennifer: I just started the Mortal Instruments series: City of Bones by Cassandra Clare. My son wants to go see the movie, but before I can take him I had to read the books first.

Mindy: I have books that I would love to read and have them marked on Goodreads, but we have just started the editing process with Warrior’s Oath, and have Dreama’s Destiny to finish so they will have to wait a little while.

Who are a few of your favorite authors? What are a few of your favorite books?

Jenifer: Richelle Mead, Lauren Kate, Tina Folsom, and Maya Banks

Mindy: Richelle Mead, Sylvia Day, Maya Banks and even a little James Patterson

Jennifer: I loved the Night World series by L.J. Smith, but I’m still waiting on the final book that’ll tie it all together. My favorite YA series has to be Vampire Academy by Richelle Mead, along with the spin-off series Bloodlines. Oh, and I loved Tina Folsom‘s Scanguards Vampires series. Those books rate pretty on high on my “will definitely reread” list.

Mindy: My favorite has to be the Vampire Academy series by Richelle Mead, along with the spin-off series Bloodlines. I recently fell in love with The Breathless Trilogy by Maya Banks, this is a series that I wish would have gone on and on.

What is the best thing that ever happened to you?

Jennifer: Without trying to get all sentimental, I’d have to say it was meeting Mindy. She and I have a friendship that goes beyond most. She’s always been there when I needed her and I wouldn’t be where I am today without her in my life.

Mindy: Awww, I agree with Jen. We have a very “sacred” friendship that most people never get to experience in their lifetimes. The best thing is we can work together doing what we love and still make time to hang out or go on vacation. We keep everything balanced to make sure our friendship stays grounded. I would not be where I am today, or doing this interview, if it wasn’t for Jen and our shared love of reading and writing. (Good thing I finally got her to read that sparkly vampire series…lol)

Look for my review of Warrior’s Oath soon! 

Find the authors: Website| Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads – Hines | | Goodreads – Bigham


Book Review: Scrapbook of My Revolution

scrapbook_of_revolution_by_goweliang-d5norezScrapbook of My Revolution by Amy Lynn Spitzley (Curiosity Quills Press, 2013)

Genre: YA, dystopian, supernatural, romance

Curriculum Building Ideas:

  • Language Arts: Reader’s Notebook, Literary Circles, Guided Reading Groups, Writer’s Workshop, Sequencing, Plot, Character Map/Analysis, Inferences/Predictions, Connections (Text to Self, Text to Text, Text to World), Graphic Organizers, Persuasive Essay, Reader’s Theatre, KWL Chart, write the first chapter of the next book in the series
  • Social Studies: design an article that would appear in The Hanna Bay Express – follow the attention of the media from the book, paying attention to the audiences of both literary sources; create a propaganda poster or pamphlet; write a bill about Benign Indifference or Malian treatment/rights; stage a debate of Regular vs. Malian; relate the ideas espoused by RAMM to past historical events of similarity, with the outcomes of each event
  • Science: study of evolution; discuss the evolution of Malians

*Author’s Note: This book contains some controversial topics, and is centered around race. I have made some references to past historical figures or events in connection with some things that happen in this book. I do not support these past historical events. I, like the main character Amber, believe in equality for all.

I may as well say it up front. I’m Malian. Yeah, one of the freaks. I’ve got gold skin and the ability to read emotions. It’s great fun, too, believe me. Yeah, right. Anger. Frustration. Desire. Try reading those all day. But I’m not the only one who’s frustrated. We’re all mixed-up and sick of the bad press and attacks and everything else from Regulars. Things are changing, though. I’m getting other Malians in my school together. We might be able to show people that we’re just as human as they are…unless one of my best supporters is really public enemy number one. (Amazon)

Amber is a Michigan teen…but she’s no normal teen. She is Malian – a human with various and unusual skin tone shades, who also possess a supernatural ability. There are four types of Malians: Sensitive, Athletic, Camo, Manipulative. Each type, by definition, is extremely broad:

Sensitive – Any Malian whose skills lie in the mental region.

Athletic – Any Malian whose skills lie in the physical region.

Camo – Any Malian whose skills lie in the ability to camouflage themselves.

Manipulative – Any Malian whose skills lie in the ability to change the environment.

There were tons of ways for each “talent” to manifest itself, and each kid born seemed to have their own way of doing things. The kid down the street…could talk to animals, but technically she was a Sensitive like me.

Amber is unhappy not being a Regular; being different and being an outcast, with no explanation why, is a hard thing for a teen to digest. Even harder when you can read the feelings of your parents, and those feelings contradict their words. She is a Sensitive: she can read the emotions others around her feel. It is frustrating because she just gets the emotion, not the reason for the emotion. Kids at school often abuse this ability. It is very awkward when kids ask what the captain of the basketball team is “thinking” – and he’s thinking he has a crush on the math nerd across the room…who’s a boy. And the math nerd is totally homophobic. What’s a girl to say?

But what’s more is that Amber is golden. Like a walking goddess dusted in gold. She attracts the attention of all the boys in school, who Desire her. Some of them are quite crude. Being a Malian and being a teen Malian is not an easy road, and it has manifested in Amber. She is not one for crowds, given her ability – but it’s hard to run around with her cousin Bree, who is insistent and pushy and slightly manipulative. She does it out of love, but sometimes she just doesn’t know when to let up.

f_0scrapbooking6The book is aligned almost with the beginning of the school year, kicking off with Amber’s birthday, and ending that same time the following year. Her Regular cousin, Bree, gives her a scrapbook to document meaningful things that year. The entire book was laced with newspaper clippings, receipts, notes, fliers and drawings, just the kind of things that Amber would put in the scrapbook Bree gave her for her birthday. After a couple of chapters it hit me like a Mack truck that the book is the scrapbook!

The principal of Amber’s school is of course a Regular, and is fearful of offending her Regular school population….causing her PC-ness to be discriminatory and honestly, racist, toward the Malian population. The previous year, an incident happened downstate at a high school gathering, which caused a riot between Regulars and Malians, dubbed the Grand River Halloween Riot. Jonny Marino, a Malian high school student, was blamed for the riot and expelled from the school. Turns out, a friend of Amber’s knows Marino, who shows up later in the book and causes quite a stir.

Given that back history, Principal Bardha has banned any kind of face or body paint at the upcoming Halloween dance, held every other year. Bree is justifiably infuriated about the principal’s fear and strict line of PC-ness, which is discriminatory to Malians. Bree and Amber both decide to take a stand to this discrimination: Bree dresses as a china doll with pale face paint and rosy red cheeks, and Amber dresses as an Amazon with minimal face paint and a few bands around her arms – which leads to a confrontation with Bardha and a dramatic Golden Goddess model walk that drops jaws. But we learn that other Regulars and Malians also took a stand and defied the principal to stand up for their rights, which is a big component of this book.

After the dance, while with Amber and Bree, a Malian friend is assaulted by a young, Regular boy. The girls all chase him and his friends down the beach, bellowing hollow threats. Bree is insistent that they report the incident to the police…but who would the police believe? It is a very real situation that women everywhere face: who’s going to believe me? It’s a hard thing to face, and it brings to light the very issues Amber and her fellow counterparts face in a world that is not only unaccepting, but fearful.

Everyone was waiting to see what we’d become…including us.

Additionally, a well-supported group, Regulars Against Malian Menace (RAMM), has formed and is very outspoken about their hatred of the Malians, the first generation of which are now Amber’s age. The RAMM leader uses terms like “The Malian Situation,” how Malians need to be “cured,” “eradicating the problem” and Malians being an “afflicted people.” So, the fact that Malians are a new make-up of the population is another hard thing Amber and her counterparts must face. It’s also scary to have someone saying such hateful things…things that the country had seen before with the Native Americans, and settlers nearly effectively eradicated them. And then there was slavery. It’s not hard to imagine how Malian teens feel about their future. and how they see things going down. The leader of the Michigan RAMM base is Abraham Baronson (ironic, no?), who has said the President is handling the situation with “kid gloves,” but the President is now requiring voluntary testing of Malian genetics…I’m not so sure how “voluntary” this movement is, and Amber and other Malians aren’t sure what they’ll find.

You wanna fly a kite?

kite_soaringAnd as always with YA dystopian fiction, there is always a kind of love triangle, one guy stuck with the old and one braving forward with the new. We’ve seen it in the popular series Uglies and Hunger Games. High school friend Cam (a Camo) is very quiet and hides in the shadows, and of course Jonny is an outgoing, outspoken rallying figure for political change for Malians. Cam is the one guy in school who has never overtly ogled Amber with Desire. Jonny is the kind of guy Amber is unsure if she can trust. There’s just something about him. Was he an innocent bystander at the Grand River Halloween party….or did he do something more, as prosecutors claim? There’s something sinister about him that doesn’t meet the eye.

Right before Christmas, an article is published alluding to the building ideas of the RAMM supporters, and the Malians – that both sides are building supporters…and warriors? The reporter states peace is no longer going to reign in the world, but that something akin to a war is brewing. Amber decides to do something before others do it and ruin it. She decides to start a Malian awareness group called Lake Michigan Malian Supporters, LaMMS.

Lambs and rams. Which one seems more gentle? Which one seems more…battering? Which image do you sympathize with – a gentle lamb or a battering ram? I don’t find Spitzley’s use of this a coincidence, although it is intended to be coming from Amber. But LaMMS puts Amber on display for all the world to see – and makes her an easy target. Seems it isn’t the first “incident” of Malian-directed malice by Regulars. With a rash of outbursts, beatings, break-ins (and who know’s what all else going unreported) against Malians, what does this hold for their future?

Even a revolution can start small.

Heads Up: this book does contain “foul” language. This book takes on a lot of controversial topics: evolution, superiority, fear, malice, anger, judgement. The book is divided into two sections, the first Innocence and the second Revolution. Those titles are very indicative of Amber’s attitude toward Jonny Marino.

After reading two pages on my Kindle, I didn’t think I could continue reading due to the smaller-than-normal font, in combination with the font text style. It was really hard on my eyes. But by page two I was into the story. Who cares about your eyes? Besides that, the only other thing that bugged me was the blatant overly conversational style of writing that Spitzley picked for this novel. I understand that this is a technique employed to connect with the YA audience, but I feel like it is catering too much to the kind of teens (like my brothers) who eye roll and mutter under their breath to friends after an adult speaks to them; the kind of kids who exude senses of entitlement. I don’t think that’s a positive. There were many sentences that ended with “you know?” and it just kind of turned me off, and it somewhat alienates non-teen readers.

Amber experiences a lot of growth in such a short time. She has matured past her young age, and her friends are following suit. They are walking a very fine line to promote their cause but not create waves. She realizes mistakes she’s made, and she tries to fix them and not make those same mistakes again. She is a natural leader, and a great role model. She has evolved as a person, used her influence for good, and she’s warmed and strengthened her relationship with her parents. I hope Spitzley’s YA readers see the changes in Amber from beginning to end, and the strong character she has become.

I definitely see a series in progress here. I don’t think this is the end of Amber and LaMMS…or of Jonny Marino.

Book Review: Spectyr (A Book of the Order, #2)

Book #2

Life is never quite how you imagine it. 

Spectyr (A Book of the Order, #2) by Philippa Ballantine (Ace, 2011)

Genre: fiction, fantasy, sci-fi, supernatural, thriller, romance

*Let me preempt by saying Philippa sent me this book because I won her third book, Wrayth, in a book give-away. I am reviewing her first two books out of thanks for her kindness in sending them to me, and her third per the give-away rules. However, that has no affect on the review itself.

Warning: this post may contain spoilers or necessary information found in the first book, so get acquainted with this series, starting with my review of Book #1 here.

Spectyrs brought retribution on those who had wronged them.

Their shared sight dipped and swayed as Merrick tried to compensate for the staining of the ether. A scuttling sound made his mouth snap shut. Rats were running from every corner, scrambling through the walls, and skittering down the drainpipe. Animals were more sensitive than humans and always fled in the face of the undead. The noise was unnerving – even to the trained.

Beyond reality and time, the Otherside held knowledge that no human could ever possess, so the greatest Deacons of the Order had often taken chances to snatch what they could from the void.

This book continues in the principality of Vermillion, (part of the larger Arkaym nation) only one month after the attack of The Murashev, the most powerful geistlord, under the ossuary. It picks up with the despised Grand Duchess, and she is yet again getting in hot water and about to create more havoc and danger for the kingdom by calling on a goddess long without support.

I fear this addiction of yours will bring you nothing but ill.

Sorcha is (rightfully so) very cynical and bitter about the Emperor and the Order, given what happened on her assignment in the previous book and the betrayal of the Arch Abbot. The people do not trust, let alone respect, any of the Order anymore…when in fact their mistrust and fear should reside with the Emperor – or moreover, his militant sister, who just so happens to be second to the throne. Merrick is certain that time will pass and the people’s faith in the Order will return.

Life had taught her such things were oversimplifications – wishes that seldom came true in the complicated realities of existence.

When I first started reading the second book in this series, I was surprised that it started with the Grand Duchess (bad news), and not with Sorcha and Merrick on some task with the backstory from Book #1 entwined. I was a little thrown off, but then I was really thrown when “spectyrs” started appearing in the text. What is a spectyr? In Book #1 we learned that “shades” are the unliving remains of a dead person, and Book #2 gives a very short explanation about “spectyrs” – the evil cousins of shades…who want revenge. Ohhhh crap! 

But you’ll soon see why Ballantine started off with the Duchess, and the situation Ballantine sets up explains how the roles work and some of the terminology, so you don’t necessarily need to read the first book. (Kudos – that can be hard to do.) Since the great shindig with the Otherside under the ossuary a few months before (Book #1), geist attacks have continued – although some are truly real, and others are just calls of paranoid citizens who believe they have a geist in their midst. During Sorcha and Merrick’s task, we find out they are assigned areas where there are no real geist attacks…except this is not the case this time. Precious Nynnia comes to them from the Otherside and gives a warning and glimpse of the future to Sorcha – a foreboding of what is to come.

It was apparent that for every rule there was an exception. 

Since they returned to Vermillion as hunted fugitives in Book #1, the new Arch Abbot is keeping an eagle eye on Sorcha and Merrick. They are assigned meaningless tasks – guarding empty halls, escorting wagons of porcelain. They are kept on a very tight leash…with Sorcha’s husband and former partner, Kolya, following along. Although she has filed for the equivalent of a divorce in their world as well as dissolution of their Deacon’s partnership, Kolya is dillusioned into thinking her leaving the Abbey to save their world was merely her living in her fairytale mindset and “sneaking out” to avoid him. Grow up, pal. Which brings up a reminder of a couple things: Sorcha still shares a Deacon’s Bond with her husband, as well as one with her new partner, Merrick. And her bond with Merrick is so much stronger it is beyond what any Deacon’s Bond should be. But then, Sorcha and Merrick also share a Triple Bond with Raed the Young Pretender that was forged in haste in Book #1, that neither of them can break…and that’s not all she wrote! This Triple Bond will serve as the integral locking puzzle piece that draws this book together.

Meanwhile, the Young Pretender receives a summons from someone I thought dead from the way the first book went and must find his missing sister. He learns he cannot trust his entire crew, and singles some out for this excursion. Connection? Oh yes. But it’s not what I thought at all – it’s SO much bigger.

Now that Kolya is out of the infirmary, which his own rash actions caused, rumors abound within the Mother Abbey since Sorcha has moved out of their chamber into a small one next to Merrick – but they won’t be there for long. Kolya is like that crazy ex-girlfriend (or boyfriend, in this case) who just doesn’t get it. And wouldn’t even if you remarried. That’s how out of it he is. We didn’t see much at all of his character, let alone characteristics, in Book #1. The only thing we really gleaned from his character in Book #1 was that he likes to defy the rules (walking among crowds during a geist attack) and that he didn’t care one whit for his marriage. Not much has changed, except we find out he’s crazy and oblivious and annoying. As hell. Oh, AND in cahoots with Sorcha’s nemesis Rictun, who I think is just as tainted as former Abbot Hastler was.

Although Merrick has grown up some during his experience, and even with the betrayal of Arch Abbot Hastler, he is completely blinded to the animosity that the new Arch Abbot Rictun has for Sorcha. Indeed, as a reader we saw this in Book #1, but now that he is the head of the Order it really piques my curiosity. Yet Sorcha seems to have an ally on the Order Council – an enemy of Rictun’s? (I hope so – I’m holding out for a revolution of sorts; each time I see Rictun’s name I read it with a stink eye.)

What he also had were eyes that would suck out a person’s soul.

The Emperor, Kal, is in the hot seat: he must choose a wife – a proffered princess from other kingdoms in the empire. He must choose wisely, and he ironically chooses Princess Ezefia, sister of Prince Onika of Chioma, who is fabulously wealthy. Chioma is a principality south of Vermillion, home to all strange spices but also the most powerful, hard-to-detect poisons…and it’s the oldest kingdom, with the same ruling family since its beginning. And there are strange rumors about their ruler, quite strange rumors. Sorcha and Merrick accompany Princess Ezefia back to Chioma…but I think they are all getting more than they bargained for. Meanwhile, Raed’s journey to find his sister leads him right to Chioma.

I can trust very few in my Court – not even my own Deacons.

During their separate journeys to Chioma, it becomes apparent that Raed, Sorcha and Merrick are battling their own very personal issues on this journey. They arrive in Chioma and it seems like Ulrich all over again. The Prince of Chioma is not safe even inside the walls of his palace. There have been several murders already – of his unusual bloodline. The first murder was his Chancellor, second to Prince Onika, but all are told he died of old age…yet there’s no body. The Deacons of Chioma are quite odd; they openly worship the “little gods”, but particularly the goddess Hatipai. They wear robes of her colors – not colors of the Order they were sworn into. And then Sorcha and Merrick get separated…

We thought we knew better. We could go where we wished, harness all that power. We thought weirstones were harmless…

We see the return of Nynnia again, and she pulls Merrick back in time to a very pivotal turning point. He discovers some insight about who they refer to as the Ancients, and why they chose to move their famed grounds to the Otherside. So much is revealed in that section, that I can’t share without ruining it – but with that knowledge, things start pulling together to come full circle for readers. Suffice to say that The Native Order (often termed The Ancients) is not dead….and it turns out, they were dabbling in the Otherside quite a bit.

Some things you can’t fix once the time has passed.

Although Raed is on the hunt for his sister, and he has a handful of his most trusted working to find her…he is betrayed in the worst way possible. Reading this part, and his anguish of experiencing the terror and horror that the Rossin causes, and the fact that this beast killed his own mother, my heart hurt for him during this section. It was obvious his anguish and guilt and success at protecting from the Rossin was not considered. I felt those who betrayed him were very selfish, not seeing the big picture…but in a way, I agreed with one. Ten years of staying away, no real communication, is a long, trying, hard time.

From reading the first few chapters, I had the sneaky suspicion that an overthrow or revolution was going to happen in this book – and be exposed this time. I understand the reasons why Book #1’s geistlord fights couldn’t be explained to the people, and I thought something of the same sort (but on a more massive scale) was going to happen in this book.

I found it interesting that Ballantine references Raed’s grandfather’s reign – and the biggest problem  he dealt with was slavery. He was the Abe Lincoln of the time, which is as yet unknown, but he also kept a diary as a young intended royal and mentions some interesting things about Chioma, including a brief and unexplained comment about it being an “ancient enemy.” Hmmmmmm.

You will definitely be thrown for a loop with this book. So many things are going on, and they all pull

Book #3
Book #3

together. Geist seemed like such a huge feat, but Ballantine was definitely not prepared to go home. She went big! I give 5 stars for this detailed, well-written book.

Safety is just an illusion.

You can continue reading the Book of the Order series with Ballantine’s third installment, Wrayth.

Book Review: Geist (A Book of the Order #1)

Geist (A Book of the Order #1) by Philippa Ballantine (Ace, 2010)

Genre: fiction, fantasy, sci-fi, romance

Between the living and the dead stands a powerful guardian…

“It was good weather for a riot.”

Book #1
Book #1

Oh, you know this is going to be good, like when the cops walk into the restaurant hosting your college graduation celebration, and you tell everyone to sit back down for the show.

This book is set on the continent of Arkaym. Previously there has been some political unrest, and the people of outlying towns are miserable, desperate, resigned and starving. You can just imagine the turmoil already in place. The princes of the land requested an Emperor to rule over Arkaym. The Emperor is housed in Vermillion Palace, in the City of Vermillion, which also serves as the headquarters (Mother Abbey) of the Deacons (people with supernatural capabilities) throughout the continent. An interesting note: the royals can influence the Order (Deacons as a whole), but do not control it. The Order ranks higher than any royal, even the Emperor.

Deacon Sorcha Faris is the primary character of the book. She’s ballsy; she actually wants a riot, she smokes cigars. She has been a Deacon for 18 years. She has supernatural powers, and is an Active. Her job is to guard against signs of an uprising, but it is also her calling. There are two worlds – theirs (the real world) and the Otherside. The Otherside is a world that contains all manner of ghostly, beastly creatures, spawn of evil. Actives and and Sensitives can see and feel what’s going on in the Otherside and when Otherside creatures come into their world, but in the real world those without supernatural capabilities can’t sense these things. However, there are witches and warlocks that also practice the supernatural who are either not trained or are untrainable by the Abby (kicked out of their Deaconship). While there is political unrest in the country, it is also among the Deacons: there is a generational movement of Enlightenment occurring where the younger Deacons believe that the witches and warlocks are just as entitled to use the Otherside as the Deacons. STRANGER DANGER!!

Sorcha works with her husband of eight years, Kolya. Kolya is a Sensitive, the opposite of an Active and with different (and considered) lesser powers. Their titles say it all: the Actives are the go-getters of the group, and the Sensitives are the ones who feel out and assess a situation with powers unknown to the Actives. Each partnered pair of Actives and Sensitives share a bond, enabling them to share thoughts through their Centers. But lately, Sorcha and Kolya’s marriage has been icy. Kolya deals more directly with the people, planting himself right in the middle of mortal danger. Sorcha is barely able to save him from “the unliving,” a creature that has come through a portal that’s been opened from the Otherside. It is unlike any unliving ever documented before in the 300 years of their Order. It can read their thoughts, and it also possesses people (usually the sick and ailing).

The more interesting element of this incident is that Sorcha doesn’t save him because she loves him, or because he’s her husband. She saves him because “the other Actives would never let her hear the end of it.” In doing so, she uses a tool of the Actives – the Gauntlets. They are like leather gloves and each one is carved with one of the Runes of Dominion – flashy powers even the ungifted can see. Just as an Active has powers from the Gauntlets, a Sensitive has powers from the Strop – which is a bigger deal than the Gauntlets, and rarely used.

Due to the uncanny abilities of this geist – this unliving (terms can be used interchangeably) – Sorscha uses one of the runes that is very powerful and very dangerous…and must pay the consequences. Her husband is in a coma, and she is saddled with a new partner…for the fifth time! The girl’s earned a reputation if you know what I mean, and not just for being the strongest Active of the Order.

Meanwhile, we meet Raed, the Young Pretender. If you really want to shock him, you might use his full title: His Highness, Lord Raed Syndar Rossin, Second Vetch of Ostan and Heir of the Unsung. I don’t know what any of that means, but we learn that his father had ties with Prince Felstaad’s father, and he has been exiled for some reason. Raed is the heir to the Empire, and is trying to reclaim it. And there is a price on his head, naturally being the arch enemy of the Emperor. Due to some intense family heritage and a deal made with the devil (or the Rossin, Otherside creature of the sea in this case), Raed has been cursed – and it’s quite an evil curse at that! You wouldn’t wish it on your worst enemy, I’ll just say that.

Raed has called on Prince Felstaad for aid in repairing his ship – basically his only accessible possession. Felstaad is a calculating man, and uses Raed to serve his wont. He sends Raed to Ulrich, the uppermost area of his lands, where the winter (which has already begun) is harsh and only the natives of the area reside. Felstaad of course has ulterior motives – to monitor the area. The area is near a bridge built by the Emperor to bridge the “vast distances of the continent” with a port for the Imperial Dirigibles. Unusual visitors might come forth with this new medium of transportation….

As consequence for her actions, Sorcha is partnered with Deacon Merrick Chambers, a young novice Sensitive, and they are bound for Ulrich – the focus of some vicious and unusual, unprecedented attacks, just as Sorcha and Kolya faced. Merrick, although a youngster in the world of Deacons, doesn’t believe in deceiving people. He has strong morals and values. Ironically, he was raised an aristocrat, yet he finds them pretentious. Due to a very important childhood incident, Merrick is scared of Sorcha and her infamous powers.

Before setting sail for Ulrich, Merrick and Sorcha encounter an unusual guest, Nynnia, daughter of a physician to Deacons, who joins their party. She is an important game-changing player in this book. Through one of these macabre geist run-ins, Raed stumbles across Merrick and Sorcha, with Nynnia, out at sea. Based on Merrick’s abilities and assessments of these attacks, he determines that a human is causing the attacks – they are calling beings from the Otherside! Ruh row, Scooby.

Throughout this journey, the author continually feeds the reader into the mystery of discovering the identity of the one in cahoots with the Otherside. Suspicious remarks, looks and thoughts are strewn everywhere. Just when you think you’ve got it figured out – WRONG! Ballantine throws a sidewinder, knocking down your reasoning. So each time a character is removed from suspicion, you start building up for the next one who seems odd in this grand scheme that’s unraveling. And then you get the Alice in Wonderland feeling: things are not as they seem. Indeed, things are not right at all in Ulrich, let alone within the Priory, containing a Prior (head Deacon), Deacons and lay Brothers, sworn to protect the people. It seems the newly formed gang has fallen into a neat little trap.

Dark things are at work, and Sorcha and Merrick, and even Raed, must go against everything they’ve been brought up and trained to do…to save the entire country. They find there are some well-hidden secrets within the Abby and the Order. Needless to say, their world is turned upside down.

Ballantine has written a riveting story combining many popular elements: magic, supernatural, multiple dimensions, beasts, social and political strife, power struggles, ghosts, souls. But starting off was a hard read – I didn’t know what any of the terms meant, or how they all fit together. You don’t really understand what they are until halfway through the book, and even then you don’t know for sure exactly how to describe a Center, or what it does, to someone else. That is the one flaw that I saw in Ballantine’s writing; there is no introduction, no getting your feet wet and testing the waters. It’s full on BAM!

In terms of how the book is structured, this is the closest I can come to describing it: it’s as if there’s a giant puzzle, and Ballantine is tantalizingly and ever-so-slowly giving the reader a small puzzle piece at each twist and turn to complete the picture, and even at the close of the book, there are still missing puzzle pieces….or maybe, just maybe, it’s a puzzle within a larger puzzle. Interesting thought.

Despite that, it was an excellent read and I am craving continuing the series. She creates such a strong vision of the world (quite similar to Rowling doing so with the Harry Potter series), with strong characters and incredible details that consume the readers in such a way as to put them into the story (which I strongly felt when reading Hunger Games). It will definitely have you coming back for more.

I’m a quotes person, and these two quotes from the book stood out to me…

An honest man in a dishonest world could be a very powerful thing.

They all had scars and injuries – it came with being an adult, messy and awkward as that could sometimes be.

You can continue reading Ballantine’s Book of the Order saga with Spectyr and Wrayth.

Book #1
Book #3
Book #2