Title: Geist (A Book of the Order)
Author: Philippa Ballantine
Publication Date: October 26, 2010
From Goodreads: 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 really had me from the first chapter. In it we see Deacon Sorcha Faris and her husband, Kolya trying to find and get rid of a geist in a crowd of civilians. Sorcha is an Active of the Order, a fierce combatant who uses gauntlets inscribed with powerful runes in order to fight the undead. Her husband, and Bonded partner, Kolya, is a Sensitive who are equipped with a Strop around their eyes and are there to guide their Active partners. I really loved this aspect of the world building. There are evil paranormal forces that are watched and dispelled by these Deacons of the Order, who are stationed around the land. They are forces of good in a world where geists can erupt from the Otherside at any moment. The story takes place in a familiar setting of a medieval-like time but progressed enough to have pistols and dirigibles. I enjoyed that part too. It was familiar yet different from what I've seen in other fantasy novels.
After a terrible and shocking geist attack leaves her husband badly injured, Sorcha is given a new temporary partner, Merrick Chambers, to work with on the mystery of the unusual geist attacks. Chambers is a young, newly ordained Sensitive who is Bonded to Sorcha despite his reservations. I really liked Merrick; he offered a fresh and interesting perspective, being so new to the world of the Deacons as we are. He does go through some ups and downs in the story, but by the end, I really liked him.
On Sorcha and Merrick's mission to the town of Ulrich, they are met by a captain named Raed and his crew who are not what they seem. They find their fates attached when they make it to Ulrich and find trouble waiting for them. On this journey we see Sorcha and Raed grow somewhat closer together (and definitely attracted to each other) into what becomes an unusual romance. Yes, she is married, but her relationship with her husband has been almost nonexistent for two years. I wasn't too bothered by this, but perhaps others would be. I appreciated the unconventional romance; however, it wasn't the thing I liked most about this story.
My least favorite part was Sorcha herself. She smokes cigars, is a pretty cold person on the outside, and is the best at what she does. I didn't connect with her for those reasons, although it didn't deter me much from enjoying the story.
Overall, I really liked Geist. The unique and exciting world building made this a great read for those who like undead and/or paranormal creatures in a different setting. There’s a lot of action (which I definitely love) and good story. I recommend this to anyone who enjoys those things. The romance, on the other hand, could be improved upon. The sequel, Spectyr, comes out next year and I will definitely be reading it.
A review copy of this book was provided by Ace.