Release Date: October 26, 2010
Publisher: Ace Fantasy
Book of the Order #1
Format(s): paperback (304 pgs), e-book
I received a copy of this book from the publisher for the purposes of an honest review.
From the back cover:
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. Even if she makes it out of Ulrich alive, what in the hell is she returning to?
What I’m talking about:
Welcome to Arykham, where the presence of ghosts and spirits (geists) are unfortunately commonplace. But thankfully, the geists conform to a set of known parameters, and the Order protects the citizens from ultimate danger. The setting of the book, Arykaham, is historical in nature – no electricity, and horses, ships and dirigibles are the modes of transportation, etc. The society is run by an Emperor, with the Order acting as a quasi-religious group that protects the world from the geists.
The book opens with Sorcha and her husband fighting off a powerful geist attack on a crowd. In this initial attack, Sorcha’s husband is brutally injured by the geist – something that goes against the “known rules” for the Otherside. With her husband (and partner) disabled, Sorcha is given a new partner and sent north to help the town of Ulrich.
Enter novice Merrick Chambers. He has a history with Sorcha, although she doesn’t know it. He is untested and a bit scared. But soon the pair discovers that all of the “known rules” for the Otherside are being tossed out the window, which forces them to rely on and trust each other. And after they meet up with Raed Rossin, the usurped Prince to the throne, they stumble upon a vast conspiracy that rocks the very foundation of the Order.
Ms. Ballantine has created an elaborate world that is rich in details with its own unique mythology. And due to this, the book is not a quick and easy read. Between the lexicon of the Order, the intricate mythology (world) and the complex storyline full of twists and turns, it can be formidable at times. The first part of the book – the “getting to know you” phase – was tough, but soon I got into the “honeymoon” phase, and the story was so interesting and I enjoyed it immensely. My only request: a list of characters/titles/positions and glossary (with the runes listed) in any future books.
Sorcha is frustrated with her situation in life – her loveless (and from the sounds of it emotionally abusive) marriage and being sent up to Ulrich… So she is pleasantly surprised by the depth of the bond that develops with Merrick. And Merrick – scared as a child after watching Sorcha go medieval on some spirits that also left his father killed, learns to trust Sorcha. Watching Merrick grow stronger and more confident was a treat.
Tossed into the mix is Raed, who carries a deep secret of his own – a curse that unleashes a terrible beast when touched by the spirits. He has been an outcast and fugitive for years, and Sorcha is uncertain what to make of him. Yet he awakens parts of her that she no longer believed to be alive. In attempts to leash the beast within Raed, Sorcha forms a unique bond with him, which is the beginning of something much deeper. I loved the passion between Sorcha and Raed, and I was left wanting to know what is going happen next because this clearly isn’t the end of the story.
Although the book is full of exciting action and amazing adventure, the trio created of Sorcha, Merrick and Raed is fascinating and the true heart of the story. Ms. Ballantine does an amazing job with the character development. The trio each sees things in a unique way, bringing a full spectrum of views in each situation. I enjoyed the give and take that makes this relationship work.
With layer after layer unfolding before me – causing several twists and turns, I was on the proverbial edge of my seat. The book came to a satisfying conclusion, yet it was open-ended for subsequent stories. I for one, cannot wait! I want to know more about the secrets of the Sensitives. I want to know more about how the bond works. And I want to know what will become of this amazing trio!
Really enjoyed – strongly recommend (A-)