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Ballantine, Philippa: Spectyr

Spectyr (2011)
Written by: Philippa Ballantine
Genre: Fantasy
Pages: 310 (Mass Market Paperback)
Series: Book Two (Book of the Order)

Why I Read It: When Dreams & Speculation closed down her blog, she sent me a list of available titles she was going to give away. This book was on that list, and while the first book in the series, Geist, gave me all manner of fits, I had to admit I was curious about the sequel, so between that curiosity and my love for the cover art, I picked it up. Thanks to Mount TBR, I'm finally getting around to it!

The premise: ganked from author's website: Though one of the most powerful Deacons, Sorcha Faris has a tarnished reputation to overcome. She and her partner, Deacon Merrick Chambers, find themselves chasing down rumors of geists, but long for a return to real action. So they jump at the chance to escort a delegation sent to negotiate the terms of the Emperor’s engagement. Their destination: the exotic city of Orinthal.

But a string of murders has Orinthal on edge, and Sorcha and Merrick are asked to investigate. Meanwhile the Emperor’s sister has unwittingly released a cruel and vengeful goddess, one who it bent on destroying her enemies, including the geistlord who resides inside the shapeshifting rival to the throne—Sorcha’s lover….

Spoilers, yay or nay?: Nay. Although I do speculate about the fantasy world based on some things discussed in the book, so that in and of itself might be considered a spoiler. So if you're paranoid, just skip to "My Rating" and you'll be fine. Everyone else, onward!

Given how many issues I had with Geist (review on Live Journal || review on Word Press), it's a wonder I even picked this one up. It's a wonder that it was also such an incredibly fast read, but there's a lot to be said for expectations. My expectations for Geist were incredibly high because so many people I knew loved it. Since the book didn't turn out anything like I was hoping, I was disappointed. Now that my expectations are in check, reading and enjoying Spectyr for what it is rather than what it isn't was rather liberating, allowing me to admire what Ballantine is doing rather than criticizing for what she wasn't.

I really, really like this world. And now that I know how Actives and Sensitives work, I'm able to simply roll along with the story. I also like that I got a variety of POVs, because while I know I got that variety in the last book, in the last book, Sorcha annoyed the bejeezus out of me. This time, she didn't, and I'm not sure if it's because I know her now, or if she's grown some since the last book, or if it's because she has less page time. Whatever the case, I could tolerate her, and that was good. I was particularly compelled with her situation with her ex-husband. Recently divorced, but he won't let go of his bond with her. I'm not sure where this particular subplot is going. I don't trust the man, but there's something compelling about the idea of him simply regretting his actions and wanting to hold on. Yet story-wise, that doesn't really do anything, does it? This particular subplot is only explored until Sorcha and Merrick have to leave on their mission (which also allows them to cross paths with Reid), so who knows where it's going? I do like how we don't have a love square (Sorcha, Raed, Kolya, and Merrick), and that Merrick has a love life of his own, one that's intensely complex in this particular story.

The plot of this story seemed a little more streamlined, but I did wonder about its complexity: Hatipai makes an attempt to destroy Raed/the Rossin early in the book, yet the complex implies that everything that was supposed to happen was already in play before Hatipai made that early move. So why even bother? That was one moment of disbelief I wasn't able to fully suspend, but whatever.

I did like the learning the nature of geists, geistlords, and gods and goddesses. All of this was rather fascinating, one of the better parts of the book. I also liked the revelations involving the Ancients, and there were things mentioned that made me wonder if this world, like some others I've read this year, isn't a total fantasy but rather a science fantasy instead. It's a compelling thought, thinking that maybe these characters are settlers from another world, settlers who've long forgotten their history, but whatever the case, it's enough to make me want to pick up the next book to see what else I can learn.

My Rating: It's a Gamble

This is my middle-of-the-road rating. If you liked the first book, you'll like this next one. If you didn't like the first book, well, I think this book shows a lot of improvements, and it's got me seriously considering the next in the series. It's definitely a series, though, that needs to be read in order. I read Geist two years ago, but I'd forgotten just enough key points from it that reading Spectyr was a wee bit difficult. But for those readers who want to read a secondary-world fantasy that's light in tone (not in content, but tone), I'd highly recommend this series to those readers. Sorcha Faris is definitely of the ass-kicking variety, and while her cigar habit reminds me a wee bit too much of Starbuck in Battlestar Galactica, her character reveals some interesting shades in this book. All the characters held my interest, and the world-building continues to fascinate. It's also an incredibly fast read, something easy to sit down and kick back with and enjoy.

Cover Commentary: Another gorgeous cover in this series. I love the coloring so much! The angle of the shot is also rather eye-catching, but yes…. part of me picked this up solely for the cover art. I know, I'm shallow.

Next up: Range of Ghosts by Elizabeth Bear


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