Spectyr, the new book by Phillipa Ballantine — second in her “Book of the Order” series behind last year’s Geist — is a fairly fast paced book that is fairly compelling and is a solid standalone release in its own right regardless of whether you came to it after having read its predecessor or not.
Centered around Deacon Sasha Faris, a powerful Active of the Order (and her partner, Deacon Merrick Chambers, a Sensitive of the Order) find themselves chasing down rumors of heists (basically this world’s version of a ghost but with varying degrees of spectral ordinance at their disposal) all the while dreaming of a return to real action (apparently they saved the entire world in the last book so I can see how anything else might become tedious).
After battling a fairly prescient giest who gives them a vision of the future, they find themselves escorting a delegation sent to negotiate the terms of the Emperor’s engagement in the exotic city of Orinthal. Once there they discover that there have been a string of murders in the city and are asked to investigate. While all of this is going on it turns out that the Emperor’s sister, a true-believer in one of the older “lesser” gods, releases what she thought was an angel (Surprise! Something imprisoned lied to get out!) that is really a cruel and vengeful goddess bent on destroying everyone and anyone she considers an enemy.
Wouldn’t you know it, but that includes the geistlord who resides in the shapeshifting rival (the pretender) to the throne? Wouldn’t you also know that that turns out to be Deacon Sorcha’s lover?
I could go on, but I’m afraid that just listing out the various twists and turns that pop out of this book might take some of the fun out of reading it. Make no mistake about that, by the way — this is a fun and fast read. The characters are solid and the moments of the book that deal with their interactions are where this book truly shines. Whether the small personal moments between family and friends or the heated moments of battle and betrayal by family, friends and foes (not to mention the occasional undead entity or goddess).
While not as lush and descriptive as some novels I’ve read this year — Spectyr comes in at 310 short pages — the world created in those pages is a vivid one that is full of explosive promise. If this is what the sequel offers I can guarantee you that I will be searching out the first book in this series as well as (im)patiently waiting for any and all that might follow … and if this is what Ms. Ballantine has to offer I will be searching for her name on the shelves of my favorite bookstore for quite a while.
If you are looking for a fun read that is also full of interesting plot twists and solid action and character development, Phillipa Ballantine’s Spectyr is something you should definitely consider checking out. I am glad I did.
I’d easily give this 3.75 out of 5 (not to mention I’ve shoved it in my wife’s direction and told her to read it).