Book Review #21: Wrayth by Philippa Jane Ballantine

Title: Wrayth (A Book of the Order)
Author: Philippa Jane Ballantine
Publisher: Ace
Release Date: September 2012
Available Formats: paperback, ebook

Regular readers of this blog will know that Ms. Ballantine is one of the few authors on my “must read” list. I’ve enjoyed all of her published works very much and am still waiting for some publisher to be smart enough to pick up Weather Child. So when the third in the Book of the Order series, Wrayth, became available I quickly ran out and bought a copy. (In an effort to be open, I later received a copy from Ace.)

On to the review.

Synopsis: 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.

Setting: This story takes place all over Arkaym, reaching into the borderlands of the realm. We travel by magic, by airship, and in the form of a geistloard. Interestingly enough, very little of this story is taken up with travel. Ms. Ballantine has succeeded in crafting a world, that by book three feels like you’re slipping in to a pair of your favorite running shoes – comfortable and secure. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it here once more, Ms. Ballantine is a master at building worlds without letting the construction get in the way of the story. The world unfolds as the story needs it to, not as a writing exercise that entices the reader to skip ahead.

Plot: One of the things I have enjoyed about Ms. Ballantine’s series to date is that they don’t follow a cookie cutter template and don’t simply rehash similar themes in each book. It is also one of the few fantasy series of late that doesn’t include an overarching quest that drags the protagonists across the globe and back. Each book, while part of the greater whole, stands on its own in terms of plot and story. Wrayth allows us to learn a bit more about two of the main characters families and provides us with a reason for Sorcha’s strength as a Deacon of the Order. I have a feeling this revelation will come to play deeply in future books.

Characters: Raed, Sorcha and Merrick continue to grow and evolve. Each of them plays a pivotal role in Wrayth, and without counting pages, I’d hazard it is a more equitable distribution than in previous books. However, other supporting characters are beginning to emerge with their own personalities and strengths. I admit, I wanted to know more about the Grand Duchess’s experience before I turned the last page and can only hope this character is revisited in the next book.

Odin’s recommendation: Go buy Wrayth. Buy several copies. If you haven’t yet, be sure to buy the first two books (Geist and Spectyr) too. Read them. Give them as gifts to those you know that prefer to live in a fantasy world where things go bump in the night. You’ll be glad you did.

Ms. Ballantine has earned her place of preference on my bookshelf with consistent writing, imaginative stories and well fleshed out characters. I look forward to Harbinger, the next (and last?) book in the series. For purely selfish reasons, I do hope Ms. Ballantine has more stories set in this world, and I do hope Ace rapidly ties her into sharing them.

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