by Philippa Ballantine

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Geist by Philippa Ballantine

A powerful guardian stands between the living and the dead in the fourth Book of the Order from Philippa Ballantine.

The Order of the Deacons are 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?

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780441019618
Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date: 10/26/2010
Series: Book of the Order Series , #1
Pages: 304
Sales rank: 547,784
Product dimensions: 4.10(w) x 6.60(h) x 0.90(d)
Age Range: 18 Years

About the Author

Philippa (Pip) Ballantine is the author of the Book of the Order series, the Shifted World series, the Chronicles of Art series, and—with Tee Morris—the coauthor of the Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences series. Her podcast of Chasing the Bard won the Sir Julius Vogel Award in 2009, and two of her novels have been short-listed for it. Originally from New Zealand, she now resides in Virginia with her husband, her daughter, and a mighty clowder of cats.

Read an Excerpt

Chapter Five
In Dark Water


Deacon Chambers was, thankfully, silent. Sorcha rode ahead of him and fought the urge to kick Shedryi into a gallop. Sensitives were tricky creatures to get away from. She wanted a smoke badly, but there were only so many cigars in her pocket and she had a feeling if she got trapped in Ulrich, she might need every one of them.

They would have to follow the road north to the calmer port of Irisil, where kinder and warmer currents flowed into the harbor. Sorcha wasn't looking forward to getting on a small ship with her new partner.

Sparing a glance over her shoulder, she was amused to realize that Merrick was actually reading the report. His curly dark head bent while he rode with practiced ease. Maybe he hadn't been joking about winning those events.

She'd realized he would be young; she'd been unprepared for just how young. After reading his file in the records office, she'd noticed that he'd declared a touch of Ancient blood in his line. Though those first peoples had long since been swallowed up by the Otherside, their blood could still be traced in some of the continents' older families. It explained his incredibly high testing in both Active and Sensitive. It wasn't up there with the Abbot's skill, but if he burned out his Sensitivity, he would have been accepted without question into the ranks of the Actives.

She would have to watch this one for sure. Deacons of near-equal rank in both disciplines could sometimes be tempted to activate when first confronted with a geist. That sort of deadly mistake could leave her looking for yet another partner.

As Sorcha had been thinking about this, Merrick had urged his mare up next to her and offered back the report. "Not many solid details, really." At least he had the good sense to sound concerned about that.

"There seldom are," Sorcha said with a little laugh. "Geists are like that…; mysterious."

"You know I studied all this, don't you?" he snapped back. "Just like you, I did my training. Difference is I got stuck with the partner no one in the Order wants."

That stung, though Sorcha managed not to let it show. Once upon a time she'd been highly sought—now she wondered what exactly she had done for that to change. Oh, yes…; all those supposedly private arguments with Kolya.

She glanced at him out of the corner of one eye and measured up exactly how she should play this. They were partners, Bonded and shackled together. They would have to rely on each other in tough situations. The whole setup of this assignment worried Sorcha, and she would need a Sensitive who was not only good, but who cared enough to pull her out of the fire if necessary; so ramming those words back down his throat as she was tempted to do would serve no purpose.

"Sorry you feel that way"—her fingers itched to be holding a cigar right now—"but we've got to make this work for the sake of the assignment."

They traveled in silence for the next few hours. The Bond between them was still fresh and raw, and that was surely why she could feel a tinge of his frustration. It flickered across her awareness and disturbed what might otherwise have been an enjoyable ride.

The countryside on the east coast was beautiful even this late into autumn, and Sorcha looked about with a feeling of real pride. When the Emperor had arrived, this area had been a rabbit warren of unfettered geists and mistwitches. It had been one of her and Kolya's assignments to oversee the clearing of the area from Vermillion to the Turijk Mountains. As they passed through the low-lying areas of marshes and dark water, she was able to look back on those times as simple and rather pleasant. It had been hard work, but satisfying.

Recollection softened the hard knot of displeasure in her stomach. She pointed to a collection of abandoned stone buildings not far from the road they now traveled. "That is the place where my husband and I banished our first geist for the Emperor in his new realm." It was only three years past, but felt a lifetime ago.

Merrick pulled his cloak around him as if he wasn't interested, but she could tell he was. The prickle of frustration subsided a little. "Are the geists of Delmaire the same as the ones here?"

For a second she didn't reply, stunned. If he was asking her that, then he must have been among the new recruits from Arkaym, and if that was true, then he had gotten through the novices faster than anyone since Abbot Hastler. She would definitely have to take care around this one. Sorcha was abruptly conscious of the Bond between them. She'd crafted it so casually, but if she'd joined herself to such a powerful Sensitive, maybe she should have been more cautious.

She cleared her throat. "No, the Delmaire geists have been tamed for centuries. The last attack recorded there was more than fifty years past—that was why so many Deacons jumped at the chance to sign up to this new Abbey: boredom."

"That's one thing we never have to worry about. Sometimes I wonder…;" The young man's voice trailed off. Flicking his head over his shoulder, he pulled his mare up suddenly.

"What is it?" Sorcha tugged Shedryi to the right, circling her new partner. No matter how useless it was, she too scanned their surroundings. They were in the middle of a narrow stretch of dry ground, with low marshes on each side. Sedge and rushes whispered in the breeze, but she could make out no trace of geist. Certainly there was no scent but the brackish water and the damp earth.

She brought her stallion up tight against Merrick's mare; she wasn't about to let another Sensitive get away on her. Even when she cocked her head and strained her Sensitivity, she could still make out nothing more dangerous than sucking mud. "I don't smell any—"

"Quiet!" The young upstart actually raised his hand as if she were a novice at the back of the class. The tone of his voice, though, and her knowledge of his ranking caused Sorcha to slide her Gauntlets from under her belt and onto her lap.

The marsh to the right, a thinly spread oval of dark water, was completely quiet. No wading birds disturbed the surface. No frogs chirped from its fringes. Even the expectant resilient midges seemed to have abandoned this patch.

The Deacon Breed horses, male and female, tossed their heads, but unlike lesser mounts did not dance sideways. Trained to stand in the face of supernatural attack, they dropped their heads, blew through their noses, and did not move.

Carefully, Sorcha got down off Shedryi, slid on one Gauntlet and walked to the head of Merrick's mare. He had not shared his Sight. Annoyed, she reached up and placed her bare hand on his.

Sight flared about her, so different from what she had shared with Kolya it was disconcerting. This new partner of hers must be packed full of power; everything was blazing. Behind her she was aware of the gentle slumbering trees, the creatures hiding in the mud and birds winging their way out to the sea. It was the color, though, the sheer brightness and detail, that she reveled in; reveled in, and was definitely overwhelmed by.

This was why new partners usually stayed safely within the Abbey walls, learning each other's strengths and getting used to the sensation of the Bond. After a moment, Sorcha's Center felt like she'd been looking into the sun for too long.

Snatching back her hand, she shot a look up at Merrick. He was glaring down at her. Rated Sensitives didn't need to send their Centers out; they trained to keep both the real world and the ethereal one in focus. What sort of strange double vision that might engender, Sorcha couldn't really imagine. She tugged on her left Gauntlet without looking away.

After a second of playing staring games with each other, Merrick shook his head. "By the Bones, that was uncalled for! Give me a second, and keep your hand off me…; if you can manage that?"

He too dismounted and wandered a little distance off, looking out over the patch of water. The locals called the little dips in the land vamma kesi, or dark water, because no sunlight reflected off the pools that collected there. It was something to do with the earth itself, as Sorcha had read in an indolent moment in the Abbey library. Whatever the reason, they were dire little spots.

Merrick pointed over toward the farthest reaches of the water, where low scrub tumbled down a small rise. "It's not a geist, but there is something lingering there…; something in pain."

Sorcha snorted. Everything was always in pain or tormented. She'd trained Kolya not to get involved with every injured kitten or bruised plant, and it looked as though she would have to do the same with Merrick.

"If you haven't noticed, we need to get moving. Those ships are leaving if we are there or not…;" She looked up and realized that her new partner was already off the road and tromping through the light snow in the direction he had pointed.

"Stubborn," she muttered to herself. "Hastler had to give me a stubborn one." Tucking her fur cloak around her shoulders, she strode after him. He was at least fifteen feet in front of her, not even bothering to look behind him. Basically giving her the same treatment that she'd handed to him at the Abbey. The phrase "too big for his britches" was made for this one. She'd much rather have had a lesser-ranked Sensitive than one who knew he was good.

"You know, if I get wet boots, you'll be riding the pack mule the rest of the way," she barked at him. Merrick had stopped and was actually yanking aside bushes. Whatever he had sensed from the road had probably crawled in there to die. Her only satisfaction was that he was tossing enough snow about to get himself rather damp as well.

Finally reaching his side, Sorcha stood with Gauntleted hands on hips, staring down at her new partner as he fossicked around in the undergrowth. "I'm not carrying any…;"

She stopped in midsentence as Merrick finally cleared away the snow and branches. A long length of what she assumed was bleached wood was wrapped in the remains of a red skirt. It was a human leg.

Wordlessly she bent and helped her partner yank away the swath of brush that covered the scene; cold and dread were building in her. What she'd thought was merely growing near the water had in fact been deliberately laid down to cover the horror beneath.

When they finally both stood back, panting into the air, the scene had been revealed. It was difficult to count exactly how many bodies there were, but all were frozen into terrible shapes. Merrick clapped a fist to his mouth and turned away.

Sorcha took a deep breath herself. Many of those in the pile of dead were women and children. The jumble of body pieces was not random, however. They were stacked in a pattern, limbs placed like firewood with heads facing upward in an inner circle around what looked like the burnt remains of a wagon. They appeared to have been a family group, probably Tinkers who traveled from village to village repairing items and selling cloth and such. Whatever they had met on the road had been the death of them all.

It was a terrible, half-frozen, macabre display. No doubt it was an exhibit not meant to be seen by mortal eyes.

Merrick, to his credit, wasn't throwing up his breakfast. He turned around and stood at her shoulder. Sorcha felt his Center open, but he didn't share. What he was Seeing, he was best qualified to make sense of.

"They aren't here," he muttered. "The souls are all gone. Such pain and fear should have left terrible marks on the ether—but there is nothing."

"Then how did you…;"

Merrick cleared his throat. "One of the children didn't die immediately. Whatever it was, it took her soul, but her pain left the smallest whisper."

It must have been tiny, indeed.

"Have you ever seen anything like this?" he asked in a thick voice. "I've read the textbooks, but…;"

"Not like this." She pointed to nearest bodies. "This wasn't done by anything human. Think about it for a moment. Geists can usually only operate to kill through humans. These wounds were not made by anything mortal. Something unliving made this circle."

Merrick nodded. "We should at least bury them. Their souls…;" He stopped and surged upright. Suddenly, he was sharing a portion of his Center with Sorcha.

Through his eyes, the world was tinged with red. Something was coming through the ether toward them; something that she had also never seen before. Leaping to her feet, Sorcha put herself between Merrick and the approaching geist.

In the real world, the vamma kesi was bubbling and writhing as if a fire had been lit underneath it. The bubbles were moving toward them at a rapid pace.

"What is it, Chambers?" she hissed. She held the Gauntlets up, as yet unsure which Rune to activate upon them. "By the Bones, what is it?"

Her new partner was scrambling at his belt pouch. "I can't see." There was an edge of real panic in his voice. "I need the Strop to see…;"

"No time for that," Sorcha yelled. "Give me the damn Sight…;"

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Geist 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 51 reviews.
Odin1eye More than 1 year ago
I am extremely character driven. World building seems to have turned into the rage these days. Many authors spend so much time creating the universe the characters live in, the forget to make those same characters breath. For me, this is obvious in stories like (prepare for blasphemy) Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time series. After reading all but the last book of the series, I realized I had no desire to complete them because while the world lived and breathed, the characters hadn't developed sufficiently to keep me interested beyond the second or third book. Ms. Ballantine does create a firm mythos that encapsulates the motivations driving her characters towards their objectives. However, she does this whilst keeping the focus on the characters and letting the mythos build along the way. This is a lesson I think many writers need to learn. Ms. Ballantine's characters are worth knowing. Her strong female lead is unique. Sorcha Faris is a strong, powerful, mature, attractive woman. She is direct, almost brutally blunt at times. She enjoys a good cigar and is truthful with herself. She is easily the driving character in the story and she exudes potential development in subsequent stories. She might not be the easiest person to know, but she would be someone that would be worth that effort. Raed Rossin enters the story relatively early on (the second chapter) but remains outside of the main storyline, moving parallel, for the first part. Raed is a member of the once ruling family, now a sea nomad doing his best to stay alive. He hides his inner qualities behind a course (though not unrefined) exterior. He effortlessly claims loyalty from those that follow him. He is a prince among men and a pirate at heart. Merrick Chambers completes the starring cast. He is a young but powerful idealist partnered, against their wishes, with Sorcha. Along the way they learn to trust and rely on one another. It is neither an easy or enjoyable path for them at times, but it does make for a very good story. Geist is much more than another quest fantasy. Geist has elements of fantasy, horror and romance all rolled into one action packed adventure spanning continents where loyalties are called into question, rogues can be heros and heros can be idealists. At a purchase price of under $8 US, this is a story you shouldn't hesitate in buying. This book begs you to lock the doors, get comfortable in your favorite chair, turn down the lights and read. I encourage you to do the same. You won't be disappointed.
The-Shadow More than 1 year ago
I bought this book for my nook, and saved most for it a long flight. It certainly passed the time, but I doubt I'll read it again. Ballantine avoids the dreaded "info dump," which plagues the genre, but at some point you have to explain to your readers what's going on, which she never adequately does. As a result, she seems to pull things out of nowhere. The pacing is off, with the climax coming somewhere in the middle of the book and with the final battle not being properly built up and feeling rushed. The middle battle, to me, felt more urgent and exciting than the final one. The two lovers have zero chemistry, so that sub-plot feels shoehorned in and serves no purpose. I realize that I'm the minority here, so by all means, take my review with a grain of salt, but I can't recommend this book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I read a lot of fantasy and after awhile it all begins to blur together. But Geist is different. It rocks from the first scene and continues on to the final words. It's got a lot of supernatural power, great battle scenes, tortured characters and even some romance. Which leaves me wanting more. Please tell me there's a sequel!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book was good but I do not feel the need to rush and get the next book in this series
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jsrock37 More than 1 year ago
I wasn't sure what to expect from this book at first, so I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed reading it. About halfway through the book I was dearly hoping it was part of a series. And it is, yay! Fun, instantly likeable characters and a plot that keeps you wondering what will happen next. Love it!
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Guest More than 1 year ago
An engaging storyline with interesting characters. I look forward to further books in the series.
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Doesntreviewoften More than 1 year ago
Wow. I am thoroughly impressed! Though it felt like I was reading for a month, it was such a good book that I did not mind in the least. I recommend this book for any avid fantasy reader.
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Aeranthae More than 1 year ago
Lack of Background: The story itself was great, however I wish there had been a bit more information on the Order and its history, along with the main characters Sorcha and Merrick. Ballantine created such an interesting concept with the Deacons and I would've liked to learn a bit more about where they came from and how they got to where they were when Geist took place. Mix of Genres: As I was reading Geist, it came across as the perfect blend of fantasy and steampunk, with the edginess of an urban fantasy. I love all of those genres on their own and the combination made Geist a dark, humorous, and intriguing story. It put a new twist on fantasy and the supernatural. Memorable Characters: From the tough, cigar-smoking Sorcha Faris to the level-headed Merrick Chambers, Ballantine created characters that really stay with you after reading. The growth of friendship between Sorcha and Merrick provides a bit of humor into the mix. When Raed steps on the scene, the pot gains a little romance for just the right amount of tension to keep the reader wondering what's going to happen next--or a better question, what is Sorcha going to do next? It was a slow start, and the lead-in to the world of the Empire where Sorcha lives was rough, but once I got past the first few chapters, I couldn't put it down. Looking forward to the sequel, Spectyr!