My Rating: 4.5 stars: Loved it - enthusiastically recommend (A)
Review originally posted at That's What I'm Talking About
Review copy of book provided by publisher.
Harbinger is the fourth and final installment of the marvelous Books of the Order series by Philippa Ballantine. Although one could probably get away reading it solo, I do not recommend it. Ms. Ballantine has created an immensely rich fantasy world with stories that build from book to book, and it is best read from beginning to end. Harbinger truly is the climatic culmination of every moment and event from the previous three books - and a fantastic one at that!
The story opens not long after the dramatic conclusion of Wrayth, with the Order of the Eye and the Fist is ruins, the broken Emperor of Arkaym, Kaleva, set on revenge, and our favorite heroes (Sorcha, Merrick and Raed - along with the Rossin) on the run, recovering from the destruction brought about by Derodak. With so much of the world in disarray, the barrier between Arkaym and the Otherside grows incredibly thin, bringing all sorts of terror down of the citizens of the Empire. The trio work to start a new order and defeat Derodak before he breaks the barrier completely, letting through every geist, spirit and other nasty into the world of the living.
Once again, Ms. Ballantine has developed a unique story that gels into the overall story arc from the Books of the Order. She shares all of the secrets, answers many of the questions, and gives finality to a story that has spanned four books. What makes this such a wonderful fantasy is the author's ability to spin a fantastical tale that is smart and enjoyable. The details are sublime, and the continuing mythology is engrossing.
The thing I love most about these books, which holds true in Harbinger, are the relationships and dynamics between the main characters. What started out as rigid and rough has transformed over time into a beautiful yet necessary symbiosis. Unfortunately for the characters, as the world draws to an end, their bonds are stretched and strained under the weight of individual growth as each comes into his/her own powers. Watching each deal with the changes and loss of the closeness of the bonds was heart-wrenching. Each must makes choices necessary for the good of the people, giving the story added suspense and drama.
Overall a wonderful story and fantastic ending to this complex and engrossing series. I have come to enjoy the trio along with the Rossin, and what occurs during Harbinger is a perfect ending for this series. Prophetic in nature and grandiose in scale, Harbinger takes the group we've come to care about and puts them through the ultimate tests in a battle for Arkaym. The story was completely riveting - much along the scale as the earlier three books. On its own merits, it is a worthy tale full of excitement and action. However, as the crowning jewel of an epic tale, it is extremely successful.
Each of the characters evolve into more - into what is needed to survive, yet it's organic and not contrived. The ending battle was epic, but not overdone. The goodbyes were sad, but I was left with hope for the future. The Books of the Order series is a must read for fans of fantasy.