Phantasm is the third volume in Phaedra Weldon's series featuring Atlanta-based out of body traveller, Zoe Martinique. Zoe's had a tough time over the past two books, Wraith and Spectre: going from being a reclusive young woman, using her ability to travel out of body to make a modest living as an investigator and sometime corporate spy, and with no more ambition than to be just left in peace, to being a wraith, able to devour souls, or set them free, and being pursued by ghost hunters and secret societies. She's been betrayed by her best friend, rendered mute, fallen in love with a gorgeous police detective, and attracted entirely too much attention from the Archer - a trench-coated abysmal creature whose latest move has been to steal away her mother's soul. Now, she's playing an unwilling role as a guardian of our human, physical plane against the predations of forces from both the abysmal and ethereal planes, while being largely unaware of why she has been chosen, or what is happening to her.
As Phantasm opens, Zoe's life takes a turn for the worse, if that were possible, as she loses her wraith abilities, just when she needs them most: both to rescue her mother's soul and combat the plans of the Phantasm itself - the ruler of the abysmal plane, who desires nothing more than to invade the physical world. At the same time, her personal life becomes equally chaotic, with her boyfriend telling her he needs some space, and two more men, both of whom intrigue her - and know about the other planes - beginning to make their presence felt. Zoe has no choice but to seek to regain her powers, and solve the mystery of her birth and heritage, if she's to stand any chance of surviving, or protecting those she cares for - both living and dead, all the while struggling with her own rebellious heart.
I'm in two minds about this series: on the one hand, the conception is original, and Weldon is beginning to sketch out an intriguing milieu of abysmal and ethereal denizens, human magicians, and ghosts. There's certainly a core of darkness in Zoe's world, with her power born from the trauma of rape, and taking its toll on her physically and mentally. Zoe herself is reasonably sympathetic, trying to make the best of abilities and a life she never wanted, while also attempting to maintain a relationship with a man from whom she feels she has to conceal her true nature.
On the other hand, I've also found the books in this series somewhat less involving and memorable than other urban fantasy series I've read recently. On starting Phantasm, I had occasional difficulties in remembering the back story and previous events, which made it difficult to get engrossed in the plot - a problem I don't usually have. I also felt that, in this volume, there was a little too much of everyone seeming to know more about events than Zoe did, which made for a good deal of exposition of various types, and slowed the pace down.
Nevertheless, I did finish the book at, more or less, a single sitting and, given the cliff-hanger ending, will definitely be putting in an order for the next instalment of Zoe's adventures. I only hope Weldon gets it out quickly!