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Phantasm: A Zoe Martinique Investigation
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on 26 June 2009
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!
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on 10 May 2010
I have read all of the books in this series to date and have really enjoyed them. However, I found this one intensely irritating. There is a lot of filling in of back information for people who are perhaps new to the series and indeed I needed to be reminded of what various artefacts were at times. However, it got very tedious this time. Maybe a glossary or something similar at the back of the book would help it move along a bit better. Also the female protagonist, Zoe, really got to me this time and I buy a lot of books BECAUSE of the strong female protagonist who has to figure it out as she goes along. However, this time I wanted to shake Zoe. Time after time she neglected to ask the obvious question that would have advanced the reader's knowledge. I realise the intention was to build up tension but this time it just fell flat. I have to say I will think twice about buying the next one.
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