Friday, 22 June 2007

Wraith by Phaedra Weldon


Zoe Martinique is a private investigator with a difference, she has the ability to travel outside of her body - an ability she uses to find out information she wouldn't otherwise have access to. However, one night, things go seriously wrong when she witnesses a murder, worse still, the killer is also a Traveler and tries to pursue her. Now it's a race against time, as Zoe tries to help the detective investigating the case, whilst staying one step ahead of the bad guys.

Bear with the first few pages where Zoe introduces herself and explains the mechanics of astral travel because once the story gets going you're in for a wild ride. Wraith is written in a first person, stream of consciousness style that won't be for everybody - we get to hear every thought that passes through Zoe's head without benefit of a filter. But by chapter 7 I've got a smile on my face and am running with the story. I don't want to put the book down.

As well as the mystery of the murder and why the killer can see Zoe (be warned it gets complicated so you'll need to concentrate), we get to eavesdrop on the various relationships in Zoe's life. This book has one of the most realistic mother/daughter relationships I've read. To begin with it seems very fraught, with the inevitable frictions that such close relationships can develop, but eventually you see that there is an incredibly deep love between the two characters - this made the book for me.

Zoe does take stupid risks, a fact for which she is somewhat apologetic - usually after the fact, with promises to herself not to repeat such mistakes in future. Unlike some TSTL heroines I think there is a valid reason for her behaviour. She first astral projects during a brutal attack which leaves her in a coma. So maybe she feels that if she didn't continue to behave as she wanted to - even when she knows she's taking a risk - that she would be denying a part of herself. But sometimes she should! Hopefully by the end of this book she's learnt that lesson - somehow I doubt it.

I'm going to take a moment here to mention the rape scene, as I know a couple of people who may decide this book is not for them because of this. I don't believe the scene is gratuitous in the slightest, it is necessary to the plot because it's the first time Zoe leaves her body. However, it is disturbing and unpleasant - I had already decided as I was reading it how it was going to go, when things suddenly changed I was broadsided. And at that moment I connected with the character (with Zoe) which made it even harder to read. The scene which follows in the hospital between Zoe and her mother was so well written, it's when you as a reader I think for the first time see Zoe acknowledge how much her mother cares for her.

If I had to be picky there are a couple of places where I wasn't 100% sure of what was going on - though eventually I think I understood the hierarchy of phantasm, symbiont and Wraith. Please don't ask me to explain it though :). And for some reason whenever Zoe fancies someone her thighs swell! I think I understand what was being conveyed but it did bring to mind images of She-Hulk and ripping trousers. Also the epilogue (which takes place two weeks after the main story concludes), gives Wraith a slightly strange ending, but that may be a more subjective comment. I'd be interested to hear what other people thought. Could be I was just gutted that there wasn't an excerpt for the next book. :(

However, when the story is this original and the characters and dialogue are so well written, such minor things are easily forgiven and forgotten. There are several dangling plot threads that need tying up, so my fingers are crossed that this isn't the last we've heard from Zoe Martinique. I want to know what trouble she's going to get herself into next.


jepad said...

Thanks for the review, Lesley. I actually ordered this for amazon, so in another week or so, I should be able to reply. It does sound interesting, although I'm a little concerned by Zoe's penchant for TSTL moments.

LesleyW said...

I can live with them because I think they aren't stupid for the sake of it. I think her actions are rooted in her personality. It's not a question of - I'm hiding from the bad guys, and that's just the pizza delivery guy at the door. She has got a brain, she's intelligent. I think part of it is a control thing - once she's involved she has to see it through, she can't step back. Part of it is that I think she's a little contrary and a little selfish. And part of it is I think she likes pushing herself close to the edge. Unfortunately she hasn't quite got the distinction between close to the edge and over it.

I'm very interested to hear what you think of the story. It's definitely one you'd be able to read again and probably get more out of on the second read.

Sweet said...

Thanks for the review Lesley. Wraith was on my list of books to look into. I'm glad to see that you liked it. I've been sitting on the fence about getting it.

The Invisible Cystalline Cave said...

I'm looking for the book, but I've yet to see it anywhere in Singapore. I guess I'll just have to wait until they actually import it. It sounds fascinating, and just the type of book I enjoy.

The "stream of consciousness" comment worries me a little, though. We have something similar (in almost the exact same wording except in a different language) in Chinese literature, a literary style that I really dislike, so I'm really hoping this isn't the same. That aforementioned Chinese style is a sort of continuous and rather random stream of thoughts that is only logical to the writer (or the character), and not necessary to the reader. Is that the style "Wraith" was written in?

And thanks for the review! :)

LesleyW said...

No - the stream of thoughts are linear, you won't have any trouble following them. But I think in most first person stories the narrative sticks very closely to the plot, even whilst your in the protagonist's head.

Zoe's mind will wander and you wander with her. It's all relevant because it's to do with her character and how she feels and thinks. But it's not always 'on plot'. But I think it works very well. Kind of like you're telepathic and seeing right into her thoughts.

clare said...

This sounds interesting I'm going to have to get hold of a copy.

There seems to be quite a few first person lately, I've picked up a few.

LesleyW said...

Clare - Fingers crossed that you like it. :)

Naomi said...

I started my copy this morning. Very intriguing first chapter, although it was a bit of an info-dump. I'm looking forward to really getting into the story.

LesleyW said...

Very interested to hear what everyone else has to say.

Naomi - Yeah...that was what I meant about Zoe explaining the mechanics of astral travel. I guess when it's a more original concept than vampires or werewolves a certain amount of infodumping is going to happen.

jepad said...


I just finished Wraith over the weekend. I really enjoyed it. I thought the writing was great, Zoe was fun, and the supporting cast was interesting.

Like you, I didn't think PW did a great job explaining the hierarchy of Phantasms and symbionts. I kept reading and re-reading without really getting WHAT a symbiont was.

I thought the twists at the end were a little too much. It seemed like it became needlessly complicated about who was double-crossing whom.

The epilogue...okay, I can't say I remember exactly what happened in the epilogue. Although the connection with TC was interesting and I'm looking forward to seeing how that played out.

I'm unsure about the romantic entanglements in the book. The cop (Daniel?) seemed really cute and cool at first. But since he was clueless about what was really happening, there was a certain keystone cop feel to him. Like he just ran around being mostly ineffectual. I think to really bring him into the story, he's going to have to find out about Zoe's ability.

I did like that he wasn't the usual hulking alpha male that dominates the genre. And I love a man with glasses. LOL.

scooper said...

I enjoyed the book. I like the way Ms. Weldon made me wonder about the gray areas of life and how hard it is to draw a line and stand on one side of it. There is no clear good or evil and TC's character helped with that. I didn't get the attraction to Daniel though.

scooper said...

Oh yeah, I forgot to mention my confusion of TC being described as drooling in the beginning and then somehow sexually appealing at another point. I've gotta thing for Vin Diesel but a drooling Vin is gross.

LesleyW said...

Scooper - I thought of Daniel as being like Dr. Jackson off Stargate. :)

And TC I thought of him as being one of those bad guys that are equally compelling and repulsive at the same time. When Zoe first meets him she's repelled but eventually she's drawn to him as well. It's interesting that she doesn't really remember being with him except as fragments. I'm hoping their relationship will be explored in more detail in future books.

Anonymous said...

The beginning of this book was quite fasinating, but around the middle, it just went down hill and became increasingly illogical and silly.