Ghost Talkers – Mary Robinette Kowal

I did not see that coming. I read the first book in the author’s “Glamourist Histories” series last year, and was ambivalent about it. Maybe a bit more negative than positive, actually, because when I realized this was the same author I had serious requester’s remorse. But its time came, and I was instantly hooked. It’s a remarkable, wonderful book.

Having forgotten everything about the synopsis by the time I started it, I was very pleased to discover that it’s set in the middle of WWI, both time- and place-wise. In my experience it’s an under-used setting, and Kowal utilizes it magnificently, weaving reality with her reality to the point that this fantasy seems like the way it should have been. I believed it. World-building is something usually associated with settings that come straight out of a writer’s head, but this is a beautiful example of how important it is to, if not build, recreate a historical setting for something that takes place in our very own past. Ghost Talkers explores war-torn France and the war-torn soldiers and mediums with painful realism.

The plot featured a murder mystery which was handled skillfully enough that I honestly had a doubt or two about the possibility of guilt where a lesser book would never have allowed it.

There’s a guest appearance in the trenches that could easily have scuttled the whole thing for me, if badly handled. But it wasn’t, and it didn’t. Someone – I won’t spoil it for you – comes onstage (so to speak), has a line or three, and departs again with absolutely no fanfare. It was well done, and it tickled me. A hint, because I enjoyed the description: “a lieutenant who seemed too bookish to be in a war”.

The relationship between the main character, Ginger, and her fiancé Ben is absolutely lovely. It features realistic and enjoyable banter, well-demonstrated affection (shown, not told!), and the end of the book left me with a tear in my eye. There might have been more than one. There might have been sniffling.There was definitely powerful longing for more. It was a solid stand-alone novel, but I would be delighted if a sequel came along.

The usual disclaimer: I received this book via Netgalley for review.

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