Ghost Talkers: a new novel from beloved fantasy author Mary Robinette Kowal featuring the mysterious spirit corps and their heroic work in World War I.
Ginger Stuyvesant, an American heiress living in London during World War I, is engaged to Captain Benjamin Hartshorne, an intelligence officer. Ginger is a medium for the Spirit Corps, a special Spiritualist force. Each soldier heading for the front is conditioned to report to the mediums of the Spirit Corps when they die so the corps can pass instant information about troop movements to military intelligence.
Ginger and her fellow mediums contribute a great deal to the war efforts, so long as they pass the information through appropriate channels. While Ben is away at the front, Ginger discovers the presence of a traitor. Without the presence of her fiancé to validate her findings, the top brass thinks she's just imagining things. Even worse, it is clear that the Spirit Corps is now being directly targeted by the German war effort. Left to her own devices, Ginger has to find out how the Germans are targeting the Spirit Corps and stop them. This is a difficult and dangerous task for a woman of that era, but this time both the spirit and the flesh are willing....
©2016 Mary Robinette Kowal (P)2016 Audible, Inc.
"Imagine that the British military of the Great War utilized intelligence gleaned in their soldiers' final moments by having the dead 'report in' for debriefing with spiritualists. Kowal spins this idea into a thoroughly satisfying and believable novel blending fantasy, history, and suspense. The story is peopled with mediums, officers, servants, and gossips - some American, most English, and a few German - and with a plot that makes fine use of action as well as emotions. Kowal goes a giant step further with her narration, which is fully voiced, perfectly smooth, and paced with spot-on accuracy to invest every passage with compelling listening. With such a unique and thoroughly developed story, and a performance that brings it as fully to life, this is a must-listen for everyone." (AudioFile Magazine)
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"A very atmospheric, fast read!"
Mary Robinette Kowal is a unique author. At a glance she is a gentle writer who lulls you into complacency until she twists a knife into your heart. As a result I was frustrated and at the same time in awe while reading Ghost Talkers.
Despite my trouble with some of the accents ( as Mary herself narrated the book and her Scottish, for example, was appalling), this was a superbly atmospheric book. A great sense of the mannerisms of the era, the exhaustion of fighting a senseless war, horrendous losses of life and an urgency to push through all the obstacles to prevent a catastrophe made Ghost Talkers a gripping read.
BEWARE ONE SPOILER OF SOMETHING HAPPENING RIGHT AT THE BEGINNING! Sorry, it's vital for the story that I mention it.
Ginger is a medium and as one she sees and feels through the eyes of dead soldiers who report for duty straight after their deaths to relay important information from the front. Her fiance, Ben, is an intelligence officer and very often absent on his secret missions, so when she sees a suspicious death and her superiors don't take her report seriously, Ginger writes to him and asks for help. Imagine her horror when not long after she sees a ghost of Ben who refuses to cross over before they find his killer.
It's a very well-paced read and what makes it scarily realistic is a sense of casual brutality. Ginger ends up being almost alone at the front trying to find Ben's murderer and as a woman she has very little clout and almost no protection. There are no obvious villains just normal people who are prepared to do unspeakable things serving their countries, and I find that much more chilling.
Overall, a fantastic listen, a likable heroine, a tearjerker of a love story and a book full of memorable, engaging characters. Recommended!
"WWI mystery with a twist"
Ginger Stuyvesant is a young American heiress, who moves to London to be with her aunt, and meets a British army officer. She and Captain Benjamin Harford become engaged, just in time for World War One.
Ginger and her aunt are both mediums, and in this very slightly alternate world, the British army recognizes a potential advantage. Ginger and her aunt become part of the "London branch," a corps of mediums and their supporting circles. British soldiers are conditioned, by a secret method, to report in to the mediums when they are killed in action. They can't pass beyond the veil until they've made their last report. This gives the British an often critical advantage.
The Germans don't have s similar corps because they still burn witches. They've realized something is going on, though, and are now trying to find the "conditioning" method, so they can have their own similar corps of, as they imagine it, ghost spies.
The "London branch" of mediums is in Le Havre. This is another vital piece of information the Germans don't have. They're not all that far from the front their dead soldiers are reporting in from.
When first an officer who was too persistent with Ginger, and then Captain Harford himself, are killed in circumstances Ginger knows are murder--because both men reported in to her--she's got a problem. General Davies doesn't believe the first officer's death was murder--he was drowned--and he's not going to assign her to investigate Ben's death.
But with Ben's ghost sticking around, telling her he'd discovered a traitor in their midst, but can't remember critical information, she has little choice. Gen. Davies won't believe her, but there's a traitor to be caught.
It's World War One. Some of their best mediums are West Indian. Some of their best soldiers are Indian. And both are undervalued by the British. Ginger, uncomfortably aware that she shared those attitudes not long ago, has had her viewpoint changed by working with those West Indian mediums. With her own circle, her aunt (also a medium), Ben's ghost, and Ben's batman, she sets out to find the traitor.
It's a nicely done wartime mystery, with their biggest but far from only problem being that they have no idea who they should trust and who they shouldn't. Ginger is smart, capable, and tough, but, medium or not, not superhuman. Ben's problems with remaining coherent become greater and greater as he stays on this side longer and longer, but he can't leave until he has "finished his business."
A very engaging tale. Recommended.
I received a free copy of this audiobook from Audible, in exchange for an honest review.
"A touching love story in the mist of war"
This is one of the most enjoyable and unique stories that I have read reads for 2016. The author blended the love and devotion of two people, magic, the horrors of war and the betrayer of friendship and country to produce a compassionate story in the midst of war. The action is a WWI fight between Germany and Britain. The theme is traitors.
Ginger is an intelligent American heiress. She has fiery red hair all the feistiness of an independent woman of the times. The magic is the ability of a dying soldier to report back to headquarters any valuable information he may have upon his death. There is a secret group of individuals; most are women, who are mediums and take information from a soldier before his spirit moves on to its’ afterlife. The branch of the army were the mediums work is called the Spirit Corps.
Captain Benjamin Hartshorne, is an intelligence officer, and Ginger’s fiancé. This story is as much about their relationship as the war. Through their conversations, we experience the deepness of their affections. Their conversations are occurring after Ben has been murdered, which gives a bitterness to their love.
The story is about finding the man who murdered Ben, finding the traitor, and prohibit the from going through their attack. Many the conflicts are from the ignorance, racism, and sexism of the times. The men had a tendency to dismiss the women. They are condescending as if you will not get four when adding two plus two. With our firey Grace, she will savagely beat a man with the butt of a gun while giving them the answer.
Nothing stops Grace from the mission, and a lot is thrown in her path to stop her. It is from the efforts of the women that the corps is successful.
This was a tear jerker for me. There is nothing like the bonding of women.
I was impressed with the author that I have download Shades of Milk and Honey. It is a Jane Eyer with a little magic.
"Perfectly-tuned listen of spy intrigue and loss"
Wow, another read for Writing Excuses proves to be most impressive. A fun spy story and a tear-jerker of a ghost story. The characters had substance and feels, the plot plenty of action and intrigue. The twists and turns of the investigation served the emotional hardships of the drama throughout the narrative, though the readers are also provided with moments of laughter and pleasure to breathe between the breathless moments of suspense and loss. Recommended read for any time of the year though especially suited for October - I foresee another read of this fine novel next Halloween. Also, the narration by the author herself is among the best readers I've had the pleasure to hear. Every voice was distinct and realistic to their identity. What skills!
Of the audiobooks I've listened to thus far, Ghost talkers is among by five. Well paced, with an wonderfully brilliant concept, it had me sucked in from the beginning. I've been searching and staring at the kindle ebook for two weeks until I finally couldn't wait any longer and grabbed the audiobook. I wasn't disappointed. Very quick, had it finished in a few days of downloading and kept finding reasons to listen to just a bit more.
Ginger and Ben were by far my two favourites. Helen was fantastic, and all of the characters were engaging and interesting.
Overall it was a wonderful performance with great clarity and wonderfully evocative of the setting and carried the emotions very well.
I laughed in spots, cried in several -- which would require spoilers, but be prepared for potential tears in place people -- and was very stirringly angry in others. Make no mistake this novel is set in 1916 in the height of the War and our Ginger is woman in a male dominated field, in a male dominated time, there is casual sexism, overt sexism, internalized sexism and more. The novel discusses the issues very well and Ginger is no slouch in how she reacts to such ridiculously awful behaviour from the people around her. She's not completely free of her own internalized sexism, which would be very true of the time period. And I cheerfully could have punched several characters in the face when they made such antiquated comments about hysteria -- perfectly in keeping with the time, just anger inducing because it somehow still happens now.
The novel also mentions or at least doesn't gloss over the casual racism that was very present during that time, with Helen, not only being POC, but a woman and her experiences. The same is true for other characters you're introduced to, such a Patel. The novel doesn't excuse the casual prejudice that even Ginger is forced at times to recognize within herself. I don't think this novel would have been able to go deeper into those topics, given it's focus, but it didn't skirt those issues, nor did it minimize them for the sake of the narrative, for which I'm very glad.
Writing Excuses has increased my TBR list so much I'm in a bit of spin trying to figure out where I should start first. All of the wonderful options available, I was left a bit lot. This was the novel I decided to pick up first and dive into. I'm happy I picked this book up as my first read. I've recommended it to several people as something they might enjoy.
This book is so good I've listen d to it 3 times! Storytelling perfected, and wonderful narration.
"Fun story. Definitely worth a listen."
This is a fun story. Definitely worth a read or listen. If you like WWII 'codebreaker' stories but prefer a supernatural twist, this is the story for you!
"Good Historical romance with supernatural element"
This is a historical fiction romance tale with a interesting supernatural element. While I don't typically read historical romance novels I found the premise and story entertaining.
Set during World War I, the British army have started a Spirit Corp, a group of mediums who have found a way for solders spirits to report in after dying on the battlefield to provide up to date military intelligence. Ginger, a medium discovers that the Germans, wishing to form their own Spirit Corp, have placed a spy in their midst.
The author has done a very good job blending an interesting supernatural idea into history. How the military would use such a spirit corp is well thought out, believable and she adds some interesting tactics. The setting is refreshing taking place during the first World War instead of the usual second. While I could guess where the premise was going, the eventual reveal did catch me by surprise.
The character and central romance is very well developed and described, this is the authors strong point While she handled social and racial ignorance of the time accurately, it sometimes felt a little too on the nose.
"Engaging and Inventive"
Such a nice read. It took only one day to listen to this one. The characters are well build and the setting very intriguing. The author is not only talented on the writing side but also very good as a narrator. Couldn't ask for more.
"A Marvelous Performance"
This is Ms. Kowal's best performance yet, both as author and storyteller. The characters were lushly detailed and I gladly followed them through their terrifying adventures. Ms. Kowal's voice performance added another rich layer to the story and made the whole ensemble all the more vivid. I certainly look forward to her next project.
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