Book review: Ghost Talkers, by Mary Robinette Kowal

I’m a fan of Mary Robinette Kowal. Her books are fun, too. Her latest is “Ghost Talkers”, an alternate history set in France during World War One. Ginger Stuyvesant is an American medium helping the British Army by gathering intelligence from the dead. British soldiers have been conditioned to “report in” when they die in order to provide information that might prove beneficial.

The British have gone to great lengths to keep this unique program under wraps, but it now appears the Germans have discovered what they’re doing, and Ginger and all the other mediums may be in serious danger. Then her fiancé is murdered while investigating a possible traitor, and Ginger finds herself in a desperate race to find the traitor before more people she cares about are killed.

Kowal loves history and research. You see this in her “Glamourist Histories” series. You see it in many of her short stories. She also loves creating strong yet realistic female protagonists. “Ghost Talkers” fulfills all expectations in both areas. We also get to experience the horror of World War One, from relative safety behind the lines to the cold, muddy, brutal front. We get to see brave men and women doing their inconceivable duty. There are no superheroes here–just normal people doing extraordinary things because that’s what they have to do.

Kowal writes speculative fiction, but I got the distinct feeling she could have dropped the spiritualistic aspects and given us an equally compelling historical fiction had she chosen. And I’ve have read it just as gladly. The spiritualistic aspect provides the backbone of the story, but her characters, her settings, and her attention to detail make the story worth reading.

I do wish I could have read the ending in a single go instead of sneaking a few minutes here and there as it ended up. I’m uncertain if it was her ending being a little loose or my reading of it being too disjointed from continually dropping and picking up the threads again. The important elements were resolved admirably, but a few things seemed a little forced. It was well worth it, regardless. It was a fun escape.

I think there’s material here for at least another novel or two, but I suspect this is a one-off. Either way, I’ll more than likely be in line to pick up whatever she writes next. She’s a fun read.

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