Review: Ghost Talkers by Mary Robinette Kowal
Narrator: Mary Robinette Kowal
Also by this author: Shades of Milk and Honey
Published by Audible Studios, Tor Books on August 16th 2016
Genres: Alternative History, Fantasy
Length: 8 hours 14 minutes
Ginger Stuyvesant, an American heiress living in London during World War I, is engaged to Captain Benjamin Harford, 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 fiance 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…
Ghost Talkers is an alternate history set during WWI. The British has a group of mediums, called the Spirit Corps, that is used for intelligence gathering. Their job is basically to interview the recently deceased soldiers before they move on to whatever awaits them beyond this world. The purpose of these interviews is to get critical information that would normally be lost forever , intelligence and information that a soldier would normally take to their awaiting grave.
I immediately found the premise of interviewing recently deceased soldiers as part of a war strategy for intelligence gathering fascinating. I couldn’t help but theorize how this could be used, what kinds of information could suddenly become available and I found the possibilities very intriguing (and plentiful). Kowal did a great job with the fantastical element in this story. I loved the mediums and how they were used to gain advantage during war time. Their abilities also carried a risk to themselves if not done properly as safely. Interviews were done with groups that contain supporting members to keep the interviewing medium from losing themselves in the process.
Ginger is our main character, and as one would expect, is a member of the Spirit Corps. Ginger’s character was wonderful. She is strong and pushing boundaries. She is making a difference in the war effort how she can. And she could also be amusing with her insights and off-hand remarks.
She finds herself in the middle of a mystery of conspiracy, espionage and possibly treason as they begin to suspect a traitor in their midst. Oh, and a murder as well, a murder of one of their soldiers by another of their own. I have to confess, I tend to be a hard sell on mysteries. Oh, I love mysterious, but detective style mysteries? Sorry, but my personal reading preferences tend to put these books at a bit of a disadvantage. I found this book to be no exception, I found so much of this book intriguing, I love the magic, and I loved Ginger as a character, but the “solve the murder” mystery part of it not nearly as much. For me, it did not feel so much of a mystery as, wait for Ginger to finally figure it out. And that may very well have been the point, perhaps it was supposed to be about her journey to solving the mystery, but as a reader it was far from the most interesting aspect of the book for me. This is not a strong negative, just more an observation that I did not engage with that part of the plot nearly as much as I would have preferred.
Audiobook Notes: The book was narrated by the author herself, which I always love, especially when then author has a talent for narration as well as for writing. Kowal definitely falls into this group. And since the narration was done by the author, you know you getting all of the correct tones and inflections as the author intended. It’s hard to argue with that.
Overall, I found Ghost Talkers to be an enjoyable read with a very interesting premise for the magic and war. This was the first book I’ve read by Kowal, and I will certainly read more in the future.