Ghost Talkers by Mary Robinette Kowal. ★★★
Ghost Talkers is a historical fantasy novel that speculates that during World War I, the British army uses mediums to gather intelligence from dead soldiers. Ginger Stuyvesant and her fellow mediums work tirelessly on behalf of the British army, channeling the dead soldiers and living through memory after memory of death. The Spiritualist force is kept a closely guarded secret, but word has it that the Germans have found out and are preparing to target the mediums, with the help of a traitor among the top brass.
I liked the idea behind Ghost Talkers, but nothing else in the book really jumped out at me. Something about it just felt a little too paint by numbers. I had a fairly easy time guessing who the traitor was (hint, the culprit is always the one you’ll least suspect), so the big twist wasn’t much of a surprise for me.
I also never felt much of an emotional attachment to any of the characters. Helen might have been interesting, but we didn’t get to see much of her. Everyone else felt like character types I’d seen before. Ginger was the smart and clearheaded heroine, who was going to get the job done despite the sexism of the era. Trouble is, I’ve seen that sort of character before and in more interesting iterations.
The romantic arc was something unusual and didn’t follow the normal patterns set forth in these sort of stories. For one sort of thing, Ginger’s already engaged to him at the beginning of the book, instead of meeting him part way through and falling in love on page. However, I don’t think this arc was explored as thoroughly as it could have been, and it had a potential for emotional resonance that it didn’t live up to. Then again, it’s hard to care much about a romantic arc when you don’t care about the characters.
Ghost Talkers wasn’t horrible, but my feelings towards it remain tepid. Hopefully anyone else reading it has better luck than I did.
I received an ARC of Ghost Talkers from the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.