Ghost Talkers is an ideal summer vacation read if you like historical and paranormal fiction. Set in Le Havre during World War I, it’s about a team of women who are helping the British troops by serving as mediums. Their role is to channel the dead, collecting the last messages and more importantly, the last observations of fallen soldiers. This tells the British where key battles are taking place and what kinds of weapons are being used, from soldiers who wouldn’t otherwise be able to tell them.
Ginger is an American civilian who is one of the organizers of the Corps. She’s engaged to a British officer and becomes involved in a mystery when she receives a final message about a mysterious death that points to a spy in their camps.
While I really appreciated the concept and set-up of the book, I found it dragged a bit in the middle. The plot felt repetitive, as did many of the conversations. Ginger and her fiancé seem to have similar conversations (mostly about her safety) multiple times, and Kowal’s descriptions of ghosts and the various forms of channeling spirits got to be too detailed for me after a while. I wanted more clues and details about the mystery. Instead Ginger and her colleagues seem to just go barreling into danger. Kowal takes us into the trenches of the Great War, and while she doesn’t go easy on us (the war is clearly a very dangerous and tragic place) I do think she could have given us a better feel for the reality of the setting.
As I’m writing this review, this occurs to me: if you want to read about ghosts and channeling spirits, you will love this book. If you’re more interested in the historical aspect of World War I, even if it’s alternate history, you may be less satisfied.
There are some very moving moments, and I should acknowledge that it may have dragged due to other stresses I had at the time I was reading it. But in general, my reaction to this book was similar to Kowal’s Glamourist novel Shades of Milk and Honey: an enjoyable read but not a must-keep-reading. That book had a bit too much description of the glamour process for my interest, and here it’s the same with the spirit-talking. So if you love Kowal’s other series, I think you’ll love this one as well. Kowal gives us a strong heroine, an interesting setting and a unique concept. It was just not so strong on plot as it could have been.
Note: I received an advance review copy of this book from NetGalley and publisher Macmillan-Tor/Forge. This book publishes on August 16, 2016.