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Living With Ghosts

3.39 of 5 stars 3.39  ·  rating details  ·  188 ratings  ·  48 reviews
Read Kari Sperring's posts on the Penguin Blog.

The dazzling debut from a brilliant new fantasy talent.

This highly original, darkly atmospheric fantasy novel immerses readers in a world where ghosts and other malevolent spirits seek entry into mortal realms— invisible to all but those who are not entirely human themselves. Drawn into the ancient city of Merafi, yet barred
Mass Market Paperback, 484 pages
Published March 3rd 2009 by DAW
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 712)
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Sherwood Smith
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. Imagine a book that employs the term bourgeois, without the connotations of Marxism. With one word an entire cultural milieu is set up. Another surprise: cremornes, or as I am used to spelling it, krummhorn.

Marafi is not Paris, nor does Sperring lift French ancien regime culture and plop it into a fantasy world. But her years of reading French history shows in the interactions, the wit and style. I can so see the duc du Grammont, for example, looking around and fe
Bumping this up a half star to 4.5--I rated it 4 when I finished it, but the more I thought about it, the more I liked it.

Living with Ghosts begins when a nobleman, Thiercelin, seeks out a male courtesan, Gracielis, to help him with a problem — he’s been seeing the ghost of his dead best friend Valdarrien. Gracielis has the ability to see ghosts. His uncanny abilities go beyond that, as it happens; he once trained for a shadowy priesthood known as the undarii. But he shied away from the final in
Thiercelin begins seeing his best friend Valdarrien again, six years after he was killed in a duel. Thiercelin is a sensible man, and like all sensible men of his time does not believe in ghosts. Nevertheless, the apparition seems so real that he is forced to take it seriously. He seeks counsel from Gracielis, a man who was once his wife's lover but is now a courtesan and double (triple? quadruple?) agent. Gracielis is Tarnaroqui, a people rumored to have traces of fey blood, and unlike Thiercel ...more
Mike Shevdon
I had the pleasure of hearing Kari Sperring read from the sequel to this book at FantasyCon a couple of years back and have come to know Kari since then. When it was announced that she had won the Sydney J. Bounds Award for Best Newcomer at the British Fantasy Awards in 2010 for this novel, she was reportedly surprised by the award, but it was well-deserved.

This doesn't feel like a debut novel. The writing is rich and gently lyrical. The setting and the sense of place is palpable - at times you
colleen the contrarian  ± (... never stop fighting) ±
I don't really know what to say about this book - I can't capture the essence of my feelings regarding it because I'm not really sure what they are. I guess that's fitting, since it was hard to pin down the feel of the book in general...

I liked most of the characters, though I liked Valdin much better as an idea as he was described than as a materialized character, because he wasn't anywhere near as charmingly rakish as one might've hoped. I liked Gracielis a lot, and Maude was cool. Amalie was
Katharine Kerr
I love rich, detailed worlds and complex characters. I am not a "fun fast read" person. Keep that in mind when I say I loved this book. Sperring has created a city -- Merafi -- along with its politics and its inhabitants, that seems so real I kept thinking I was reading a historical novel. Except of course for the ghosts and the well-realized magicks that haunt Merafi's present and its past.

Gracielis, the main viewpoint character, is a male courtesan who takes both men and women as clients -- a
This was basically everything I look for in a book: dense, atmosphere writing; a broad cast of flawed characters occasionally at cross-purposes but all meaning well; a plot that flings you into a set of established relationships and settings without a roadmap and lets you work out answers for yourself. And yet it didn't, quite, work for me. I think part of the problem was that the city never really came alive for me as a place; what started out as mysterious hints about its culture and history a ...more
Joshua Palmatier
I finished this late last night. This is the debut novel of Kari Sperring and so I picked it up because of that. I try to help support new authors as much as possible by buying their books and trying them out. And with this one, I was not disappointed.

The atmosphere is the best part of this book, combined with the characters. The entire novel is set in the city of Merafi which has been free of ghosts and other magical aspects for generations due to a pact made in blood ages past and also by the
Heidi Cullinan
This books strengths lie in a love of description, politics, and court intrigue, and in the character Gracelis. It was worth reading (and I kept reading only) for him, and his arc did pay off. Gracelis is a whore owned by a sorceress, taking clients in both women and men for his living while he also plays spy for his mistress. But when he realizes her plans threaten the city he has come to call home, he makes a break from her, and this is the story I enjoyed reading.

But this story was not the ma
This is a gorgeous multi-layered work with a cast of characters which includes the city of Merafi - as much a part of this as are Gracielis, failed Tarnaroqui assassin-priest now courtesan and spy; Thiercelin, husband of one of the Queen's closest advisors and feeling like a spare part most of the time; Joyain, loyal soldier, out of his depth, just trying to keep it all together; Valdarrien, slain in a duel, but not yet gone.

And then there's Merafi, a city of many contrasts, prosperous and rich
Rachel Thompson
Merafi is a city once immune to the presence of ghosts and those with gifts to see them, but now dark magic is being unraveled, allowing in those which have passed on. Gracielis, a failed assassin priest, now a courtesan and spy denies his strange abilities, but he can't ignore the ghost that shadows him, nor the sorceress who rules him. Thiercelin longs for his wife's love, but most of her time is spent overseeing the governing of Merafi while the queen is slowly dying. This leads Thiercelin to ...more
At first I thought it was boring, then I got into it, then I was disappointed. A lot of stuff never paid off in the plot. Like the descended from shapeshifters thing, that didn't lead anywhere. And Urien, did he ever actually do anything?

Over-complicated exposition, not enough action, too much repetitive description. Not to mention the TERRIBLE FANTASY NAMES ugh I spent 200 pages contemplating how to say 'Thiercelin.' I tried to make up my own nicknames for characters but I just couldn't get my
Diana Francis
This is just really good. It's a mix of urban fantasy and epic and court intrigue. It's not got tons of big action, but I really liked it. A lot.

I want to add a little bit to this. This is a story that really keeps poking at me and making me think about it. First of all, it's a stand alone novel. I'm rather wishing there was more to come in it. It leaves some questions unanswered and there are a lot of possibilities for more.

Another thing I liked was that characters died. I think that matters
I wanted to like this book. I really did. The problem I had was dealing with the names of the characters. When I tried to care about these people, their names were so difficult to pronounce that I found myself giving them nicknames so it took away from the experience. A name should roll off the tongue, not tie it up. Another problem I had was the shortening of names multiple times within a paragraph. Stick with using one form throughout so I'm not asking myself "Who's that?"

Overall, it wasn't a
Kari Sperring’s Living With Ghosts depicts a rich, fascinating world peopled with flawed, equally fascinating people. Ms. Sperring is a master at depicting not-entirely-likable people who, nonetheless, are compelling and worth investing in. Any frustrations I had with the characters’ actions added to the story rather than detracting. The world-building is lovely, sketched out in the details of the characters and their actions with no need for unsightly info-dumps. I found the whole thing rivetin ...more
Mar 10, 2014 D rated it 3 of 5 stars
Shelves: fantasy, lgbtq
I'm very conflicted about my feelings for this book. On the one hand, it has a lovely cover, a lovely title, and the first thing you see from the summary is, 'Failed assassin-priest turned courtesan Gracielis'. And I think that's awesome.

On the other hand, there are really some jarring moments in the narrative. I don't know what's going on. Sometimes you get this really lyrical passage and you think, 'Hm, that's actually quite good' and sometimes you just go, 'I have no idea why your editor let
This rich and magical book will draw you in and carry you along to the inexorable ending. At every turn, there were choices that were impossible, twists that just could not happen, and yet they did, and every piece of the book meshed perfectly with the piece before it.

It is a masterful bit of writing, and fans of fantasy everywhere should grab it and read it now!
I bought this book on a whim because I liked the title and cover art. It ended up being a great read. There were lots of twists and turns, and it didn't end the way I'd expected it to. The main characters are well-rounded and believable, and the plot was nicely paced. I'll have to check out some other offerings by this author.
Deborah Ross
Superior fantasy that drew me right in. Lyrical, flowing the prose. In some ways, the world-building reminds me of Sherwood Smith's INDA series with a bit of Chaz Brenchley thrown in. The ending could have been sentimental but was courageous instead. Definitely an author to watch. Highly recommended.
Cat Hellisen

As I imagine this story, sometime before 2009, writer Kari Sperring was sitting at her desk thinking, how can I make the world a better place and bring joy to these heathen readers of fantasy who like stuff that is not epic and grimdark and endless quest sagas...?

Then, CLEARLY, she thought of me, and sat down to write - in a feverish outpouring of awesome - a book just for Dear Reader Cat, except, unfortunately f
First Time author This book was very interesting. In this world the people no longer believe in magic and other superstitions, as they live in a land where they were protected by such things by an ancient ritual that kept these forces out. But a plot from a young Prince determined to no longer serve other and an ambitious young priestess from a foreign land that has long coveted their neighbor's resources hatch a plot to bring down the city and it's inhabitants...and share the spoils between the ...more
Oct 25, 2012 Mely rated it 3 of 5 stars
Shelves: sff
Delicious fantasy city, somewhat reminiscent of the Paris of The Three Musketeers, and complex characterization that offers gender-swapped takes on romance cliches. (I particularly enjoy the stern, repressed, dutiful chancellor who is afraid to show her true feelings for her handsome, feckless young groom, because she thinks he married her only for security. He is, of course, desperately pining for her, but thinks she mostly considers him the playmate of her dead younger brother.) Sadly, however ...more
Drawn into the ancient city of Merafi, yet barred from entering by an ancient pact sealed in blood, these hungry haunts await their opportunity to break through the magical border and wreak havoc on the city’s innocent denizens.

And as a priestess and prince weave a sorcerous plot to shatter the pact and bring ruin on Merafi, only a failed assassin-priest who is now a courtesan, a noble lord married into the ruling family of Merafi, an officer of the city guard, a woman warrior who was the forme
Not a terrible book, but certainly a problematic one. Some issues: lots of plot lines that don't pan out, way too much exposition, the ending is telegraphed for quite some time beforehand, and several male protags seemed to have escaped from yaoi (if I read one more line about lovely eyes and being soaked in perfume, I was likely to hurl both lunch and the book). For the record, if you're an author trying to connect with m/m readers, putting the heterosexual sex scenes in the book, then closing ...more
Mar 11, 2010 Joy rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommended to Joy by: skg046
Shelves: 21c, british, fantasy
Reminds me vaguely of The Element of Fire by Wells, and the Melusine books by Monette--the shared elements are magic-haunted cities, decaying aristocracies, political undercurrents. Sadly Living with Ghosts isn't up to the standard of either of those works: Sperring doesn't have Wells' swashbuckling flair or Monette's fantastic narrative voices. I liked the worldbuilding, but the prose was unsatisfying: all the details in the description, while layered on and on, felt slightly by rote.

This was
At first the book was dull. It was hard to get into but if you stayed with it it became interesting. Gracilis was a very mysitc charachter but I like him. Thiercelin seemed to freak out at everything and he got annoying quite quickly. Putting those two together made quite an adventure for a book. Though at times it was dull and confusing I do not feel as though this book was a waste of time. The mysitical beings kept my attention through the book sence I do like stories that contain these elemen ...more
Great premise, but way too much explanation and dialogue written in overly florid prose. Something would be described in lots of words, and then it would just happen in a few words and you wouldn't realize something had happened until several lines later.
Enjoyed this book a lot, though perhaps not as much as the Grass King's Concubine. For one thing, there's a lot of sex (considering it's the profession of one of the main characters) although not X-rated. Sperring draws her characters and her city really well--the magic-user who's been hiding out as a gigolo, the husband who tries to help solve the city's problems while sparing his far too busy (and far to competent) wife, the soldier who does his duty even when it takes him into the plague-ridd ...more
I read this book second, though it is Sperring's first, and it knocked my socks off. It has some wonderful characters, of whom I grew very fond, and was hugely dismayed when some of them didn't make it (no spoilers). The bad guys were well drawn too and really horrible!

The eerie atmosphere builds steadily, and things become very dark, so one cannot imagine how the situation will be happily resolved.

I am very much looking forward to reading more by this author. I think I will be re-reading this b
I read it mostly because of the cover - I'm shallow, okay? And the back copy was interesting.
Unfortunately, I spent most of the book waiting for it to get interesting. The world-building seemed insufficient for the extensive world that the author built, too, but Anne Bishop gets away with that so I have to give Sperring a pass.
I'd probably read a second story set in this world, since I enjoyed the mythology and some of the characters.
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Dr Kari Maund lectures and writes on the medieval history of the Celtic countries. As Kari Sperring, she also writes fiction.
More about Kari Sperring...
The Grass King's Concubine After Hours: Tales from Ur-Bar The Feathered Edge The Alchemy Press Book of Ancient Wonders Stars of Darkover

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