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Ghost Talkers

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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…

304 pages, Hardcover

First published August 16, 2016

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About the author

Mary Robinette Kowal

238 books4,887 followers
Mary Robinette Kowal is the author of the Lady Astronaut Universe and historical fantasy novels: The Glamourist Histories series and Ghost Talkers. She’s a member of the award-winning podcast Writing Excuses and has received the Astounding Award for Best New Writer, four Hugo awards, the RT Reviews award for Best Fantasy Novel, the Nebula, and Locus awards. Stories have appeared in Strange Horizons, Asimov’s, several Year’s Best anthologies and her collections Word Puppets and Scenting the Dark and Other Stories.

Her novel Calculating Stars is one of only eighteen novels to win the Hugo, Nebula and Locus awards in a single year.

As a professional puppeteer and voice actor (SAG/AFTRA), Mary Robinette has performed for LazyTown (CBS), the Center for Puppetry Arts, Jim Henson Pictures, and founded Other Hand Productions. Her designs have garnered two UNIMA-USA Citations of Excellence, the highest award an American puppeteer can achieve. She records fiction for authors such as Seanan McGuire, Cory Doctorow and John Scalzi.

Mary Robinette lives in Nashville with her husband Rob and over a dozen manual typewriters.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 882 reviews
Profile Image for Brandon Sanderson.
Author 389 books211k followers
August 30, 2016
(Note: For an explanation of my Goodreads Policy, please see here.)

This engaging, standalone novel is part historical fiction, part supernatural thriller. It’s mostly a spy story told through the eyes of a spiritualist in an alternate-history World War I setting where ghosts are real. Ginger is part of the “Spirit Corps,” a group of women who takes reports from the ghosts of dead soldiers, who check in once they have died on the front lines.

It’s exactly the sort of premise that I love. A “real world” application of a magical concept. If ghosts were real, it seems obvious that the military would find a way to make use of them—and this book walks that line very well. The ghosts aren’t superspies; instead, common men are given a special training that will compel their ghosts to travel to a special place, to give what information they can on their situation when they die.

As I said, it’s mostly a spy story, told though the unlikely eyes of a woman with no training in espionage—but who uncovers a plot involving British officers. She has to use her wits, her connection to the spirit world, and the temporary ghosts of the dead as her tools to uncover the plot. Anything more, I’m afraid, is a spoiler.

The book is powerful, laden with emotion, and smartly written. At places, it’s a punch to the gut. But in a good way.

I thoroughly enjoyed the book, and think that most readers would find it a quick—if heart-wrenching—read. If for some reason you haven’t discovered Mary’s writing yet, this is an excellent place to start and is a showpiece for her considerable talent.

For Writers
Mary is excellent with prose, better than almost any writer I review. She is marvelous with the little turns of phrase and subtle use of language that create evocative writing. She doesn’t lay it on thick, though. I’d suggest that a writer could learn a lot watching how she uses description or emotion in just the right place to be poignant, without being purple. (Her descriptions of ghosts are a great place to watch for this, as are her uses of viewpoint description to introduce a scene.) What I like about it is that it’s still very functional prose—this isn’t a book that will scream LITERARY FICTION at you. But it is beautiful in its subtle details.

Another thing to watch is Mary’s small reversals of scene, which create tension in the reader by upending their expectations. She does this on the microcosm. In one scene you’ll dislike a character, and in another you’ll realize you were being unfair. In one scene you’ll think you know what is coming, and get lulled into complacency—and then by the end of the scene you’ll realize you’ve had those expectations subverted.

Again, what is interesting about Mary’s use of these little reversals is that they’re not ostentatious. These aren’t enormous plot twists at every turn; instead, these are the little engagements that keep you interested in reading, page by page. I suggest watching how she subtly plays with these expectations, then practicing these techniques in your own writing.

The Short Version
A powerful, fast historical war fantasy about women who can comfort, interrogate, and even (at times) command the ghosts of dead soldiers.

Rating Notes
I noticed no content in this book requiring specific warning, though it does deal a lot with death. (As one might expect from the subject matter.)

Bias Notes
I’m incredibly biased toward Mary’s work. She’s a good friend, and has been a cohost with me on Writing Excuses for many years.
Profile Image for Patrick.
Author 65 books233k followers
February 6, 2017
First, full disclosure. I'm not really impartial when it comes to Mary's work. Not only am I a bit of a fan of hers, but she's also one of my favorite people.

That said, while I admire so much of what Mary does, she doesn't write in the genres that I read regularly. She does brilliant short story work (Won a Hugo and everything) and tends to write historical fantasy set outside the time periods I tend to cleave to. (Specifically, if it happened after 1750 I don't tend to give much of a shit.)

But despite the fact that what she writes isn't really in my sweet-spot, I really enjoy her books and admire her craft. And this book is no exception.

The concept for the book is simple. Imagine if the spiritualism movement were grounded in reality. Imagine there really were ghosts and mediums.

There. Got it?

Now imagine it's the early 1900's and World War I is happening. And you have people who can talk to ghosts.

It's my favorite sort of thing. A cool concept used for the setting of a story that centers around real people and their conflicts. In many ways it's more of a mystery than a war story....

So... yeah. I really liked it. If you're into well-written historical fantasy, this should be up your alley. And even if you're like me and it's not your cup of tea, the strength of the writing means you're still likely to enjoy it....
Profile Image for Philip.
513 reviews684 followers
January 16, 2018
4ish stars.

This is a solid book. If not mind-blowing or epic, it's written well, it's paced well, and the mystery is well-crafted. On the basis of those characteristics alone, it would be a good book. What sets it apart is a great main character and a unique premise.

It's a historical fantasy / murder mystery / paranormal ghost story / romance and it works to some degree in just about every one of those areas. It's a tough balance but MRK takes it on with aplomb. It has the classiness of a WWI love story, the tension of a suspense novel, and incorporates the fantasy elements without seeming cheesy or forced.

This is all without mentioning Ginger, the appropriately ginger heroine of the story. She has pluck, savvy, not to mention the supernatural ability to communicate with ghosts. She is entertaining, real, no-nonsense, and a good example of a well-written female character. I went in a little skeptical, and this book isn’t exactly a fantasy masterpiece, but I was surprised how much I ended up enjoying this.

Posted in Mr. Philip's Library
Profile Image for Montzalee Wittmann.
4,605 reviews2,309 followers
September 21, 2021
Ghost Talkers
by Mary Robinette Kowal

This book is one of the best books I've read this year! I loved everything about it! This is an alternate world where there is a war with Germans, English, and more. Women and blacks are not looked upon as big assets. But, they are making great progress in a new English spy system, Spirit Corps.

The soldiers are somehow trained to come to the Corp to check in if they die. When the dead spirit checks in, psychic women are there to take their report of where they died, what they saw, and any information that might be helpful to the troops. Then they can leave a message to family or friends they are leaving behind. Something they couldn't do if their spirit left from the battlefield.

The main characters include a psychic woman and an American man working for the British. They are engaged to be married. The way the writer brings all the characters to life is amazing but it's as if you can feel the love between these two people.

One of the spirits brings a message that the Germans are onto the Spirit Corps and plan to take them out. The suspense and suspicion that there may be a leak from someone from the camp. This is a big possibility and terrifying.

This book had my emotions everywhere! Terrified, happy, sad, devastated, full of love, and contentment.
Please, do yourself a favor, if you like fantasy with a touch of suspense and romance, read this book!
Profile Image for Mogsy.
2,073 reviews2,637 followers
August 24, 2016
3.5 of 5 stars at The BiblioSanctum https://bibliosanctum.com/2016/08/23/...

Ghost meets World War I in this really cool new paranormal alternate history novel by Mary Robinette Kowal. The book stars Ginger Stuyvesant, an American engaged to a British intelligence officer during a period of intense fighting in Europe. Our protagonist herself is a medium stationed in the French port city of Le Havre working for the Spirit Corps, a classified spiritualist project developed by Britain to gain an advantage over the Germans.

In the British army, each soldier goes through a top secret conditioning process to ensure that upon their deaths, their spirits will return to Le Havre so that the mediums there can take their report. It’s their final service to their country, passing on potential valuable intelligence like enemy troop movements and tactics. As a member of the Corps, Ginger’s job is to talk to the ghosts of these slain soldiers, collect their information, and pass it on through to the right people. If the Germans find out about what they’re doing here, the consequences can be devastating. However, Ginger’s fiancé Captain Benjamin Harford, being one of the key figures involved in the running of the Spirit Corps, is already suspicious that their secret may be out due to some recent strange activity. Ginger is soon made aware of a possible traitor in their midst, and while Ben is away at the front, the two of them exchange coded messages to share what they know. Together they work to uncover a spy and put a stop to the German’s attempts to target the Spirit Corps.

There’s also a major plot development that happens near the beginning of the book, and although the publisher description doesn’t mention it, it’s so obvious it’s coming that I’m not even sure it would constitute as a spoiler. Still, I’ll err on the side of caution and won’t reveal it, even if it will make writing the rest of this review more difficult. Without going into specific details, I think it is enough to say that this particular development will lead to some very poignant and emotional moments. Ginger felt very genuine to me, which of course is crucial to my enjoyment of a main character and her story.

I also enjoyed the ideas here. Often, when a book calls to me, there is a specific “hook” to the description that initially catches my attention. For Ghost Talkers, it was unquestionably the concept of a Spirits Corps of mediums working for the army. The idea that the military would find a strategic use for ghosts and isn’t really beyond the pale, and Kowal does a great job developing the ins-and-outs behind what Ginger and her fellow mediums do.

However, while world-building is fantastic on a micro-level, when it comes to relating it all back to the wider world out there and the history of the times, that’s where the seams of this novel start to show. When it comes to historical fantasy and alternate history fiction, atmosphere is always going to be more important than the details for me, and the main issue I had with the world-building here was that even though I knew I was reading a book set during WWI, the story never truly made me feel like I was there. I really liked how Kowal addresses many social issues at the time, such as the systemic sexism and racism, but while I applaud her intentions, in the process of tying her story together she also rushes through convenient resolutions which glosses over the harshness of the reality. It’s also not very clear how the Corps came to be, and the workings behind the huge network of people involved in maintaining its secrecy. For example, the story mentions a couple of famous figures like Harry Houdini or Arthur Conan Doyle who are actually accomplices for the British government, working on their behalf to cover up spiritualism and ghost-talking by actively debunking things like that in public. Without more context on the history of the Spirit Corps and how such a huge endeavor was pulled together though, all this comes across as mere name dropping and a slapdash way to try and connect readers to the historical era.

The story was also entirely too predictable, playing out like a conventional mystery—especially since it wasn’t subtle at all when it came to dropping false leads, so it was just a matter of the process of elimination to identify the traitor.

Still, the characters and their relationships shine, even if the plot and setting are weaker. And truly, I think the ultimate strength behind Ghost Talkers lies in its ideas about the Spirit Corps. Imagine having to interact with the departed souls of thousands of soldiers, many of whom died violently and unexpectedly. All ghosts and mediums know that they have a job to do, but reading about Ginger’s attempts to provide comfort and assurances to the spirits before they dissipate into the great unknown was both tragic and touching.

So if the book’s description catches your interest, I think that’s reason enough to check this one out. I wish the story had been expanded a little to create a more immersive atmosphere or to include some context and background information about the Corps, but perhaps that can be addressed with future books. This was a fast, enjoyable novel, and I’m glad I read it.
Profile Image for Rachel (Kalanadi).
734 reviews1,434 followers
August 17, 2017
This review was originally published on my website, Koenix. I received this book as an ARC for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Video review: https://youtu.be/ecUnBWnyr94

An American heiress named Ginger is living in London during World War I. She’s engaged to a British intelligence officer named Ben. And she’s a medium for the Spirit Corps based in Le Havre.

Soldiers are conditioned to report in to the mediums of the Spirit Corps when they die. The mediums then pass on any information from the front onto the military intelligence. Mediums like Ginger contribute a lot to the war effort, but only as long as they pass information through what the publisher’s description calls “appropriate channels”. Which basically means, they’re civilian women and if the male military officers don’t believe them, then they’re out of luck.

While her fiance is away, Ginger discovers a traitor or German spy in their midst. Without Ben there to validate her information, the officers think she's just imagining this. And then it becomes clear that the Spirit Corps is being targeted by the Germans, who want to know where they are physically located.

On her own, Ginger has to discover the traitor and save the Spirit Corps.

A major event at the beginning of Ghost Talkers is not mentioned in the publisher's description. In order to avoid spoiler territory, I will dance around what that is, but an astute reader may be able to put two and two together from the book's blurb and what I say here. My massive appreciation for Ghost Talkers is all based on the emotional feels from the fallout of this event. Because I knew how it would end.

Usually I would say that having a predictable ending makes a book boring. However, here it works so well because Mary Robinette Kowal effectively uses the whole middle of the book to make you care about the characters. You see what Ginger is going to lose by the end. In fact you spend the entire book knowing she's already lost it. But she keeps going.

Ginger's future is ripped away - the war took it away. Finding the spy in their midst is deeply personal to her; it's not just a duty to be performed for the war effort. There's a great plot to uncover a spy and save the Spirit Corps, but the people are what matters.

This made made very emotional - and all due to the magnificent warmth and believability of Kowal's characters, like Ginger and Ben. Their love warmed my heart; their pain wrenched it. The expectation of the final scene had me alternately lingering between chapters and blazing through sections. And I wish I could say more about why!

I love Kowal for writing romantic stories about couples that you can feel in your bones adore each other. They're rock-solid people. Jane and Vincent's marriage was the heart and soul and (dare I say?) binding threads of the Glamourist Histories series. In Ghost Talkers, it's Ginger and Ben's love and respect for each other. And let's not forget the kindness, generosity, and strength of supporting characters like Mrs. Richardson!

This is a beautiful story about spirits.... and I don't just mean the souls reporting in after death, but also the kinds of spirits people need in order to survive and strive on, like courage and love.

I heartily recommend this book. Long-time Kowal lovers are going to get what they expect, and for new readers, this is an excellent standalone story that demonstrates Kowal's talent for creating lovable characters and effective stories. I hope you enjoy it!
Profile Image for Sherwood Smith.
Author 150 books37.5k followers
July 25, 2016
I ended up glued to the pages of this alternate Earth tale set during World War I, when the ghosts of British soldiers walked.

Ginger Stuyvesant, an American heiress living in London during World War I, is engaged to Captain Benjamin Hartshorne, an intelligence officer. Ginger is a medium for the Spirit Corps, a special Spiritualist force, and Ben knows about them, though he is not told details of how the Spirit Corps gets the dead soldiers to report in directly after their deaths, lest he be captured and the information prised out of him.

In turn, Ginger cannot be told what intelligence has planned, but they both discover that there is a traitor leaking vital information, possibly more than one.

Kowal deftly sketches in how the spiritualism secret is kept in spite of so many people, but doesn’t bog the story down with a lot of history that might or might not be convincing—and would surely deaden the pace. Quite the opposite. Using certain familiar names, who really did “deal” with the whole spiritualism fad in the early twentieth century, Kowal introduces a twist that makes everything convincing.

And meantime, the freshly killed soldiers keep flooding in, ramping up the tension, and the need to locate the leak . . .

WW I is such a horrible era, it’s a tough challenge to write fiction about that isn’t overwhelmingly grim, especially introducing a fantastical element. Kowal doesn’t flinch from the grimness, without dwelling on it to an unreadable degree. Interesting characters keep things lively, and there are Ginger and Ben, who even when things become pretty dire, are a wonderful couple, loving each other even when they passionately disagree.

Women and people of color have to deal with the very real prejudices of the time, and class issues are sketched in, showing how difficult it could be for people who were all supposed to be on the same side.

This is a bittersweet, vivid tale that accelerates to a breakneck pace that I found impossible to put down.

I received an uncorrected ARC, so I’m sure the various spelling and grammar errors will be fixed (including those in the German bits), but I suspect the sprinkling of UK spellings and American speech patterns—some of them contemporary—will probably remain. For the most part, everyone besides American Ginger sounds a bit more American than British, but that only poked me out of the story in the initial chapters. By the third chapter I was so immersed in the story that it seemed I’d slipped into a parallel timeline in which UK and USAn English hadn’t divided so sharply somewhere along the line.

I really hope this is going to be a series. I’d read the second in a heartbeat.

Copy received from NetGalley
Profile Image for wishforagiraffe.
222 reviews49 followers
February 10, 2017
This book swept me up in it, and didn't let go until it was over. It's rare for me to read something without putting it down at this point in my life, but the combination of short word count and breakneck pacing kept my eyes glued to the pages. Ginger is a wonderful protagonist, who is smart, and kind, and has the fiery temper you might expect from a woman called "Ginger," but she's definitely more than that stereotype as well. Her interactions with Helen, the other medium in her circle, who's a black woman from the Caribbean also doing her part for the war effort, set her apart from others in the story, notably authority figures, going a long way toward "showing" rather than "telling" the reader about her kind nature. Ginger's interactions with those authority figures are another of the great characterization points in the story, particularly from the beginning of the book to the end.

The first big twist in this story was completely unexpected, and changed my expectations for the book, but in a really good way. I like when the stakes get raised, even if I don't particularly like how the stakes get raised. I saw the other twist coming a bit before the reveal, but, just like Ginger, I wanted rather badly for it not to be true, so I was hoping something else might be the case instead.

If you're looking for a wonderful mix of history + fantasy + mystery + romance, Ghost Talkers is really perfect. I loved it, and I hope there are more books in this setting to come!

My review copy was provided via NetGalley.
Profile Image for Beth Cato.
Author 113 books563 followers
August 10, 2016
I received this book through NetGalley. It will be released on August 16th, 2016.

This was one of my most-anticipated books this year, and it lived up to my expectations. Ghost Talkers is historical fiction and fantasy at its finest, weaving the use of mediums and ghosts into World War I's brutal trench warfare. Ginger is a strong, savvy heroine, a woman who refused to be confined by social standards of her time. She plays a pivotal role in the war effort by living through the last moments of countless soldiers each day to extract information on German positions, and when called to save the living from espionage, she is no less daring. Her relationship with Captain Ben is one of the most beautiful, heartfelt romances I have read this year. I won't lie: this book made me emotional at times between the depth of love that is displayed, and the rawness of war, and the frustrating racism and sexism of the period.
Profile Image for Julia.
2,515 reviews66 followers
August 11, 2017
(6/11/17) A gorgeous, bittersweet reimagining of The Great War, full of bravery and heartbreak. Danger comes from all sides, both legitimate opposition and wasteful stupidity. Against prejudice and treason, under the weight of her own grief and at risk of her life, Ginger unravels the intrigue and betrayal that brought her fiancé home as a ghost.

As a fan of old war movies, it was impossible to read GHOST TALKERS and not imagine the khaki and green of uniforms, the dirt and danger and blood of the trenches. This world has magic woven into the war, but loses none of the grit of reality in doing so. Ginger is delight to read, and my only regret in finishing this book was not knowing if I would ever get a chance to join her story again.

Full review to follow.

Sexual content: Attempted rape and sexual assault, kissing.

(8/11/17): Reading Simone St. James had me hankering for ghost stories and war stories, so I came back for a reread. I had forgotten the specifics of the end, broke my heart all over again.
Profile Image for Robyn.
827 reviews131 followers
January 15, 2018
What if mediums were real, and the British Army employed them to gather intelligence from dead soldiers? A simple but fascinating premise, and a keep-you-guessing murder mystery with strong characters.
Profile Image for Anna-Emilia.
224 reviews23 followers
December 28, 2016
How does a historical fantasy book with a fascinatingly interesting premise fail to deliver a satisfying reading experience? When it fails to make me actually care.

Case: It's not you, it's me.

- 2.5 stars -

Ghost talkers starts off in a very intriguing way. The story is set in London in World War I, where our main character Ginger works as medium for the Spirit Corps, a spiritualist force that gathers information from the ghosts of soldiers that have died in the war. When Ginger discovers the presence of a traitor she must go on a mission to try to prevent the uncovering of the Spirit Corps and save those she loves.

The first 50 pages were very interesting and I loved to learn about the spiritual system and the women who had important jobs as mediums. Even though I didn't care for Ginger as much as I would've wanted to I liked how she stood up for herself, gender roles, and racism. Unfortunately that's it for my positive thoughts on this novel.


I was plainly bored 75% of this book. And I'm sick of being bored, this isn't the first (and most likely not the last) boring novel I've read this year. The plot didn't particularly interest me and I didn't find it exciting in any way. My feelings towards most of the characters were very neutral. I found the ending satisfying but the only thought I had after the last page was thank goodness, I was able to get to the end.

So, in summary: I don't think Ghost Talkers is a bad book, but it definitely was not written for me. Many people have however enjoyed Kowal's novel and I would encourage you to check it out if you find the premise intriguing.

I recieved an eARC of this novel from NetGalley in exchange for a honest review.
Profile Image for Emma.
2,510 reviews855 followers
October 22, 2020
In terms of the writing and plot, this is probably a 4 star read, but in terms of pure enjoyment, it’s a full house!
Profile Image for Shelley.
5,220 reviews462 followers
August 15, 2016
*Source* Publisher
*Genre* Historical Fiction
*Rating* 4

*MY Thoughts*

Ghost Talkers, by author Mary Robinette Kowal, is a Historical Fiction novel with Paranormal aspects about a group known as Spirit Corps. The story takes place during The Great War (World War I) where British soldiers have been conditioned to report back what they've seen before they end up dead. The Spirit Corps is made up of seven individuals. 2 mediums who can see the dead and are at risk for losing themselves completely, 4 unsighted who help keep the medium from losing themselves, and 1 aide to ensure that reports are sent to proper avenues. One of these mediums is American Heiress Ginger Stuyvesant.

*Full Review @ Gizmos Reviews*

Expected publication: August 16th 2016 by Tor Books
Profile Image for Danya.
486 reviews21 followers
September 27, 2016
Ginger Stuyvesant faces many obstacles to her participation in the WWI Allied war effort, including her gender, her American heritage, and the top-secret nature of her contribution. As a member of the Spirit Corps, a cadre of spirit mediums, Ginger channels the spirits of fallen soldiers to share in their last moments to unearth information about the German’s plans. Although this work is a crucial component of the British war effort, it goes largely unrecognized and takes a terrible toll on the mediums that must live through the traumatic deaths of hundreds of soldiers.

As if that weren’t draining enough, Ginger must constantly deflect enquiries about the finer points of the mediums’ work and the Spirit Corp’s location because of the sensitive nature of their activities. Through it all though, Ginger is fairly lucky: she’s not at the front, she’s with her friends, and has occasion to see her fiancé Ben – a British intelligence officer – frequently. But all that changes when someone close to her is murdered and Ginger finds herself being haunted by their rapidly deteriorating and increasingly erratic spirit, hell-bent on identifying the person who killed them. Over the course of a few days, Ginger and the spirit (along with some other allies) travel to and from the front in search of answers…but they have their work cut out for them, because it’s not easy catching a single killer during war time.

Admittedly I figured out who the killer was pretty quickly, but given Ginger’s grief I can understand why she wasn’t able to see what was right in front of her face. While the mystery plot line drives the story forward, it’s hardly the most important or compelling aspect of GHOST TALKERS so I wasn’t too annoyed by the obviousness of it all.

GHOST TALKERS is best described as part paranormal fantasy, part WWI drama, and part police procedural. I love all of these components on their own, and I thought they worked really well when combined; it’s a winning formula! But Mary Robinette Kowal’s world building is anything but formulaic, with a very layered spirit world and magic system taking center stage. My favourite scenes by far were those in the tents serving as the Spirit Corp’s headquarters, where Ginger and her fellow mediums anchor themselves into circles of power to commune with departed soldiers. These soldiers’ accounts of their final moments were chilling, at times chock-full of crucial intelligence and revealing nothing of import at others. I thought this was particularly clever of Kowal, since it brought a level of authenticity to the magic system: most soldiers wouldn’t have seen anything of critical importance before they died, so those less than helpful reports grounded the Spirit Corps’ work in reality.

Despite the strength of the magic system used by the mediums and the excellent development of the Spirit Corps, I did have some issues with the depiction of the historical setting in GHOST TALKERS. Ginger and her fellow mediums – the majority of whom are women – face sexism and sexual harassment, and Ginger’s friend Helen grapples with racism and segregation; however, these issues were not presented with the seriousness and maliciousness that would have been present at the time. The idea of a woman, especially an upper class American like Ginger, crawling through the trenches without being stopped is just too unbelievable without an excellent explanation…which wasn’t present. I love historical fantasy novels for their commitment to the details of the period but I’m happy to accept alterations to the society that allow women and visible minorities more freedom (i.e. Memoirs of Lady Trent, Sorcerer to the Crown, and The Midnight Queen) but I do expect there to be an explanation for these freedoms, magical or otherwise.

Overall, I really enjoyed GHOST TALKERS and I would happily read more books set in this universe, although it is a stand-alone title for the moment. If you’re looking for a WWI drama that’s somewhat light on historical details but heavy on character development with an intriguing magical system, then GHOST TALKERS is for you!

Profile Image for Andrea.
435 reviews158 followers
September 10, 2016
Look at that cover! I admit it was the artwork that stopped me in my tracks when I first saw this book. Then came the blurb, and what a magnificent premise that was! An alternative history with fantasy elements? British fighting the Germans in WWI with the aid of mediums and spiritual intelligence? After reading the description I knew I had to put Ghost Talkers on my immediate tbr. To be honest, I haven't been so excited to start a book in a while. If you like the genre, enjoy strong, likeable heroines, and are a fan of Ghost (with Patrick Swayze) like I am, I highly recommend you try this novel out.
Profile Image for Lau .
659 reviews127 followers
August 31, 2019
Ghost Talkers es un libro que está bien, pero no más que eso. La idea de la historia me pareció fantástica cuando empecé, pero siendo sincera siento que el desarrollo se quedó corto y no se aprovechó bien un concepto con tanto potencial.

Todo transcurre durante unos pocos días de la Primera Guerra Mundial. Lo que vuelve tan interesante a la idea de la autora es que es una historia alternativa a la verdadera, y en esta versión los soldados ingleses que son asesinados durante la guerra vuelven como fantasmas para hacer un reporte frente a la Tropa Espiritista, un regimiento secreto de médiums entrenados para recibirlos y ayudarlos a encontrar la paz.
Así es que conocemos a Ginger, parte de uno de los círculos de médiums, quien gracias a dos de esos mensajes del más allá (o del no tan acá, no tan allá) se entera de la existencia de un espía alemán que asesinó a al menos dos soldados ingleses y que podría poner a todo el cuerpo de médiums en peligro.
Muy interesante idea realmente, lástima que la historia tiene un desarrollo demasiado simple, la identidad del traidor se adivina a penas aparece, y en demasiadas ocasiones deja de ser una historia paranormal y bélica para convertirse en un romance dudoso.

Otra cosa que me resultó interesante y que se desaprovechó bastante es el concepto de los Sueños Lúcidos, donde hay personas con la capacidad de comunicarse mientras duermen y tener conversaciones como si estuvieran despiertos. Por alguna razón los personajes usan esta capacidad sólo para hablar con alguien que extrañan cuando hay soldados arriesgándose para mandar información cifrada y mensajes en clave que bien podrían transmitirse en sueños.

Pero al margen de todo eso que se puede dejar pasar si la lectura es entretenida, algo en el estilo de la autora no me terminó de atrapar. Mientras lo estaba leyendo avanzaba rápido, pero no sentía la motivación por leer más y más. Me da la sensación de que hay una calidad fluctuante entre capítulo y capítulo, donde algunos son interesantes y otros parecen casi como relleno.
También tuve problemas con los diálogos, acartonados a veces y otras excesivamente casuales. Pasan de ser serios y adultos, relacionados con la guerra, a volverse simples conversaciónes de novelita romántica con diálogos empalagosos y –para mi gusto– con muy poca chispa y verdadera utilidad.

Sobre los personajes, ninguno me resultó particularmente interesante, profundo, ni desarrollado (salvo Hellen a quien casi no se ve), y en general –aún los que tienen cierto peso en la historia– me dieron la sensación de ser un relleno que rodea a la indiscutible protagonista, que la verdad es demasiado simple y plana.
De Ginger no sabemos –ni sabremos– gran cosa más allá de que es una medium americana, es heredera, está enamorada de Ben –clásico sinvergüenza de romance histórico que se busca que caiga simpático– y es pelirroja. Listo. Aparte de su capacidad –muy, muy frecuente por lo visto– para ver fantasmas y las auras con sus constantes variaciones de color, no hizo que la sienta con fuerza de protagonista. Su personalidad no es algo que destaque más allá de que descubrió que ser racista no tiene sentido, no tiene características que la vuelvan única, y ni siquiera brilla por su ingenio o inteligencia al hablar (especialmente en los melosos diálogos con Ben) o hacer deducciones. Las soluciones a los problemas medio medio (o médium médium) que le caen encima por ayuda de los demás más que por mérito propio.

Durante todo el libro hay una marcada intención de enfatizar el machismo de la época, otra cosa interesante ya que la protagonista es mujer, pero a veces la autora se esfuerza tanto que termina salibando fuera del recipiente. Ginger tiene una clara actitud de "no me digas lo que tengo que hacer" que aparece bastante para mostrar que no es una mujercita sumisa de principios de siglo, pero muchas veces elige mal los momentos y termina pareciendo más una heredera que se hace la rebelde que una mujer independiente.
Pero lo que me resultó aún más llamativo es que el verdadero inicio de la historia es cuando Ginger reporta su descubrimiento a sus superiores y no le creen por ser mujer... cuando hasta ese momento siempre prestaban atención a los informes que sabían que venían de ella.

El desenlace me gustó, quizás en parte porque había dos opciones posibles y no sabía por cuál se iba a decantar la autora. De todos modos creo que es fan de cierta película de los '90 y quiso hacer algo similar con una vuelta de rosca bélica, y si no fuera porque había un espía esta misma historia podría haber sido puesta en cualquier otro contexto y no hubiera variado demasiado.
No se si vuelva a leer algo de esta autora la verdad, salvo que venga recomendada por alguien de mucha confianza.

Reseña de Libros junto al mar
Profile Image for Phoebe Prince.
Author 2 books53 followers
September 12, 2016
Ghost Talkers by Mary Robinette Kowal

Ginger is a medium working in the top-secret Spirit Corps during WWI. Ghost Talkers is a blend of historical fiction, paranormal, and alternate history. The spirit corps has used magic--which is real but takes a paranormal bend--to bind soldiers' ID tags so that they report in after death and act as Ally spies. This means the Spirit Corps has allowed the Allies to gain an important advantage in WWI.

I've not read Kowal before, but she blends historical fiction with light paranormal elements to create a unique story. The main characters--Helen, Ginger, and Ben--have a lot of charm, which helps, but the real star is the tone of this novel. If you're a historical fiction fan, you'll probably love this book. I loved this book. It had everything good about historical fiction combined neatly with unique paranormal plot elements. It's rather light on fantasy elements (sans ghosts), but Ginger's powers as a medium are used deftly and often enough that they don't feel forced or like an unnecessary side note. Magical realism can rub me the wrong way sometimes because it's often 'oh yeah, and magic', and it's super obvious when an author wants to be 'more literary' and not play up the fantasy elements of their work. This book never short-changes or apologizes for being fantasy, and the historical details are added flourishes.

Oh, did I say I loved this? I did.

It was obvious to me that, at some point, Ben was going to die. I thought that he and Ginger would go on a secret mission first, and then he'd die in the course of action. While that did happen, Ben's death happened way earlier in the story than I expected. If Ben's death would've been the first event in the novel, though, it wouldn't have worked well, either. Kowel tricks you with the slow build-up, which made me think Ben would live longer than he did. Instead, his death kicks off a murder mystery and spy mission. The only nitpick I have is that I thought the main, tantalizing question--who killed Ben and why--wraps up too soon. But it's a great pay-off, and I was totally tricked into THAT SPOILER I'M NOT MENTIONING HERE BECAUSE IT'S A REAL SPOILER. :) Suffice to say, the plot works to keep you guessing.

There are plenty of twists and turns in this story, too. The initial mystery is who killed a British gunner. The ghost claimed it was a British officer--a spy. Ben tracks down this lead, and he's murdered. Then, the mystery transfer to the more personal 'who killed Ben', which creates plenty of tragic and beautiful moments of Ginger interacting with ghost Ben. If you like light romance (sweet romance), this is a book for you, too. I loved the relationship between Ben and Ginger, and Ben's slippage into ghostly insanity tugged at my heartstrings every scene. Ben doesn't pass on immediately, but he's emotionally falling apart, and Ginger has the man she loves but is inevitably going to loose him. It's subtly and sometimes beat-you-over-the-head tragic, but always amazing.

Rating: 5 stars. Loved it. This book blends historical fiction and fantasy superbly.
Profile Image for Julie (Manga Maniac Cafe).
1,625 reviews478 followers
September 5, 2016
4.75 - 5 stars

This was freaking fantastic. WWI with ghostly assistance given to the British forces courtesy of the Spirit Corp. Ginger is brave and self-reliant in the face of all the death she has to deal with as a medium for the army. All of the women in this story are strong, and they all do their best to advance the war effort, given the terrible circumstances that surround them. I haven't read anything quite like this before, and I've already added Kowal's previous works to my TBR pile. Highly recommended.
Profile Image for Veronica .
754 reviews177 followers
September 15, 2017
This was not bad. It wasn't great either but it had an interesting premise and a likeable, capable heroine. It felt a bit disjointed in places and sometimes the dialogue felt off but it also had a bittersweet quality that helped to smooth out some of the rough edges. Overall, it was a decent story.
Profile Image for Jenny Baker.
1,286 reviews194 followers
March 14, 2017
Thanks for buddy reading this with me Carl!

I first heard about Ghost Talkers from Booklist Online in their feature article The Reading List: Best Adult Genre Fiction. It made their short list in the fantasy genre category. I’d never heard of Mary Robinette Kowal until this article. The synopsis sounded intriguing, so, I jumped onto Goodreads to look at some of the reviews. I was pleasantly surprised to see that not only did Brandon Sanderson and Patrick Rothfuss both read this book, but they both gave it five stars.

This is a good kind of weird, which made this novel so intriguing for me. I like books that are a little different from the normal. I’ve never read a book like this before and I loved it!

The story takes place in Europe during WWI. Ginger Stuyvestant is a medium along with a group of mediums who make up the Spirit Corps. When a soldier dies in the war, they report to the mediums and give them any information that may be useful in the war efforts. The Germans discover the Spirit Corps and their mission, so they target them to keep them from discovering their plans. One soldier is murdered and his ghost helps Ginger find his murderer while trying to avoid the Germans.

Ghost Talkers is a combination of paranormal fantasy and historical fiction. There were several OMG moments as the story unfolded. I should have seen some of the twists coming, but they still managed to catch me off guard. I loved these little surprises since they kept me reading and wondering what would happen next.

The characters are very likable, especially Ginger, Ben, Helen, Mrs. Richardson, and Aunt Edie, AKA Lady Penfold. Ginger is a determined, passionate woman who refuses to rest or eat until they solve the murder. Ben is Ginger’s fiancé and defends her at all costs, although he has a jealousy streak. Helen is a medium and a good friend of Ginger’s. She’s a minority and it’s interesting to see racism play a part. It added both realism and depth to the story. Mrs. Richardson is so amusing. She sounds like this nice old lady, like somebody grandma who carries around her kitting. She is constantly offering soldiers mufflers and socks. She still surprised you with her willingness to spy for the greater good. Lady Penfold is Ginger’s aunt who’s also a medium and worries about Ginger. She didn’t always want to know the details of what was going on, but she’s always there for Ginger.

Although this takes place during WWI, the battle isn’t the focus of the story, so at times the war feels more like a setting than a part of the plot. The focus is more on solving the murder and communicating with the ghosts. However, there are some bombings with injuries and fatalities. It’s not gory or anything.

The characters use book ciphering, which I find both fascinating and complicated. I thought it effectively reinforced the spy aspect of the story.

Overall, it’s an engaging story that’s successfully executed. It has a nice tidy ending leaving me with a sense of satisfaction. It’s a pleasantly different, yet entertaining read.

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Profile Image for Lisa.
346 reviews544 followers
September 18, 2016
Review from Tenacious Reader: http://www.tenaciousreader.com/2016/0...

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.
Profile Image for Michael.
79 reviews17 followers
August 16, 2016
★★★★★ (5 out of 5)


Ghost Talkers takes place in an alternate version of World War I in which the British are utilizing mediums to communicate with the dead in order to learn military intelligence. The protagonist is Ginger Stuyvesant, an American heiress serving as one of these "ghost talkers" in London with her fiancé, a British military intelligence officer. The members of this Spirit Corps are being targeted by the Germans and they may even have a traitor hidden amongst them. After a catastrophic loss, Ginger must set out to save the day -- and the war!

(More or less) Spoiler-Free Review

As it happened, I finished reading Mary Robinette Kowal's wonderful Ghost Talkers the day after what would have been Alfred Hitchcock’s 117th birthday. I mention this here only because this novel would have made for one hell of a Hitchcock film! Here are just a few similarities:

- Like a majority of Hitchcock's films, Ghost Talkers is, at its heart, a mystery.
- It is chock-full of red herrings. For example, I really thought that another one of Ginger's co-workers was the traitor!
- Spies! Hitchcock loved putting spies and counterspies in his films. There are plenty of them in Ghost Talkers.
- Ginger and her team work behind the scenes, against the odds, to defeat the Germans. Like the characters in many Hitchcock films, they are the unsung heroes of the war effort.
- Lots of snappy dialogue -- especially between Ginger and her fiancé, Captain Benjamin Harford. They form a (cough, cough) solid team that you can't help but root for.

To be honest, Ghost Talkers took me by surprise. I have never been a fan of books about war and I find even the idea of mediums to be downright silly. Regardless, Mary Robinette Kowal makes it all work. After the opening few pages, I was hooked and quickly made my way through the book.

According to a comment the author left on Goodreads, there is a possibility that Ghost Talkers could wind up being the first in a series of books about Ginger and her team, "if the response to this one is good." As far as this reviewer is concerned, the response should be overwhelmingly positive and I hope to read more about this kick-ass heroine in the future!

Many thanks to Mary Robinette Kowal, Netgalley, and Tor Books for providing me with an ARC in exchange for this honest review.
Profile Image for Fran.
Author 108 books453 followers
Want to read
January 11, 2016
I heard Mary read from Ghost Talkers at KGB Fantastic Fiction and it was mesmerizing. I cannot wait to read this book.
Profile Image for Sunil.
947 reviews120 followers
September 2, 2016
With Ghost Talkers, Mary Robinette Kowal delivers on a premise so brilliant I suspect we are living in the alternate history where it is true because of course: in World War I the British employ a secret Spirit Corps, to laypeople a team of women to raise soldiers' spirits but in reality a team of mediums who fucking GATHER INTELLIGENCE FROM FALLEN SOLDIERS. That's right, they're women who talk to ghosts. Ghost talkers, if you will.

But Kowal doesn't stop there: besides all the cool military protocol surrounding the basic function of the Spirit Corps, she throws in other abilities for the mediums, like viewing people's auras (a handy shorthand for detecting characters' emotions, especially when they are trying to hide them) and entering people's dreams. Communicating with dead souls leaves your soul a bit unattached, so you get some neat powers as part of the deal.

Right from the get-go, Kowal establishes the major conflict: the Germans may have discovered their secret and they want it for their own. Add to this a fucking murder and you've got yourself a fun ghost detective murder mystery, and who would say no to that. WHO WOULD SAY NO TO THAT, why would you not talk to a ghost and ask who murdered him if you could do that.

Ginger Stuyvesant is not particularly special. She's not the BEST GHOST TALKER EVER or the woman who basically designed the process—in fact, that honor belongs to a black woman, and I love the ways Kowal portrays both the racism of the time as well as Ginger's struggle with her internalized racism—but she drives the plot because she is the one looking for answers. She's motivated and independent—her fiancé, Ben, wants to keep her out of danger but she's like FOR FUCK'S SAKE BEN THIS IS WAR EVERYTHING IS DANGER—but she seeks the help of many allies, including her fellow mediums. And, well, Ben. As in the Glamourist Histories series, Kowal portrays a loving relationship, spitting in the face of the idea that telling a story about a couple is boring. They fight and they have cute banter and they're two interesting people with a specific bond.

The story never flags, as Ginger follows clues and cracks codes—CODES I FORGOT TO MENTION THE CODES THIS BOOK HAS LOTS OF CODED MESSAGES. This is war, everything is danger, even moreso when you're hunting spies, and Kowal isn't afraid to kill people off, even people you like. The mystery has lots of twists and turns, though the eventual reveal does rely on a trope common to mysteries that is nonetheless problematic. Everything builds to an exciting climax and I forgot to mention that in this book "poltergeist" is a verb. Ghosts can poltergeist. It's a thing.

Shout-out to the presence of Indians in this book about World War I since until recently I never even realized Indians fought in the world wars. Talk about historical accuracy, am I right. Kowal takes great care to show that the Great War was not fought by only white men. Or even white able-bodied men; there is a particularly delightful disabled character.

Ghost Talkers ends with two perfect sentences, leaving the door open for more stories of the Spirit Corps. I enjoyed this one a lot, and if you like fun historical fantasies with a healthy dose of mystery and spy thriller and a touch of romance, I think you will too!
Profile Image for Joel.
639 reviews233 followers
September 24, 2016

Ghost Talkers is a WWI-era novel that follows Ginger Stuyvesant, a medium (yes, that kind of medium) from America, living in London during the war. Ginger is part of a mostly-secret group of magical seers, the Spirit Corps, who communicate with recently deceased soldiers, reliving their final moments and helping to assist them into the afterlife, while using the information they gather from these deceased soldiers as a form of intel for the army. Her fiancee, British soldier Benjamin Harford, is an intelligence officer for the British Army, and is lucky enough to work alongside Ginger periodically, when he isn’t being sent to the front lines.
After a fairly shocking turn leaves Benjamin deceased (mild spoiler, sorry), he finds himself unable to pass on to the afterlife due to the unfinished business of getting to the bottom of who killed him and why, and is able to assist Ginger with this mission as an incorporeal being who has some ability to interact with the real world, at the cost of his post-life sanity and energy. It soon becomes obvious that there’s more to the situation than there seemed on the surface, and Ginger, Benjamin, and Ginger’s peers find themselves on a wild goose chase to find traitors and murderers.

I’ve been a fan of Mary for quite some time, as much for her personality, wit, narrating ability, and other talents as for her writing (which I also enjoy thoroughly, mind you). Her regular series is a bit out of my “normal” reading genre, but is a wonderfully written set of stories, with a lot of really high quality characters – especially strong female characters. Ghost Talkers is no different, with Ginger being a force, a strong-willed, intelligent and persistent presence in the story, and the true powerhouse of the novel. The supporting cast vary greatly in background, attitudes, and actions, but work well alongside Ginger to complete their tasks.
The novel itself is a lot of fun. It’s quick and to the point, and a total page-turner – I found myself flying through it, and actually read it in one sitting. I had become excited by the prospect of this novel when Mary first mentioned it at a book signing something like 2 years ago, and have been eagerly awaiting it since, and it did not disappoint.
Rating: 4.25 / 5
Profile Image for Margaret Sankey.
Author 9 books208 followers
June 7, 2016
In 1916, while Houdini and Conan Doyle campaign against spiritualism, it is cover for the fact that the British military has weaponized it, requiring the recently deceased to report in to a mostly-female Spirit Corps to impart immediate intelligence about the circumstances of their deaths. The Germans, meanwhile, experiment with ways to block it--blinding soldiers, spiking deaths to burn out the mediums, and attempting to locate the main processing location for information. Kowal takes a slightly ridiculous premise, locates it in a completely believable bureaucracy, particularly believable for its brush off of colonial people and women doing crucial work, and brings things to a genuinely rousing conclusion with potential for follow up stories.
Profile Image for Ivana Nešić.
Author 13 books61 followers
November 24, 2016
Počelo je kao super zabavni guilty pleasure: ratni ljubić s duhovima! I ti duhovi su baš dobro upotrebljeni u ratu i sve kako valja.
Ali onda kao da autorka nije znala šta bi sa tom super idejom i do kraja je nekako zdrljano i ima kao neki preokret, ali kao da postoji samo da se ne bi reklo da nije bilo preokreta i heroina je iritantna i po ceo božji dan neko namiguje. Prijatelji - namiguju. Duh - namiguje. Vojnik u samrtnim mukama - namiguje. Aman.
Ipak, priča teče, ne smara ništa dok se čita pa eto. Možda je moglo i 4, ali ipak 3. Zbog namigivanja.
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