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Living with Ghosts

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3.44  ·  Rating details ·  278 Ratings  ·  67 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 f
...more
Mass Market Paperback, 484 pages
Published March 3rd 2009 by DAW
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Kelly
Dec 12, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
...more
Sherwood Smith
May 13, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fantasy
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
...more
Wealhtheow
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
Julie Czerneda
Aug 19, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I cannot believe it's taken me this long to pull Kari Sperring's first book out of my to-read pile, but I'm so glad I did. Compulsive, rich, evocative, original fantasy, with a setting so utterly convincing I shivered in the rain.
If you're late to the party too? Waste not a minute! Start reading this author. I'm off to pull her next book out.
I know I'll enjoy it.
ambyr
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
Mike Shevdon
Apr 15, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fantasy
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
...more
colleen the convivial curmudgeon
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
...more
Melinda Jane Harrison
Wow, this is one of the best adult fantasies that I've read in a long time. I absolutely loved it and will reread it as soon as I can. It's the story of a nobleman, Thiercelin, the love he has for his wife who is a busy politician, his relationship with her brother, Valdarrien, and a courtesan/priest, a man by the name of Gracielis, and a few other characters, all of who have POVs. This is a dark tale about a woman who wishes to take over the city of Merafi, first by destroying it. There's magic ...more
Rachel Thompson
Apr 29, 2009 rated it liked it
Shelves: fantasy
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
Katharine Kerr
Aug 31, 2011 rated it really liked it
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
...more
Joshua Palmatier
Aug 19, 2009 rated it really liked it
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
...more
Jacey
Mar 10, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction, fantasy
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
...more
Heidi Cullinan
Mar 21, 2009 rated it liked it
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
...more
Aliette
Mar 01, 2015 rated it it was amazing
A tale of a city under siege and the people who struggle to preserve it; of deep magics and the sacrifices we have to make to save what we believe in. I think neither the title nor the cover do this any justice, as (to me at least) they imply a much smaller, intimate canvas; and while the novel does have intimacy in spades (and wonderfully focuses on relationships of love and friendship between the living and the dead--I loved the captain's ghost who accompanies Gracielis), it's also spread acro ...more
Mely
Jan 26, 2011 rated it liked it
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
Sadie Slater
Jun 17, 2016 rated it really liked it
Living With Ghosts is historical fantasy, set in a city with a seventeenth or eighteenth century feel and a strong French influence, although with a rather different gender balance to the actual seventeenth century (not only is there a queen, but her chief councillors are women, and we also meet a prominent female merchant, among others, while the aristocratic men are mostly playboys) and a much more relaxed attitude to same-sex relationships. There's swashbuckling and duels, ghosts and magic, s ...more
K T
Apr 15, 2009 rated it it was ok
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
...more
Diana Francis
May 17, 2011 rated it really liked it
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
...more
Robert
Feb 27, 2010 rated it it was ok
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
...more
Kara
Apr 12, 2009 rated it it was amazing
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!
Jennifer
May 04, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2009, fantasy
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
Apr 23, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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.
Mari
Dec 05, 2016 rated it it was ok
I know, the cover is so cool, and you wanted to like it. You have read about twenty pages, and you feel like you just can't keep going, but you ask yourself, maybe there is a payoff at the end? I answer you; No. What you see is what you keep on getting.
Paula
Oct 27, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy
Living with Ghosts - Kari Sperring I'd previously read and enjoyed this author's other book (The Grass King's Concubine) so when this one was on offer I thought I'd pick it up - any excuse to buy stand-alone books, though this then sat on my bookshelf for a while before I got around to it...
 
Anyway, on with Living With Ghosts. First off, this is a book written from multiple points of view, so if that annoys you then this book probably won't work for you - one of our characters is a magician/assa
...more
Eden
May 05, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I found this book at the height of the Twilight craze when I was in high school. You remember that time, right? Where everywhere you turned you were tripping over either Twilight or some other vampire romance. Do not get me wrong, I LOVE vampires and werewolves and such, but there was just too much at the time. It was EVERYWHERE. I felt like I drowning in vampires and werewolves and just...UGH. TOO MUCH.

And then I found this book and it was like a breath of fresh air. FINALLY, something differen
...more
Sunny Graham
Jul 15, 2017 rated it liked it
Slow start but a good finish
Lindsey Duncan
Jan 08, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: just-fantasy
I did not have a neutral experience with this book.

(This review may be more spoiler-ish than usual, though I've tried to be as circuitous as possible. You have been warned.)

Old powers threaten the city of Merafi, and a handful of its denizens - from a noble lord to a guard captain to a foreign spy - struggle to deal with the forces that have been awakened. There were parts of this book I loved; there were parts I hated, and I can't entirely pick out what is wholly personal taste and what is an o
...more
D
Mar 10, 2014 rated it liked it
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
...more
Elle
Mar 01, 2016 rated it liked it
Living With Ghosts is hard to review because it’s not what I was expecting and yet I loved so many parts of it but was very disappointed by other small parts.

To begin with, ignore the cover, it was clearly made by someone who didn’t read the book, a description/blurb of the book, or any descriptions of characters. Also, take its presence on any LGBT+ lists with many, many grains of salt. The only LGBT “romance” is a one-sided crush that barely appears and goes absolutely nowhere.

I bought the Kin
...more
Errolyn
Jun 08, 2009 rated it liked it
Shelves: fantasy, favorites
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
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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

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