Ghost Talkers

Ghost TalkersGhost Talkers by Mary Robinette Kowal
on August 16th 2016
Pages: 304
Genres: Fantasy, Fantasy & Magic
Published by Tor Books
Format: ARC
Source: From author/publisher
Buy on Amazon (affiliate link)
Set in France

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.
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…


I loved the premise of the British Army using mediums to communicate with soldiers killed in battle in order to find out more about enemy troop movements.  This takes place in 1916 during World War I in France during the Battle of the Somme.

This book is a great historical fantasy/mystery but it also addresses issues of class and race in the British Army at the time.

  • Ginger is the American niece of the titular head of the Spirit Corps.  She attends all the briefings because she is better suited for that duty.  Her aunt is in charge though because she is a Lady.
  • The most powerful medium is a West Indian woman named Helen.  She isn’t known to be the mastermind behind the program because she is black and the army command won’t consider listening to her.
  • Indian soldiers aren’t trained on how to report in after death.  They feel that it is a slight stemming from the fact that the white officers don’t feel that they wouldn’t be able to report accurate information.
  • Married women regardless of their abilities are not allowed to participate until things get desperate.
  • The women of the Spirit Corp are thought to be there to help morale in clubs like USOs.  No one outside knows that they also spend time talking to the dead.  No one thinks of this because they are women so how could they be doing anything vital?

I can’t talk much about the actual plot without giving away some spoilers.  No men know how the Spirit Corp trains soldiers to report in.  Only a few know who the mediums are.  The Germans know that it is happening but want to find out how it all works.  There is a spy and Ginger goes to investigate because she is one of the few people who knows all parts of the operation.

I loved the first half of the book.  For me the story bogged down a little in the second half so I gave it 3.5 stars instead of 4.  I’d recommend this to any historical fiction or paranormal fans.

A photo posted by @dvmheather on

I got this book at BEA this year.


The ARC has been claimed.



  • joyweesemoll

    This sounds like one I would enjoy, even if I did get bogged down in the second half. It looks like you’ve got some takers for your ARC, so I’ll catch this one at the library.

  • Miss Eliza

    Dying to read this! I couldn’t make it to BEA this year and ever since I heard Mary read the first chapter when touring for A Noble Family I’ve been on the edge of my seat.

  • Jessica M.

    I’ve loved all of Mary’s other books and would be honored to read this one too. You don’t get a lot of stories set in WWI and I think that makes it even more special.

  • Patricia B.

    This sounds like a book I would thoroughly enjoy. I had never heard of the Spirit Corps, but as one who believes in the probability of a 6th sense connection, it makes sense. As someone who “saw” my uncle killed in battle during the Korean War I learned rapidly that adults do not accept this ability. I was punished for upsetting my parents and grandparents when I told them about the dream. They didn’t know what to say or think when they got the notification from the Army that afternoon. I learned not to say much after that. It would be interesting to know what would happen if these abilities were nurtured and accepted.

  • Audra (Unabridged Chick)

    Lovely review — thanks for this, and the giveaway! I’m dying to read this one — it sounds just amazing — I’m really intrigued by the social/class stuff you’ve mentioned — that doesn’t always happen with hist fic!

    • heather

      I really liked that about this book. I would have been easy to gloss over the inequities but she made them plot issues that needed to be resolved.

  • Kailana

    This is one of those BEA books that has caught my eye. That’s too bad the second half was not that great! I am still curious about it, though! I would volunteer for the free to a good home scenario, but I live in Canada. 🙂

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