Review: Ghost Talkers

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Ghost TalkersGhost Talkers by Mary Robinette Kowal
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I really liked this book. I liked the characters, and the historical backdrop, and the plot, and the mystery, and the cyphers, and the cure for details (especially the importance of women and people of colour in the war).

And yet…

Ghost Talkers is not just a historical fantasy thriller, but also a love story. A love story in which one of the two lovers dies at the beginning of the book, after we only got to spend a little time with him, and spends the rest of the time as a ghost. Except that, as a ghost, he risks losing his memories and personality every time he exerts himself.

My problem is that, not having had time to get to know Ben that well, I had a hard time empathizing with Ginger’s fears about Ben’s ghost. Whenever Ginger told us that Ben was behaving differently than his live self, I had to take her word for it. And we’re told that his soul is in danger if he exerts himself too much or forgets too much, but we never* see an example of a ghost gone bad to compare it to, so I never really got to fear for him if not in the hypothetical.
We’re supposed to feel a constant menace for Ben’s soul through the story, but it does never really materialize. Ben is the co-protagonist of this tale and he’s a literally a ghost of himself.

(I’m also a bit sceptical that Merrow could lie so much and so often to someone who could read auras without attracting even a little bit of suspicion, especially when they were connected, but the twist would not have worked otherwise so I’m gonna let it pass.)

Still, it’s a very enjoyable spy story, with gorgeous cover art and now one but two Doctor Who cameos.

* Well, we do in the Ginger short stories, but not in this novel.

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