It’s the third day of the Summer Blogger Promo Tour hosted by Amber and Jessica @ The Book Bratz! The tour will take place from July 3rd until August 21st, and I’ll try to link posts as I go. Today, I’m talking with Kiersten @ We Live and Breathe Books about Ghost Talkers, which we both picked up at BEA 2016.
Kiersten’s part of the discussion is in red, and mine is in blue. But first, a little bit about the book:
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…
Ghost Talkers Discussion
Eli: The premise of Ghost Talkers was what brought everything together for me. I didn’t really understand the blurb when I first read about the book, but once I dove into it, I was sucked into an alternate reality historical fiction. However, this is adult fiction, and I don’t think it has widespread YA appeal.
Kiersten: What made me pick up Ghost Talkers was definitely the premise – using mediums as a method of collecting intelligence from dead soldiers sounded really interesting. I was happy to see, as I read, that Kowal does a great job of building this concept into something that could be understood and fit well into the plot of the book.
Eli: I loved the way that Kowal pushed her characters into situations that they could only be in because of the premise. Everything worked together smoothly, and the progression of events was easy to follow. Unfortunately, what I didn’t realize going into it is that this story is very dependent upon the mystery. The problem with that was I was able to guess who the villain was before the middle of the story. The predictability took away from the whodunnit nature of the plot, and it failed to impress.
Kiersten: I don’t know exactly what I expected from the plot of Ghost Talkers before reading, but it definitely wasn’t what I expected. Despite that, I did enjoy the way the premise led the plot, creating odd and interesting situations that one wouldn’t typically expect. In contrast to Eli, I really had no idea who the villain was before the reveal, but it still lacked the edge-of-your-seat anticipation I would have liked from a mystery driven book.
Eli: Because the premise of Ghost Talkers was so great, the book started out at a decent pace, but it slowly declined. Things get significantly less exciting the farther you go in, especially if you already have your own assumptions about the twists to the story.
Kiersten: I felt like most of Ghost Talkers was pretty slow, especially due to the constraints on the main character because of the time period. There were some exciting moments, but overall it was far from action packed. Even though I wasn’t anticipating the twists, I felt like there was an urgency missing from the book – it seemed like every time there was a twist or reveal, the next thing was unimportant, which kept me from being really invested in the story.
Eli: The world was perfectly crafted, and it was well-described without any info dumping. The fantasy elements were also spot-on. The rules of magic became loose over time, but I wasn’t too concerned about that. It was easy to understand, and the main idea behind the spiritual side of things were clear.
Kiersten: I really enjoyed the way Kowal built the world of Ghost Talkers. Not only did it feel genuine and true to the period, but Kowal masterfully wove her premise into the world. Even the introduction into the premise was well done, avoiding an info-dump while still providing all the necessary information to clearly understand the most important aspect of the book: how they talk to ghosts.
CHARACTERS & ROMANCE
Eli: If you’re looking for a historical fiction romance, you’re better off reading Outlander and leaving it at that. Ghost Talkers isn’t the book you’re looking for if you want romance. More than anything, this is Ginger’s story. I’ll go more into the themes next, but in general, the book centers around Ginger solving a mystery against the backdrop of World War I. The characters aren’t super deep, but they do manage to surprise every once in awhile. There were a decent amount of characters in Ghost Talkers, so I was actually grateful for the traits that defined each person.
Kiersten: While there are romantic elements in Ghost Talkers, it is most definitely not a romance. While the characters largely lacked complexity, I still enjoyed their quick characterizations and the way they interacted. Mrs. Richardson, a spitfire grandma who knits, was definitely my favorite character – she had a lot of pluck. Ginger wasn’t my favorite heroine, but I appreciated her motivation given all the things that were happening around her.
Eli: I won’t rate this one, only because everyone has very different thoughts about how things should be. Instead, I’ll point out what ideals are present (or not present) in the book.
Feminism plays a big role in Ginger’s worldview and place on the front lines. She’s used to being belittled, but she constantly stands up to the men around the camp for her rights and the safety of the people she works with.
I was so glad that this novel focused on more the fictional spiritual rather than trying to denounce or promote real spiritual beliefs. It’s always exhausting for me to read a book like that, but Ghost Talkers stays very much within the magic talked about in the story. There’s some talk of an afterlife, but it’s mostly described as a shiny golden light.
Kiersten: The thing that shocked me the most about the characters was how deeply devoted they were to their cause. Some of the characters were marginalized within this society, but they still wanted to do everything they could to defend it.
I was also really intrigued by the way Kowal was able to fit a feminist theme into a book in this period. Like I mentioned when talking about pacing, the world of Ghost Talkers puts a lot of constraints on Ginger. As a young, unmarried woman, she can’t even ride on a train without an adult chaperone. Despite the many men of the story putting her down, Ginger, as well as some of the other female characters, refuse to be told they are inadequate. Ginger does everything she can to prove that she is capable despite being of “the fairer sex.”
The premise starts the book out really well, but once you get toward the middle and the end, the pace starts to drag. I loved the worldbuilding and fantasy elements. The characters were also notable; I continued reading because I cared about what happened to them. Even so, the ending was predictable. I’d definitely recommend it to YA historical fiction fans, but I probably wouldn’t say it’s fit for YA otherwise. Eli’s Overall Rating: 2.5 stars
While I enjoyed Ghost Talkers, the slow pacing and lack of urgency made it a bit dull for me. I thought the worldbuilding was brilliantly done and the premise was so interesting. It’s definitely an adult book and does not read like YA at all – I generally find YA books to be more exciting as a whole – but at 300 pages, it’s not a huge time investment. If you’re intrigued by the premise and you have the patience, I’d say you should give Ghost Talkers a shot!
Kiersten’s Overall Rating: 2.5 stars
Kiersten is a rising senior at Syracuse University studying theater design and minoring in math and applied statistics. Besides reading, she loves dancing, makeup, Buzzfeed quizzes, cooking videos (like Tasty), Pinterest-ing recipes and bullet journal inspiration, and famous internet pets. Her spirit animal is somewhere between a caticorn (cat/unicorn hybrid) and a slothicorn (sloth/unicorn hybrid). You can find Kiersten co-blogging at We Live and Breathe Books and on Twitter @wlabb!
Thanks to Kiersten for being a part of the tour! It was so fun to get to know and work with her, and this ended up being my favorite post of SBPT so far. Shoutout to Amber and Jessica for organizing all of this!