Book Notes Review-The Warm Hands of Ghosts by

Thanks to Netgalley and Ballentine for providing a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

 

Book cover for The Warm Hands of Ghosts. Two white hands holding a red poppy.

 

The Warm Hands of Ghosts
by Katherine Arden

Summary

During the Great War, a combat nurse searches for her brother, believed dead in the trenches despite eerie signs that suggest otherwise, in this hauntingly beautiful historical novel with a speculative twist, from the New York Times bestselling author of The Bear and the Nightingale.

 

January 1918. Laura Iven was a revered field nurse until she was wounded and discharged from the medical corps, leaving behind a brother still fighting in Flanders. Now home in Halifax, Canada, Laura receives word of Freddie’s death in combat, along with his personal effects—but something doesn’t make sense. Determined to uncover the truth, Laura returns to Belgium as a volunteer at a private hospital, where she soon hears whispers about haunted trenches and a strange hotelier whose wine gives soldiers the gift of oblivion. Could Freddie have escaped the battlefield, only to fall prey to something—or someone—else?

November 1917. Freddie Iven awakens after an explosion to find himself trapped in an overturned pillbox with a wounded enemy soldier, a German by the name of Hans Winter. Against all odds, the two form an alliance and succeed in clawing their way out. Unable to bear the thought of returning to the killing fields, especially on opposite sides, they take refuge with a mysterious man who seems to have the power to make the hellscape of the trenches disappear.

As shells rain down on Flanders and ghosts move among those yet living, Laura’s and Freddie’s deepest traumas are reawakened. Now they must decide whether their world is worth salvaging–or better left behind entirely.

 

Listen to a sample or read an excerpt

My Thoughts

The Warm Hands of Ghosts is a mix of historical fiction, mystery, and supernatural elements. I loved this book.
The story starts in Halifax, Nova Scotia, in January 1918.  A ship laden with explosives has blown up in the harbor, destroying much of Halifax, and killing Laura Iven’s parents. Laura is a registered nurse, sent home from the military hospitals of World War I after suffering a severe leg injury.

While nursing the injured from the explosion, injuries reminiscent of the wounded she left behind in Belgium, a crate arrives from Flanders with her brother Freddie’s belongings. But she’s not received a death notice from the army. Since her brother is the only member of her family left, Laura returns as a civilian nurse to the war and its hospitals to search for her brother.

Laura’s search will take her beyond the physical lines of the war. In a place with so much death, the demarcation between the physical world and the supernatural blurs. Faland inhabits this no-man’s-land. He comes and goes as he pleases, preying on the PTSD of soldiers at war. Once a man is in Faland’s grip, he never wants to leave. If Laura finds physically finds Freddie, will she still lose him to his memories?

The research Arden put into this novel is evident because I was immersed in post-explosion Halifax, the military hospitals, and the horrors of trench warfare. I was drawn to Laura-her commitment to her patients, her bravery at returning to the front, her determination to find Freddie and bring him home. Freddie is very much a soldier caught up in a war he doesn’t understand. Surrounded by death and destruction, he finds the only way to survive is trust a German soldier, the very person he was sent overseas to kill. Freddie’s battle is as much a mental war as a physical one, at a time when soldiers suffering from the mental strains of war were left on their own.
The Warm Hands of Ghosts is a well-written historical novel that also combines elements of mystery (is Freddie dead or alive?) and the supernatural (who or what is Faland?) Arden’s newest novel has earned a place on my bookshelf.

5/5 stars.

Publishing Information
Publisher: PenguinRandomHouse
Genre: Fantasy
Pub Date: Feb 13
ISBN 9780593128251

 

Book Notes Review “The Tainted Cup” by Robert Jackson Bennett

Thanks to Netgalley and Ballentine Publishing for providing a copy of the book in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

 

Book cover for The Tainted Cup

 

The Tainted Cup
by Robert Jackson Bennett

 

Summary

A Holmes and Watson–style detective duo take the stage in this fantasy with a mystery twist, from the Edgar-winning, multiple Hugo-nominated Robert Jackson Bennett

“Superbly blends mystery and fantasy . . . Give me more of this world and these characters ASAP!”—#1 New York Timesbestselling author Meg Gardiner

In Daretana’s greatest mansion, a high imperial officer lies dead—killed, to all appearances, when a tree erupted from his body. Even here at the Empire’s borders, where contagions abound and the blood of the leviathans works strange magical changes, it’s a death both terrifying and impossible.
Assigned to investigate is Ana Dolabra, a detective whose reputation for brilliance is matched only by her eccentricities. Rumor has it that she wears a blindfold at all times, and that she can solve impossible cases without even stepping outside the walls of her home.
At her side is her new assistant, Dinios Kol, magically altered in ways that make him the perfect aide to Ana’s brilliance. Din is at turns scandalized, perplexed, and utterly infuriated by his new superior—but as the case unfolds and he watches Ana’s mind leap from one startling deduction to the next, he must admit that she is, indeed, the Empire’s greatest detective.
As the two close in on a mastermind and uncover a scheme that threatens the Empire itself, Din realizes he’s barely begun to assemble the puzzle that is Ana Dolabra—and wonders how long he’ll be able to keep his own secrets safe from her piercing intellect.
By an “endlessly inventive” (Vulture) author with a “wicked sense of humor” (NPR), The Tainted Cup mixes the charms of detective fiction with brilliant world-building to deliver a fiendishly clever mystery that’s at once instantly recognizable and thrillingly new.

Thoughts

Ana and Din are Bennett’s take on the Holmes/Watson relationship with Ana in Sherlock’s role and Din’s in Watson’s and it’s a pairing that works really, really well. Din, Ana’s new assistant, is an engraver, meaning he’s been altered to remember everything, much like Sherlock’s own mind. But he lacks the ability, and the knowledge, to put what he sees together. (Not like Sherlock) That’s Ada’s job. She takes his detailed reports and, at a rapid speed, can see patterns and connections that evade everyone else. Ada knows how to push Din’s buttons and takes great delight in doing so. She’s a strong character, but also morally grey at times in her pursuit of justice.
Din is an engraver, but also someone who has much to learn about himself. He remembers everything he sees and hears. As the story plays out, it becomes clear he’s more than an engraver. And that he harbors a secret that could cost him everything.
The murder mystery is well-written. The initial murder sets off a chain reaction with horrific unintended consequences. Even though the murders may be solved, what they set in motion may be impossible to stop.
It took me a bit to get into this book, but once I settled in, I had trouble putting it down. The ending was satisfying.

4/5 stars.

Read an excerpt

Publishing Info

Genre: Epic Fantasy, Murder Mystery
ISBN 9781984820709
Release Date: Feb. 6