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The Warm Hands of Ghosts by Katherine Arden : a review

I’m delighted to be sharing my thoughts on The Warm Hands of Ghosts by Katherine Arden.

book cover for The Warm Hands of Ghosts by Katherine Arden.  A deep blue background has the title of the book in the middle with author underneath

The Warm Hands of Ghosts by Katherine Arden

  • Category : Historical Fantasy
  • ASIN ‏ : ‎ B0C6SNY5HP
  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Penguin (7 Mar. 2024)
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • File size ‏ : ‎ 6003 KB
  • Amazon | Waterstones | Goodreads

The Warm Hands of Ghosts Summary

World War One, and as shells fall in Flanders, a Canadian nurse searches for her brother believed dead in the trenches despite eerie signs that suggest otherwise in this gripping and powerful historical novel from the bestselling author of The Bear and the Nightingale.

January 1918. Laura Iven has been discharged from her duties as a nurse and sent back to Halifax, Canada, leaving behind a brother still fighting in the trenches of the First World War. Now home, she receives word of Freddie’s death in action along with his uniform – but something doesn’t quite make sense. Determined to find out more, Laura returns to Belgium as a volunteer at a private hospital. Soon after arriving, she hears whispers about ghosts moving among those still living and a strange innkeeper whose wine gives soldiers the gift of oblivion. Could this have happened to Freddie – but if so, where is he?

November 1917. Freddie Iven awakens after an explosion to find himself trapped under an overturned pillbox with an enemy soldier, a German, each of them badly wounded. Against all odds, the two men form a bond and succeed in clawing their way out. But once in No Man’s Land, where can either of them turn where they won’t be shot as enemy soldiers or deserters? As the killing continues, they meet a man – a fiddler – who seems to have the power to make the hellscape that surrounds them disappear. But at what price?

The Warm Hands of Ghosts Review

Wow what can I say!  The Warm Hands of Ghosts is an historical fantasy that gets under your skin … in the beginning I wasn’t sure whether this story was for me (or rather for where I was emotionally).  I loved the Winternight Trilogy from the same author but I wasn’t sure where this story would take me.  I’m so glad I continued! I was totally pulled in.

In the beginning I thought there was such a contrast between what was happening at the time (the history) and the scenes with Faland.  But as I continued reading, I realised under the surface, they weren’t so very different.

There is a contrast between Laura and Freddie’s characters.  One with such strength and dedication and one shattered and lost yet both are broken and needing another person to break down the walls and offer compassion and nurture.  The fear and guilt are tangible for them both. I was hoping Laura could get past her guilt to understand how important the warm hands of ghosts were.  And for Freddie to find redemption and accept his own path to love. Faland is so nebulous, faery-like and hard to define. I love a character that makes me feel uncomfortable!  One that I shouldn’t like but actually felt a lot of compassion for.

Many scenes in both narrations are hard-hitting and made me think.  I loved the ‘darkness’ but equally loved the hope and possibilities.

I was sucked into the history in The Warm Hands of Ghosts but the feelings that stayed after reading are all related to the characters and how tangled their emotions were (and how they made me feel).  It made me reconsider what I thought a ‘monster’ was.   

Recommended if you need a push out of your comfort zone.

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