by Mary Robinette Kowal
Cover Artist: Chris McGrath
Review by Gayle Surrette
Tor Books Hardcover ISBN/ITEM#: 9780765378255
Date: 16 August 2016 List Price $24.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK
World War I is being waged and a way had to be found to learn what was happening on the front to make sure that information got to the people who needed the information in order to win the war. The method they settled on was to use mediums and have the soldiers who died report in, detailing what was happening when they died: troop movements, enemy strength and positions. It was called the Spirit Corps and staffed with people with psychic abilities and/or sensitivity.
Ginger Stuyvesant is a medium. She's an American engaged to a British officer, Captain Benjamin Hartshorne, who works in intelligence. Luckily, the Spirit Corps is stationed at the base in France that is also the base for her fiancÚ.
The mediums usually work in pairs and Ginger works with Helen and a group of people who are unusually sensitive help to anchor the mediums to their bodies while they work. Ginger's aunt had founded the Spirit Corps and was always on the lookout for more mediums as there weren't enough and everyone was overworked.
Ginger is our point of view character. She's strong willed, self-assured, and often frustrated with the belittling she and the other women and mediums get from the military--and basically all the men they work with. There are many sub-threads dealing with women's rights, racial stereotypes, and belief or not in the work that the Spirit Corps does. Some of the military leaders in charge of the Spirit Corps don't believe that the information they collect from the departed soldiers is valid. Some of that disbelief is simply because it is mainly women who are gathering the information.
They are in France and the war is being fought not that far from where they are located. Ginger, when on duty, takes a report from a soldier she'd seen in town the night before. He reports that he was murdered and he believes there is a spy among the British soldiers. The report is discounted. Ginger believes that there may be a spy among them and is determined to confirm the report and find proof.
There's a lot going on as she investigates. She gains some allies and makes some enemies. There's danger--real danger that could cost her life--as she gets closer to finding the truth. This book is a real page turner as Ginger gathers information, as she doesn't know who to trust. Yet, it is imperative that she get the information to the people or person who will believe and act on it before it is too late.
This alternative world feels so real from the social interactions, the links to events that happened in our world, and the fully developed characters who live within the pages. This story hits the emotions on many levels and leaves the reader thoughtful about war and its impact and those who fight it, those who are on the edges, and those who are left behind.