The Warm Hands of Ghosts by Katherine Arden: Powerful and Emotional

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.

Katherine Arden’s work, The Warm Hands of Ghosts, is a powerful and emotional exploration of war and trauma that will resonate with readers. It is haunting in its realistic portrayal of World War I and the devastation the war wrought on soldiers and civilians alike. Katherine Arden brings the time period to life with rich depth and amazing details that will grab readers attention. But it is the characters that will keep you reading.

Both Freddie, in his pain and his connection to the soldier Winter will move you almost to tears as you hope he can find a way to move past his pain and find happiness. And Laura, as she searches for Freddie, is a strong and charismatic voice, compelling and vivid. I love the secondary characters as well, Mary, Dr. Jones, and Pim. All of the characters have depth and a complexity that will make you feel like they are real people to you. Of course, Mary is a historical figure. I especially love the Parkey sisters at the beginning of the novel, they feel very much like a stand-in for the 3 wise women or the Morai of Greek mythology. In either case, I found them fascinating. The story truly explores the price of war, the ghosts that haunt us and loss. It is a beautiful dark story that is powerful and emotional.

If you like dark stories based in history with rich details, ghosts, and the idea of loss and war, this novel is compelling and dynamic. The characters are rich in depth and resonated with me. I love the resolution, that while not perfect, still gave hope in the end. If you like powerful and emotional stories, I highly recommend you check this novel out.

Rating: 5 out of 5 shells. 

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