Kowal is an awesome writer with super cool, feminist-leaning topics such as women being astronauts during the 1950/1960’s and here, women being an integral part of trench warfare during World War I as mediums who interrogate freshly killed soldiers about enemy army positions before they cross the veil.
And here’s my dissatisfaction with the way Kowal writes: with all that high concept ideas, and strong, awesome heroines, and a touch of romance, we don’t get the juiciest bits of the heroine’s conflict with role vs self-image or the juiciest parts of the romance because her books tend to start with the heroine already in a committed relationship. (I have Calculating Stars 5 stars, but the heroine in that one, Elma, also already is in a committed relationship, but she has to navigate getting a job).
Ginger starts the story already in the British Army’s Spirit Corps (she’s American but that doesn’t seem to influence things very much) and fianceed to an army intelligence officer named Ben.
Ginger’s job is awesome, but extremely taxing emotionally and physically. She’s a medium, able to communicate with the spirits of the recently departed, and in a war situation she must both help freshly killed soldiers feel useful and not despairing, and find out any important info about their position and the enemy’s armaments.
When someone dear to her is killed in the course of investigating a possible traitor, Ginger and her mundane circle friends must find the traitor before he can expose the secret position of the Spirit Corps to the Germans.
Lots of authentic-feeling stuff about how women served in the war as Hospitality corps and ambulance drivers, the frustrating treatment and roles of East Indians in the army as well, the morays of the time regarding male/female proprietry, and all the constant chauvinism Kowal portrayed in Calculating Stars.
I got a little tired of all the descriptions of emotional colors Ginger saw, as well as didn’t like Ben that much, despite him being her main emotional foil. Wish we could have experienced more of the romance leading up to their engagement, but realize in the context of this novel it wouldn’t have worked as well. Feels like the book ends with an opening for another installment of the story as the war wages on.