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, she 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. Soon after arriving, she 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 men 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.

Audiobook Review

5 stars

The Warm Hands of Ghosts was not what I imagined.

I hadn’t read the synopsis but I didn’t expect  a tale so bleak, dark, weird but beautiful too!

It’s my first Katherine Arden and the writing was gorgeous.

But even with a beautiful penmanship, the story was painful to read sometimes.

TWHOG is about the first WWI and the damages it did on people’s minds.

It’s also about the gap dividing the commanding officers, protected in castles, eating good food and the common soldiers, entranched in mud, hungry, soaked and wet.

It’s about choosing escape of the mind when reality is too hard and hopeless.

“Freddie didn’t miss the sun. He kept to the shadows and drank and watched Faland’s mirror, lost in longing. It was an endless, daydreamer’s longing, satisfying in itself, with no need for fulfilment. The people in the mirror could not disappoint in any way, and he would never fail them, or lose them, or mourn them. It was easier so. He had only to watch and yearn. And tell Faland a story.”

It’s also about love.

The love of a sister for her brother, where and what she would do to save him.

The love of comrades in arms, where and what they would do to save each other.

It’s about folklore and myths.

The fiddler is a recurring myth in many cultures. The one enthralling you with his music, offering you peace into oblivion in exchange for your soul.

Katherine Arden did an amazing job writing about the madness of the Great War. You feel that she did a lot of research for that book and I learned a lot following Laura in the ward, discovering new techniques or with Freddie witnessing the hungry mud eating soldiers alive.

There is a definite gothic vibe to the book, an eeriness and even creepiness, especially when reading about Freddie’s chapters. If I could read Laura’s chapters, Freddie’s were too painful and angsty to read and I had to cheat and read the ending at some point before backtracking.

It’s a masterpiece of woven tale, intertwining historical facts with fantasy elements, fitting for the madness that WWI was.

Thanks for reading.


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  1. I came back to this review because I just finished this book myself a couple days ago. So lovely! I read her middle grade series which was a bit of a disappointment so I am so glad she is back to writing adult fantasy with this one.