My copy of the Waterstones edition of The Warm Hands of Ghosts
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The Warm Hands of Ghosts Review: The Beautifully Haunting Vibe You’re Looking For

The Warm Hands of Ghosts is a historical fiction novel written by bestselling author Katherine Arden. I admit, I bought this book mostly because of the cover and edges (I got the Waterstones edition which is simply beautiful!)

However, I had heard really good things about it and was excited to pick this up.

Sure enough, Arden’s masterful storytelling effortlessly carries me through the twists and turns of the plot. In The Warm Hands of Ghosts, her hauntingly beautiful prose captures both tragedy and hope.

If you’ve been wondering if you should add this one to your TBR, Here is my unbiased review of The Warm Hands of Ghosts if you are thinking bout picking up this book!

Disclaimer: there are affiliate links in this article, which means if you make a purchase after clicking on one, I may earn a commission. Full disclaimer here.

My copy of the Waterstones edition of The Warm Hands of Ghosts
My copy of the Waterstones edition of The Warm Hands of Ghosts. Isn’t it purdy?

Read If You Like

  • Historical depth: If you’re a fan of stories with a strong sense of history, The Warm Hands of Ghosts is definitely for you. The novel provides an engaging portrayal of the experience of the Great War (World War I) and its aftermath. As a reader, I felt transported to the haunted trenches of the past, witnessing the horrors and camaraderie of war firsthand.
  • Supernatural twists: If you enjoy a speculative twist to your historical reads, then this book captures the essence of fantasy and magic. The supernatural element adds an intriguing layer to the gritty realism of the wartime setting.
  • Beautiful prose: The writing in this novel is simply gorgeous. I found myself captivated not only by the richly detailed world it conjured but also by the poetic language that made every paragraph a delight to read. The author’s use of striking metaphors and crisp imagery truly enhances the reading experience.
  • World War I stories: If you’re already interested in World War I, you’ll appreciate the historical accuracy and the author’s attentiveness to detail in this novel. Fans of the 1917 movie will undoubtedly find much to enjoy in The Warm Hands of Ghosts as well, since both works delve deep into the lived experiences of those who fought in the trenches.

Pass If You Don’t Like

As a fan of haunted war stories, I found The Warm Hands of Ghosts intriguing. However, I should point out that it might not be for everyone.

  • Horror and trauma: The story takes place in the haunted trenches of November 1917, where trauma and horrors of war are displayed at their terrifying peak. The Battle of Passchendaele, which serves as the backdrop of the story, is undeniably a dark and violent event. If you are sensitive to graphic scenes or descriptions of combat and violence, you may want to pass on this book.
  • Evil spirits and ghosts: The terrifying apparitions, ghosts, and spirits featured in the narrative reveal the immense psychological weight endured by the soldiers in those hellish battlefields. Their presence doesn’t shy away from confronting readers with the chilling reality of war.
cover of the warm hands of ghosts

Plot

The Warm Hands of Ghosts revolves around Laura Iven and her brother Freddie.

Laura is a combat nurse who was honorably discharged after suffering an injury to her leg. Back in her hometown of Halifax, she receives a crate of her brother’s things and a vague note from overseas that her brother has died. However, something doesn’t add up, and she travels back to Belgium to learn the truth of her brother’s fate.

The other storyline takes place a few months before Laura’s narrative and follows Freddie from the moment he gets trapped under an exploded pillbox with a German soldier.

As the reader, I was captivated by Freddie’s story from the very beginning, while Laura’s tale piqued my interest around the halfway mark of the book. The final act sees these two storylines intertwining, complete with benevolent ghosts, evil spirits, and… lots of violin music.

Themes And Motifs

Love Amidst War

In The Warm Hands of Ghosts, two breathtaking relationships unfold – one between medical professionals and the other between two brave soldiers.

These bonds flourish as a testament to the power of love and romance, even in the darkest of times. The author skillfully contrasts the harsh realities of war with the warmth of emotional connections among the characters, reminding me of the resilience of the human spirit.

Survival And Grief

Set in the backdrop of Faland and Halifax, Nova Scotia, the story takes place on February 13, 2024 – a date that carries significant weight for the characters.

Throughout the narrative, the protagonists grapple with survivor’s guilt and grief, giving a raw and honest portrayal of their emotional journeys.

One of the most striking aspects of the story is how it addresses the concept of survival:

  • The physical struggle to stay alive amidst the horrors of war
  • The emotional resilience to cope with loss and pain
  • The spiritual quest for meaning in the face of tragedy

This multifaceted approach to survival adds depth to the characters and resonates with readers, who will undoubtedly find themselves reflecting on their own lives and experiences.

Perspectives of War

An important thread running through The Warm Hands of Ghosts is the glaring disparity in perspectives between those orchestrating the war and the individuals living in the trenches, enduring unthinkable hardships.

The author skillfully utilizes the characters’ contrasting experiences to highlight the injustice of these power dynamics, ultimately shedding light on the personal effects of war on both a macro and micro level.

World-Building

Focusing on the haunted trenches in Belgium during the years 1917-1918 – at the height of World War I – the author masterfully fleshes out the historical fiction setting with paranormal elements.

The vivid descriptions transport us to the very heart of the conflict, as we find ourselves alongside those courageous soldiers, engulfed by the chilling touch of the supernatural. The war-torn landscapes of Flanders, once enchanting, have now been hauntingly distorted by the grim realities of war.

The setting of the haunted trenches in Belgium during World War I isn’t glamorized in any way. On the contrary, the author tactfully deals with the devastating effects that war had on both sides of the conflict.

By seamlessly incorporating supernatural elements into the historical setting, a unique and compelling world is created that takes both the historical and fantastical aspects to new heights.

Characters

Laura

I found Laura, our protagonist, to be a genuinely strong and intriguing character. Her unwavering dedication to discovering the truth about her missing brother showcases her deep love and determination.

While she barely clings to hope that her sibling is alive, her fear of admitting it makes her a relatable and emotionally complex character. Laura’s story arc with the compassionate Dr. Jones adds an additional layer to her journey – and is one of my favorite aspects of the book!

Freddie

Freddie’s character provides us with an interesting storyline alongside Winter, a German soldier. Their relationship begins when they find themselves trapped together under a pillbox.

Despite the horrors of war, betrayal, and their own struggling allegiances, Freddie and Winter form a bond that will warm your heart.

Faland

Faland, the mysterious wandering violinist, serves as an intriguing third main character in the story. With a rather enigmatic presence, Faland runs a hotel where he allows patrons to stay for free, as long as they share their stories with him.

It quickly becomes apparent that he is not a good dude, yet I must confess that even by the end of the book, I couldn’t bring myself to despise him completely. His character offers a fascinating twist to the story, providing depth beyond the central protagonists.

Writing Style

The writing style in The Warm Hands of Ghosts is definitely one of the aspects I enjoyed the most. Katherine Arden crafts the prose in a way that is simply beautiful, yet never comes across as overly extravagant.

The balance she strikes creates an atmosphere that immerses the reader into the narrative, enabling them to easily visualize the scenes and characters.

When it comes to the structure of the book, Arden chose a classic approach with clearly defined chapters and sub-chapters. The story flows smoothly, giving the reader a satisfying sense of progress as they delve further into the plot.

Final Thoughts And Rating

The Warm Hands of Ghosts presents a thrilling combination of historical fiction, myth, and paranormal magic. The novel transports us to a different era, where the line between folklore and reality blurs.

As a fan of the genre, I found great pleasure in reading this captivating book. Overall, I give it 4 stars and highly recommend it to anyone who enjoys historical fiction and ghost stories.

CategoryRating
Plot4
Characters4.5
Atmosphere4.5
Writing Style4
Pacing3.5

Frequently Asked Questions

Is the warm hands of ghosts a standalone?

Yes, The Warm Hands of Ghosts is a standalone novel. You do not need to read any other books to understand or enjoy the story. It’s a complete tale in and of itself, so you can dive right in without worrying about other connected stories or characters.

Who are the characters in the warm hands of ghosts?

The main characters in The Warm Hands of Ghosts are Laura Iven, an honorably discharged combat nurse, her brother Freddie, a Canadian soldier, and Faland, a mysterious and unsettling wandering violinist.

Is this a horror novel?

While The Warm Hands of Ghosts does involve ghosts and supernatural themes, I wouldn’t classify it as a traditional horror novel. It is a beautifully haunting piece of historical fiction with a side of ghosts.

Is there romance in the warm hands of ghosts?

There are two romantic subplots in The Warm Hands of Ghosts, but it is not the primary focus of the story. But the romance definitely adds an extra layer to the relationships between characters.

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