5 Points, Mystery, Southern Gothic, Urban Fantasy

“A GIFT OF GHOSTS” BY SARAH WYNDE

A Gift of GhostsA Gift of Ghosts | Tassamara #1 | ISBN 9781470130275 | Razor Productions, 2011 | 5 out of 5 Points

“Akira Malone believes in the scientific method, evolution, and Einstein’s theory of relativity. And ghosts. All the logic and reason in the world can’t protect her from the truth-she can see and communicate with spirits. But Akira is sure that her ability is just a genetic quirk and the ghosts she encounters simply leftover electromagnetic energy. Dangerous electromagnetic energy. 

Zane Latimer believes in telepathy, precognition, auras, and that playing Halo with your employees is an excellent management technique. He also thinks that maybe, just maybe, Akira can help his family get in touch with their lost loved ones. But will Akira ever be able to face her fears and accept her gift? Or will Zane’s relatives be trapped between life and death forever?”

LUDOVICA’S REVIEW

There are some books that surprise you right in the beginning. I didn’t have high hopes for “A Gift of Ghosts” by Sarah Wynde – I can’t quite say why, really – but after the first chapter, I was pretty much hooked. Wynde pulls you right in: From the first paragraph onward, something is wrong, but you’re not told what it is. There are hints, though, hints that are just obvious enough that you understand they’re hinting at something, and the longer the first chapter draws on, the more you think you might know what is going on. I kind of guessed what the reveal of this first little mystery would be, but that didn’t make the actual point when it was solved any less great; maybe even more so, because this book actually asks you to keep thinking, to keep paying attention to details. This is a theme that extends throughout the book: Pay attention to the details, because they will be important later. Pay attention to what Akira says, what Zane sees, because everything will have ramifications in the plot.

A SCIENTIST, NOT A MEDIUM

Akira and Zane, by the way, are our two PoV characters. Akira, our protagonist, is a physicist from California, a specialist in energy research, who can see ghosts and who just made the horrible mistake of mentioning spirit energy in a journal article, which means she is about to lose her university job. Zane is one of the sons of the founder of General Directions, a company in the Florida town of Tassamara with both a name and a mission statement so vague that Akira, who is called there for an interview, can’t find anything out about it. Zane interviews Akira, with neither of them knowing what job the interview even is for, and Akira finally accepts, because a) she doesn’t think she has a lot of other options, and b) they basically promise that she’ll be able to research whatever she wants, with pretty much as much funding as she wants (which is every scientists dream) – only to find out, once she has moved to Tassamara, that not only is the little Florida town she now calls home filled to the brim with very strange people, but the division of General Directions she works for now is not the research division like she thought, but the special affairs division – Zane’s division, which exclusively has psychics working for it.

Now, the thing is that Akira doesn’t see herself as psychic. She can see ghosts, alright, but she is convinced there is a perfectly good reason why she can see them; she is also convinced that they are just some kind of residual energy, like her father used to claim, which is why she decided to specialize in energy research when she became a physicist. Also, she doesn’t actually like talking to ghosts – a lot of them want her to talk with their relatives, which is generally horrible and a thing Akira does not do, and others want her to help them move on, which Akira does not know how to do, and again others… Well, let’s just say Akira has made a lot of bad experiences with ghosts that lost control to their emotions. It’s a big point in the book, and it’s absolutely fascinating, and I don’t want to spoil it for you, but yeah, some of the ghosts that Akira has to deal with are dangerous as hell. And now she’s supposed to work as a psychic for a company she knows nothing about? After being told she’d be given a research position? I really understand why Akira is pissed, to be honest.

Of course, there are some ghosts Akira likes. The ghost characters in the book were just as great as the living characters, from the anxious teenage boy Dillon, the bubbly 50s girl Rose to the calm Henry. And even though Zane’s family seemed kind of like your usual ‘We will now introduce these characters because they will be the protagonists of the next book’ cast, they were distinct and plot-relevant enough to not stick out too much.

THE PHYSICS BEHIND GHOSTS

But let’s be honest, Akira was the best thing about the book. She really reads like a scientist, and not only is that a real nice change from a lot of other books I’ve read lately, but it was also really unusual (but super cool) to read a character who knows a lot more about something than anybody around her, but still has so, so much to learn. The things that Akira knows about ghosts are presented throughout about the first third of the book, but then most of these things start to be slowly put into question. And this book is just so well-written that every change, everything that’s new and different and unexpected really hits home, and I just loved that so much.

There are also a whole lot of ideas about the scientific nature of all the phenomena that Akira has to deal with, and I don’t know enough about physics to actually know whether any of those ideas could even theoretically hold water, but I still really enjoyed them. I especially enjoyed the way Akira had to adapt them all the time because things just didn’t fit into her pre-made conceptions. I guess I should start reading science fiction or something, since I’m having so much fun reading a scientist lead?

Speaking of science, there is a single sex-scene in this book, between Akira and Zane, and it is so absolutely delightful. First of all, the whole set-up for it just makes you really adore Zane, who is a huge child at heart and has his whole office filled with toys – consoles, arcade machines, foosball tables, you name it. But since Akira doesn’t want to play anything of the things he already has with him, and since she tells him that ‘physicists play pool’, he buys a huge, super fancy pool table so she will finally, finally play something with him. Though I guess he didn’t think she’d decimate him six times in a row. Or that she’d decide it was a good time to seduce him after those six wins.

To be honest, I didn’t know what do make of this scene at first. I read a lot of romance with heroines who know what they want, but it’s still very rare to find a heroine who thinks ‘I really like him, he is very cute, and he likes me back, so I’m going to sleep with him, even if this might not become anything bigger than that’. She initiates the whole thing 100%, and after I had gotten used to the thought of having a sex scene in my ghost book I was actually really stoked about it. Also, the sex scene has scientist dirty talk. Which was absolutely incredible.

Like I said, I didn’t have a lot of hopes for “A Gift of Ghosts”, but this book definitely taught me better. It was just so much fun, but also so suspenseful and interesting and just plain thrilling. I have already bought the second book in the series, so let’s hope that “A Gift of Thought” is going to be as good as “A Gift of Ghosts” was.

About Ludovica

Ludovica is a translator, writer and aspiring librarian, which is why she already practices getting as many books into her overflowing shelves as possible. She lives in the heart of the Alps, but dreams of a life in Canada.

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