Living with Ghosts: Never enjoyed it

fantasy book reviews Kari Sperring Living With Ghostsfantasy book reviews Kari Sperring Living With GhostsLiving with Ghosts by Kari Sperring

It took me a long time to get through Living with Ghosts by Kari Sperring. As a fantasy novel, it meets all the requirements in terms of the setting, the use of magic and the plot. I think that it took so long because I had a hard time getting into any of the characters, and for me that is essential to my enjoyment of a book.

Gracielis is a gigolo. He is well-mannered, good-looking and seemingly omnisexual in his willingness and ability to become attractive to anyone. Gracielis’ history is actually quite interesting. He is a failed novice of a group of assassin-sorcerer-priests who spend years training to become the ultimate blend of lover and killer. The process is only loosely depicted, but it’s something to ponder, and it’s interesting to imagine what could be created out of a blend of complete conviction, extreme skill and magic.

Gracielis is something of a catalyst for the events in the story. His flawed apprenticeship as an assassin/priest allows him to be manipulated by his former mentor, and his relationships as a lover/prostitute to people in Merafi make him interesting. Throw into this mix the fact that Gracielis is able to see and to a certain extent understand the ghosts of people who have died with events in their lives incomplete, and you have a complex mess.

Kari Sperring evokes the novels of Alexandre Dumas with the culture and decadence of the city of Merafi: an island in a river in more senses than one. As a result of a long-ago pact, Merafi is untouched by much of the magic that lives throughout the world. Practitioners of magic are banned from the city and this would include Gracielis if his true nature and skills were known.

Sperring uses a wide variety of characters to tell her story. An evil, power-hungry dark sorceress, an overly ambitious young noble, the self-sacrificing ruler of the realm, an unappreciated spouse, and a love affair ended in death fill the pages of Living with Ghosts. Of them all, the young soldier caught up in events beyond his depth is perhaps my favorite, because he feels like someone I could actually connect with and for whom I felt pity.

Living with Ghosts is a complex, deep story that, unfortunately, I never felt connected to. The plot is interesting, the characters detailed and world development adequate, but I just never fell into the story. That could be because I found Gracielis repugnant; his sexual exploits were not to my taste and I had trouble getting past that. In any case, while I can acknowledge the positives of Living with Ghosts, I never really enjoyed it.

Living With Ghosts — (2009) Publisher: The dazzling debut from a brilliant new fantasy talent. This highly original, darkly atmospheric fantasy novel immerses readers in a world where ghosts and other malevolent spirits seek entry into mortal realms — invisible to all but those who are not entirely human themselves. Drawn into the ancient city of Merafi, yet barred from entering by an ancient pact sealed in blood, these hungry haunts await their opportunity to break through the magical border and wreak havoc on the city’s innocent denizens. And as a priestess and prince weave a sorcerous plot to shatter the pact and bring ruin on Merafi, only a failed assassin-priest who is now a courtesan, a noble lord married into the ruling family of Merafi, an officer of the city guard, a woman warrior who was the former lover of a now-dead lord, andthe ghost of that lord himself stand between Merafi and the tidal wave of magic that may soon bring ruin flooding down upon the city.

SHARE:  facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedintumblrmail  FOLLOW:  facebooktwittergoogle_pluslinkedinrsstumblr

JOHN HULET (on FanLit's staff July 2007 -- March 2015) is a member of the Utah Army National Guard. John’s experiences have often left a great void that has been filled by countless hours spent between the pages of a book lost in the words and images of the authors he admires. During a 12 month tour of Iraq, he spent well over $1000 on books and found sanity in the process. John lives in Utah and works slavishly to prepare soldiers to serve their country with the honor and distinction that Sturm Brightblade or Arithon s’Ffalenn would be proud of. John retired from FanLit in March 2015 after being with us for nearly 8 years.

View all posts by


  1. Was it told from multiple pov? I have a hard time getting into those, especially when the evil guy is one of the POV. I don’t need to see into that kind of mind. Ever.

  2. But such a beautiful cover!

    Actually, I might give this a try. Mosiac novels don’t bother me and it does sound like an interesting world.

  3. I haven’t read the book, Marion, but based on what John says, I think you’ll like it better. I notice that he doesn’t like books without likable heroes, but I don’t think you feel the same way.

  4. I’m pretty sure I’ll like it too — this was one negative review that really made me want to read the book! :)

  5. I confess that this sounds like something I’d enjoy as well. John, have you ever had a negative review wind up convincing so many people they wanted to read the book?

  6. Just goes to show that a book can be interesting even if one particular reviewer didn’t like it!! Let me know who wants it and I will happily “share” my copy.

  7. We can pass it around, like a book fruitcake!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *