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Review: When We Were Ghosts by E.J. Philips Leave a comment


Rating: 4.75 stars
Buy Link:
Amazon | iBooks | Amazon UK
Length: Novel

What do you do when your world ends? When half of yourself is dead and gone? What would you do to bring them back, if you could? What wouldn’t you do? Gemma will do anything. Anything. She will open herself to the Wild Hunt and offer up her heart in the hopes of getting her twin back, of restoring him to life. It doesn’t matter if he ends up bound to the Hunt, just so long as he’s alive, just so long as she has him back.

But first, she needs a ghost.

Gemma is a private person who has bound herself so tightly with her twin that, without him, she doesn’t know who she is. She is unmoored and lost and desperate to fix this, to change the world, to change reality so that Alex can be back. All her life, she has been h is twin. They shared a bond no one else could touch, not his girlfriend, not his biker buddies… and even though she shared him with them, she didn’t let herself be touched by them. She wanted Alex, had Alex, and that was enough. And then he died, and Gemma fell. Half in the mortal world, half in the Otherworld, with grief and madness making a bridge between them, Gemma is reluctant to give either up them up. She sees Alex, or a memory of Alex, but when he begs her to listen, she won’t. She doesn’t want to hear what he has to say in case what he says is “let me go,” because that would destroy her.

Dawn, a childhood friend and Gemma’s first love, left her. But even that’s not quite true. Dawn, her father’s ward, was being taken to England, which was a long and far way away from Gem and Australia. Dawn, though, wasn’t as quick to surrender to the whims of others and bought two bus tickets, one for her and one for Gemma. But Gemma, unable to leave Alex — unable to see herself as a person apart from her twin — didn’t go. And Dawn left, and Gemma was even more dependant upon Alex to be her world.

If it weren’t for Eve, the ghost girl helping guide her along the path the Wild Hunt has set for her, Gemma might never find her way out of her despair. Eve pushes Gemma, challenging every preconception, every delay or judgement. Gemma is forced to think, for the first time since Alex died, because of Eve. Eve doesn’t soften her edges for Gemma; instead, she cuts at the grey fog surrounding her. Eve isn’t just a guide for Gemma. She’s her own person, dealing with her own life and death, and the rapport she and Gemma share is one of bickering as well as silence.

This is one of those books that isn’t going to be for everyone. It’s slow and lyrical, languid and dream-like, and dwells heavily on its exploration of grief and identity and the painful complexities of love and loss. It’s beautifully written and I adore it. The magic is so well done, flawlessly balanced between a subtle magical realism and a more explicit paranormal book. The magic flows, as effortlessly as the writing, and feels actualized and organic. The pacing is a bit slow and drifty, and I will admit that it took a few chapters for me to fully understand what had happened and why Gemma went from a bold club girl to an anxious and snarling ball of nerves, but once I found my footing, I was lost in the book.



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