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.

World War I, death, violence, alcoholism.

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, Laura 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, where she soon 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 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.

Don't just take our word for it...

“A spectacular tour de force by one of my favorite authors, so wonderful and deep and haunting that you might well imagine it required a Faustian bargain of its own—I love this book so much and want everyone to read it!”
– Naomi Novik, author of A Deadly Education

“Katherine Arden’s effortless blend of history and folklore is sure to entrance again with this stunning foray into the twentieth century, where ghosts walk, dreams blunt trauma, and myth becomes real.”
– Kate Quinn, author of The Diamond Eye

“Darkly beautiful and deeply humane, this is a story of love that reaches across borders and across oceans, and even penetrates the veil of death. It will stir your heart and settle into your bones.”
– Ava Reid, author of A Study in Drowning

Taste the very first page

The Beast From the Sea
Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canadian Maritimes
January 1918

Freddie’s clothes came to Veith Street instead of Blackthorn House, and the telegram that ought to have preceded them didn’t reach Laura at all. She wasn’t surprised. Nothing had worked properly, not since December.

December 6, to be exact. In the morning. When the Mont Blanc had steamed into Halifax Harbour, oil on deck and high explosive in her hold. She ’d struck a freighter, they said, and the oil caught fire. Harbor crews were trying to put it out when the flames found the nitroglycerine.

At least that was how rumor had it. “No, I don’t doubt it’s true,” Laura told her patients when they asked, as though she would know. As if, after three years as a combat nurse, she’d learned about high explosive from the things it wrote on people ’s skin. “Didn’t you see the fireball?”

They all had. Her father had been in one of the boats trying to drown the blaze. Halifax afterward looked as if God had raised a giant burning boot and stamped. Fresh graves in Fairview sat snug beside five-year-old headstones from the Titanic, and the village of the Mi’kmaq had vanished.