After finishing the disappointing Half a War I was scanning my shelves and the spine of this book, emblazoned with the flag of Great Britain, jumped out at me. At the Table of Wolves by Kay Kenyon. The cover has a WWII militaristic look, with the tagline “Traitors, Talents, Spies: Let the games begin”. It had been the speculative fiction pick of the month last year at my favorite bookstore. I knew nothing about it but the store’s recommendation was enough for me.
Kay Kenyon has reimagined a post WWI era, where people have begun to show special abilities in the wake of the trauma the war had caused. In the last year of the War outbreaks of paranormal activity began occurring, which grew to about one in a thousand developing psychic gifts after puberty. True numbers unknown due to many people being reluctant to share their gifts, referred to as Talents. Talents such as precognition, ability to see possible futures, trauma view, seeing the incident that caused trauma in another, various types of psychokinesis, and our heroine’s Talent, spill.
Kim Tavistock thought that people just naturally confided with her until a friend helped her to understand that she has the spill Talent. People will unconsciously share secrets with her, often putting Kim in the uncomfortable position of knowing things preferred left unsaid. It is 1936 and only a few people in the British Special Intelligence Service believe that Herr Hitler is preparing for war by weaponizing Talents. Most members of government would rather believe that no one would want to start another after the horror of the Great War.
Being a spill has it’s advantages working as a reporter. Working as a freelance reporter is also partly a cover for Kim’s Talent training at the Historical Archives and Records Center, a top-secret research arm of government looking into Talents, referred to as Monkton Hall. Talents are rated in ability from one to ten. Kim is a six and works with Owen Cherwell to better understand how to utilize her ability.
Owen discloses to Kim that a person with the hypercognition Talent, ability to come to a conclusion based on slight awareness or buried set of observations, suspects that there is a mole at the highest level of Monkton Hall. There is a connection between this potential mole and socialite Georgiana Aberdare, who is a German sympathizer. Georgi and Kim are acquainted through Kim’s father. Owen asks her to use that connection, and her cover as a reporter, to get close to Georgi and see if she will spill evidence. Feeling a keen patriotic duty, due to loss of her brother at Ypres, Kim agrees and starts a slippery slope of lies and secrecy.
Kim finagles an invitation from Georgi to visit the Aberdare family home for the weekend, to photograph and take notes for an article featuring the historic estate. Georgi’s brother Hugh is in residence, as well as several house guests, Sir Edgar and his wife Lady Beatrice, and the handsome Erich von Ritter,
“He really was nothing short of dashingly handsome. It shouldn’t matter to her, and of course, it didn’t. What was rather worse was that he was also charming and smart: harder to ignore.”
From here the real adventure begins as Kim gets deeper and deeper into the nest of traitors and spies, many with Talents of their own. At the Table of Wolves was an engaging read. I loved Kim, and the back and forth between her and Erich von Ritter. I particularly liked how once started down the path, Kim taking matters into her own hands, weighing the risks and proceeding under her own guidance. This was a great read. I had never heard of Kay Kenyon before but will now be looking into her back catalog.