Shanghai Sparrow by Gaie Sebold


Publisher: Rebellion
Publishing Date: April 2014
ISBN: 9781781081853
Genre: Fantasy Steampunk
Rating: 2.6/5.0

Publisher Description: Eveline Duchen is a thief and con-artist, surviving day by day on the streets of London, where the glittering spires of progress rise on the straining backs of the poor and disenfranchised. Where the Folk, the otherworldly children of fairy tales and legends, have all but withdrawn from the smoke of the furnaces and the clamour of iron. Caught in an act of deception by the implacable Mr Holmforth, Evvie is offered a stark choice: transportation to the colonies, or an education – and utter commitment to Her Majesty’s Service – at Miss Cairngrim’s harsh school for female spies.

Review: Not a big fan of the cover art on this one. Doesn’t really evoke the image and feeling of steampunk.

This was a pretty good story-line except for some hiccups throughout the novel. I agree with another reviewer in that the author spent an inordinate amount of time casting back in time to explain Eveline’s past before her life of crime. In this case it did nothing to develop Eveline’s character. More like a boo-hoo fest of her family’s bad luck and her rotten Uncle. I like novels with movement. Cast backs should be sporadic or limited in scope, but poignant and hard hitting.

I initially liked Eveline as the wiseass gutter snipe. Then as we move along the story-line her character development becomes confused. She has no morals with regards to stealing (its ok as she is surviving) then she cries over her lost family or a poor street urchin and hates with vigor those she mistrusts. She is supposedly a very talented and smart thief yet as her life moves from the streets to the girls school (for spies) her character devolves to unwarranted disbelief at the actions of others around her. Conflicted? Not so much. Bi-polar, maybe.

On her friend Liu (who is half “Folk”) not enough is revealed about the character that gets you any nearer to liking him. By intent I am sure. One reviewer stated “Mysterious Liu is mysterious”. That sums it up nicely. He is helping to prevent the annihilation of the human species by the Folk, but we are no closer to knowing what Folk are, what they do, what interests them and why they would give enough of a shjt to waste their time annihilating humans.

Dues Ex Machina rears its gears when out of nowhere, Eveline’s dead mom and dead sister are…..ALIVE! And here we had all those wasted years of self-recrimination iterated in the telling of Eveline’s exhausting backstory.

This novel has no real descriptive elements that enable visualization of the genre. Some dirigible traveling and some machines that they doohookie with, but nothing that evokes Steampunk. The only standout in this novel is Beth, a geeky steampunker sidekick to Eveline.

This alternative world of England and China are thinly built and I still don’t know what etherics is. The Folk are nebulous other than one that’s finds Eveline and her sister interesting. The spygurl school is never developed into a useful tool to the story, although half the novel is spent there. Buy or don’t kinda thing.


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