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Shanghai Sparrow by Gaie Sebold
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Shanghai Sparrow (edition 2014)

by Gaie Sebold

Series: Sparrow (1)

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645359,186 (3.73)2
Shanghai Sparrow is a Far Eastern steampunk tale of espionage, distant empires and thrilling exploits, with a dynamic heroine. 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 Where the Folk, the otherworldly children of fairy tales and legends, have all but withdrawn from the smoke of the furnaces and the clamour of iron.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. But on the decadent streets of Shanghai, where the corruption of the Empire is laid bare, Holmforth is about to make a devil's bargain, and Eveline's choices could change the future of two worlds.… (more)
Member:psutto
Title:Shanghai Sparrow
Authors:Gaie Sebold
Info:Solaris (2014), Mass Market Paperback, 384 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:****
Tags:2014 challenge

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Shanghai Sparrow by Gaie Sebold

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Showing 4 of 4
4,5

I recieved this ARC from Netgalley and this is my honest Review of it.

This book takes place in a Victorian era world where steamships soar the skies over London, and where a young woman called Evvie the sparrow works for Ma Pether (think like a female Fagin).

Stealing running,confidence games and keeping out from the eyes of the law are the essentials in her profession even if there are hints that once her Life once was very different.But Evvie prefers not to think too much about her past and instead focus on the present wich is hard enough.

One day while she is working a con she is interrupted by a man called Holmfort who tempts her with the possibility of advancement in life and a pension after she has completed an important task for him,a task for wich he believes she has an aptitude.

She agrees to this even if she and we the reader both know that he has ulterior motives.

So Evvie finds herself shipped off to the strict boarding school Britannia run by stern Ms Cairngrim aptly nicknamed Miss Grim by her students.

The Britannia School is used to train girls in the service of the empire but Evvie soon figures out that its mostly used to hide away the illegitimate daughters of the rich,noble and powerful. Its pupils are taught several subjects like deportment,languages,the art of disguise and Bartitsu.



In this new enviroment can Evvie figure out the dark agenda of Holmforth and her connection to Etheric sciences

The first thing you need to know about Evvie is that she is DEVIOUS and CUNNING. But being forced to grow up in the conditions she had its not bad qualities to have.

Another character describes her perfectly

"With *spoiler hidden* you are an respectable young lady.

Others see an innocent or a rogue..

"And what do you see?" Evvie raised her chin"

"An artist he said,and managed still clinging on to the window with one hand,a remarkably elegant bow.

But she has a good heart so I liked her. Shes a strong character but shes certainly not a Mary Sue or made of stone

When it comes to the setting I also liked (if liking is the right word) that the author didnt shy away from the seedier and not so pretty parts of the Victorian era. There is racial prejudice and chauvinism galore. Not to mention poverty and other dickensian awful going ons.

But in all the darkness there is hope too


As I was reading Shanghai Sparrow I kept waiting for romance to happen. There were several likely candidates for the role but then I realized just like this story does perfectly fine without inserting a romance so does Evvie. She has too many other things to think about to complicate it with getting a love interest.

There were actually several times when I though to myself. Give the poor girl a break. Hasnt she been through enough? And isnt that what makes a book great when you start to care about their characters and what will become of them


That said I really liked Liu :) He both admires and accepts her for what she is.

This is a book full of what I would like to call in lack of a better word- Girl power.

Evvie acquires a female friend at Britannia who proves to be quite resourceful and loyal,and other female character shows that they are far from the mindless idiots some men seems to think they are.

Holmforth as the primary antagonist was really someone you could dislike and hope Evvie would escape from, but at the same time you start understand where he was coming from and makes him something more than a cardboard antagonist.

His fate at the end of the book was really sad,and despite being the villain I think it was a bit harsh.Maybe it will make him learn some lessons though

If this book has any weakness its that I felt the reasons for the animosity against the Folk was a bit vague as they dont really appear in the book wich causes the threat they are supposedly posing be a bit hard to Believe as its based on what a supporting character states and some powerhungry/paranoid officials beliefs.

The chapters with the folk Empress could have been cut out for all the impact they had on the story.

The prologue I am not so sure I liked because of the implications when it comes to the future of Evvie. Its not an unhappy ending and I even understand how it came about and that it fits the theme of female empowerment running through the book.

But I cant really believe thats how her story will end.

Will there be no more adventures for Eveline Duchen?! I hope Gaie Sebold does write more. *hints*
( )
  Litrvixen | Jun 23, 2022 |
Exceeds expectations!

This book is just pure fun. Eveline Duchen has been orphaned and left to fend for herself on London’s gritty streets. She’s made a life for herself, of sorts – but that’s abruptly turned on its head when a grasping government agent plucks her out of her situation and places her in a school for female spies. Of course, he’s got an agenda. He believes that her uncle was a researcher into the use of Etheric sciences, and that Evvie might’ve inherited an ability that can be harnessed for the use of the British Empire. Little does he know that the real researcher was Evvie’s mother, and that Eveline has no mechanical or magical ability to speak of.

However, she’s got plenty of smarts – and with the help of her new friend Beth; she might even be able to figure out who – if anyone – she can trust.
The tale mixes magic and faerie lore with steampunk elements in a way that I found reminiscent of M.K. Hobson. This book is a must for her fans, as well as fans of Gail Carriger, Leanna Hieber and even Kage Baker’s ‘Nell Gwynne’ stories. It’s got fast-paced action, some good twists and turns, and although it’s got a super-attractive, enigmatic Chinese tutor, it avoids tired romance tropes. Like I said, it’s a fun, quick read – with a bit of the feminism and anti-colonialist sentiment that’s de rigueur for any entry into the steampunk genre.

My one quibble: from the title, I expected a Chinese setting. We don’t get to China until 87% of the way through the book, and it’s only a very brief visit (speedy airship travel is convenient). There aren’t even any well-developed regular Chinese characters in the book. Maybe this aspect will be further expanded on in some sequels (it’s a nice opening), but as it stands, in no way was the Chinese trip necessary to the plot, and the brief scene in Shanghai felt quickly sketched out.

However, the London setting felt vivid, the characters’ ‘voices’ were convincing, and even the villains were reasonably well-drawn, with believable motivations (always a good thing). I’d definitely like to seek out Sebold’s two previous books.

Copy provided by NetGalley & Solaris books; in return for an honest review.
( )
  AltheaAnn | Feb 9, 2016 |
Fun, adventurous Steampunk

The British Empire is on the rise, The (fairy) Folk on the wane but the Empire desires all. 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.

Sebold is engaging writer, strong characters and nice world building rolled into a rollicking plot and this, the 1st in a new series, does not disappoint. For Eveline Duchen (aka Sparrow) is a wonderful character to spend time with and shines amongst a cast of inventors and spies, greedy business men and nasty predators, stern teachers and half Fae wanderers. The world building is deft, with research imbuing the story rather that weighing it down and is used to bat away the blindness most Steampunk has toward the Victorian era and the British Empire. Fun though in its maturity and the large female cast are downright refreshing. China and London shine (although more China please) and there are airships and new-fangled contraptions that jostle up against a tantalising magical cast.

If anything, it suffers a bit from setup as the plot’s pacing seems to become a bit unfocused in the latter part which is such a shame after its strong start. Still it thoroughly whets the appetite for more and that can only be a good thing. ( )
  clfisha | Aug 6, 2014 |
Eveline Duchen Evvie Duchen, sharp Evvie, Evvie the sparrow, a spry little fringe-dweller alone in the crowd of them, always scraping for a crumb, always with one eye open for a bigger bird, or a cat, or a cruel boy with a stone is introduced to us whilst she is casing a posh house for a possible burglary. She is working for a female Fagin figure and feels it is much better to con and steal than it would be to sell her body. How she ended up being an orphan and street urchin means that certain gentlemen in the British government have taken an interest in her, and her education, and how she can affect the fate of the British empire, and the world.

A good blend of Dickens (you can’t help but compare to Oliver Twist), Folk tales (always nice to see Chinese trickster foxes), spy schools and a light steampunkness - there are steam hansoms, airships (of course) and the plot revolves around “Etheric science”. However the steampunk is very much a background, a plot device for sure, but this story is much more a character journey and the character is really engaging. What was really refreshing for me was that there were poor people in this & Sebold manages to turn a story that is basically about a 15 year old girl going to boarding school into an enthralling read. There are few off notes (although I think the ending felt a little too neat) and I’d really recommend this to anyone, whether you’re a fan of steampunk or not. There are hints that this is a world that the author may visit again in the future and if she does I’d be willing to revisit too even though I’m still hoping for another Babylon Steel book….

Overall – Intelligent & fun steampunk. Worth a visit. ( )
  psutto | Mar 17, 2014 |
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To all the women whose contributions to the sciences never made it into the books, and to those who will come after them:

"Never doubt that you can change history.  You already have"

Marge Piercy
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Eveline Duchen sipped her tea, ladylike as all get-out, and smiled at the cook.
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Shanghai Sparrow is a Far Eastern steampunk tale of espionage, distant empires and thrilling exploits, with a dynamic heroine. 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. But on the decadent streets of Shanghai, where the corruption of the Empire is laid bare, Holmforth is about to make a devil's bargain, and Eveline's choices could change the future of two worlds.

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