By Gaie Sebold
Solaris, $7.99, 373 pages
Gaie Sebold’s novel, Shanghai Sparrow is a masterpiece of tension, combining espionage, magic, and murder on the gritty streets of steampunk London. Eveline Duchen is a thief and a con-artist, eking out a tremulous existence as a pickpocket and a burglar for Ma Pether. Caught in the act by a mysterious man who calls himself Mr. Holmforth, Evvie’s world is suddenly turned upside down. She is shipped off to The Britannia School, a dark and brooding place run by a steely Miss Cairngrim. There she is to learn to be… a spy? All is not as it seems as Evvie is forced to navigate this new world, lying and cheating to survive. Soon it becomes clear that greater forces are at work far above her pay grade, and she is forced to make an impossible decision, one that may change the fate of her entire world.
Sebold combines beautiful description with no-nonsense characters and a dash of the unexpected. Shanghai Sparrow was a joy to read, fast paced and fun, full of depth and intimacy while still capturing the epic nature of a true adventure story. If you like Sherlock Holmes, The Golden Compass, or Neverwhere than add Shanghai Sparrow to your list. Gaie Sebold balances sweeping adventure with family drama, making Shanghai Sparrow a must-read.
Reviewed by Azalea Micketti