A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. ~Laozi
TL;DR – A beautiful example of the “Unlikely heroes go on a dangerous journey” genre. Exciting and fun, and definitely worth a read.
RAGDOLL RATING: 4.5/5 BUTTONS
This series is made up of three books: Ghosts of Shanghai (2015); Shadow of the Yangtze (2016); Return to the City of Ghosts* (2018).
*Or, The Pale Revenant
See the reviews of the first 2 books here:
The Ghosts… series follows the exploits of Ruby – a western girl, born and raised in Shanghai – and her little band of friends on an epic quest through China in the 1920s.
In Ghosts of Shanghai, Ruby and her friends have discovered an ancient Toaist almanac and have set out to learn its magical secrets by trapping a fox spirit. They soon meet a mysterious hermit in the old temple which they use as a base, Lao Jin, who amazes the group with his martial arts skills. Things soon take a turn for the worst as the political situation in Shanghai begins to deteriorate and Ruby suddenly finds her best friends, Charlie and Fei, are mixed up in something dangerous, resulting in broken friendships, families and a kidnapping.
In Shadow of the Yangtze, Ruby and Charlie set off to rescue Fei (who was kidnapped in book 1). The book follows the pair from the relative safety of Shanghai, into the Chinese interior – a dangerous place filled with warlords, revolutionaries, and spirits! This book has more of everything – more action, more folklore, more romance…
In Return to the City of Ghosts, things take a bit of a format twist, and we are introduced to ‘the author’, who tells us how everything has been told to him by the Ruby, decades later. Ruby and her friends must make it back to Shanghai – and you needn’t think that it will be easy!
Why Did I Read Them…
My sisters were bothering me to at least try the first one, but I never got round to it, but since they happened to be sitting there when I finished the last book I was reading I thought I’d give it a try. I read the whole series because the books were so much fun.
What I liked…
The biggest draw for me was Ruby. She was just so COOL. She’s brave, caring, smart and open the world. She lives in Shanghai and just absorbs Chinese culture – she doesn’t reject it like her parents and the other westerners living there. She speaks the language, knows (a little) about the religions and folklore, and she just loves the culture she’s been brought up around. It’s nice to see.
The story itself is really fun. It is well paced, so no matter how much you read in one sitting you always feel that certain something that draws you back in – you just want to find out what comes next.
Note: The following contains SPOILERS. If you wish to read it, just highlight the blank space (I’m making the text white).
I don’t like romance stories. They annoy me. As such, I was really worried the minute the romantic element was introduced between Ruby and Charlie. It built up in the second book quite a bit, and was a big theme throughout it, and I was worried that Return… would feature a heavy romantic theme. As it turns out, it didn’t. There was a bit here and there, but mostly it was just action and peril. This was a massive bonus for me.
What I disliked…
In a previous review I noted that Sedgwick has a tendency to make up random words – as it turns out, this is not actually true. I looked up the words (like jinked and snicked), and as it turns out they are real words, and he uses them correctly. He also uses slang contractions like ‘brolly’ (umbrella) and ‘loco’ (locomotive) – words I do actually know. The reason I am mentioning this in the ‘dislike’ section is because while they may be real words, they really stood out. I don’t know why, they just did – it was more strange than bad though.
Spoilers: As above.
The ‘big bad’ villain in this series was a gang boss called Moonface. He kidnapped Fei and kicked the whole journey off – which was why I was massively surprised to discover that the showdown – Ruby and Lao Jin VS Moonface and his army – was finished in a couple of pages, right at the start of Return…!
Having finished the book I can now say that this isn’t much of a problem as the story is really about the journey and not the destination, but it really stood out while I was reading.
I loved this series. Ruby is an amazing character and I loved reading about her. They setting was great, and the writing, while a little odd at times, was really good too. I would recommend this to anyone who likes easy, adventure fictions – providing they don’t have hangups about stories with ghosts and spirits and magic.
Please note: Although my family do know the author, I have do not. I am reading them because they come recommended by my younger sisters, not because of any connection to the author. The opinions contained within are my own and have not been influenced by any external entity!