Series Review: Ghosts of Shanghai (Julian Sedgwick)

34921369_2055367931380701_6619621171048480768_n
Goodreads Link | Author Website

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.

4-5Button

RAGDOLL RATING: 4.5/5 BUTTONS

Series Details…

Released: 2015-2018

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:

Book Review: Ghosts of Shanghai (Julian Sedgwick)

Kwik Review: Shadow of the Yangtze (Julian Sedgwick)

The Story…

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.

Final thoughts…

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!

Kwik Review: Shadow of the Yangtze (Julian Sedgwick)

sketch-1529442960484

 
Goodreads Link | Author Website

The continuing adventures of Shanghai Ruby. More action, more folklore, more romance.

TL;DR – The second book in the ‘Ghosts of Shanghai’ series follows Ruby and her best fried / love interest Charlie in their quest to rescue Charlie’s sister, Fei. The pair make a perilous journey from the relative safety of Shanghai into the dangerous and wild interior of China. Action packed from start to finish.

5Button

RAGDOLL RATING: 5/5 BUTTONS

What I thought: 

As I said in my review of the first book, I could read about Ruby’s adventures until the cows, and any other missing farm animals, came home. This book was an excellent, action packed continuation from the first.

As Ruby and Charlie make there way up the Yangtze river into the Chinese interior, they encounter a host of deadly situations – from freedom fighters to hopping vampires – but the brave pair will stop at nothing to rescue Fei.

This book has more action than the first one, which is well written and exciting. But the real push for me is the folklore elements, which I love. I adore Chinese folklore and it was a nice touch to not only include some themes but a folk story as well. There is also more romance in this book than the first – ‘Ghosts’ skirted a romantic theme but ‘Shadow…’ gets right into it – I don’t like romance so this was a bit of a negative to me.

Finally, Sedgwick continues to make up verbs for no apparent reason, which isn’t so much a criticism as it is something that amuses me. All in all an excellent book. Roll on number 3, Return to the City of Ghosts.

See the full review of Ghosts of Shanghai here: Book Review: Ghosts of Shanghai (Julian Sedgwick)

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!

Book Review: Ghosts of Shanghai (Julian Sedgwick)


Goodreads Link | Author Website

Ruby is my absolute fave. I could read about her exploits all day.

TL;DR – Follow our little heroes on a dangerous adventure through the underworld of Shanghai. A really exciting book – I can’t wait to read the other 2.

5Button

RAGDOLL RATING: 5/5 BUTTONS

Why I read it…

We’ve had the books sitting around for a while now – my younger sisters have been hounding me to read the series for ages. “You should read Ghosts of Shanghai!” “Have you read it yet?” “Why haven’t you read it?!” “READ IT BEFORE I SET YOU ON FIRE!!” That sort of thing. I was looking for something to read between books of the Maze Runner series (James Dashner) and these happened to be there so I thought I’d finally try it.

The Story…

Ghosts of Shanghai is set, oddly enough, in Shanghai in the 1920’s. It’s a period of unrest, as tensions are growing between the nationalists, the communists, the evil Green Hand gang, and just about everyone else.

Ruby and her little band of ragtag youngsters have found themselves an old book, teaching them how to perform feats of Taoist magic. They find themselves trapping a fox (of the mystical variety, not the little fluffy red dudes) in an old temple, and then there world turns upside down.

What follows is a tale of mythology, espionage, kidnap, betrayal and heroism.

What I liked…

So first off I adore the main character, Ruby. Ignoring the fact that Ruby is my most favouritest name in the whole of ever, she is just a super cool character. She’s been brought up in Shanghai, by English parents who appear to want nothing to do with China at all. They don’t speak a word of Chinese, they aren’t interested in the local culture – they just keep being English. Ruby, by contrast, throws herself into her situation. She speaks the language, she loves the culture, she’s interested in the religions and mythologies of the country. She does everything she can to appreciate what Shanghai has to offer, and that’s a rare treat. I can’t abide English folks who swan off to other countries and insist everything has to be English.

But it’s not just that – we see Ruby start off timid, as a result of an unfortunate incident which led to the death of her little brother. She often alludes to an earlier self – Shanghai Ruby – who was fearless and ready for anything. As the story progresses, we see this personality start to return, and become something more than it was before. Ruby shows bravery and intelligence, and an open heart and mind.

The other characters are less of a focal point, they are important for the plot but less developed during the course of this book.

The plot is really good too. I enjoy a good mythology story as much as anyone, and one of the books key themes is Taoism (or Daoism if you prefer). I can’t speak for the accuracy of any of the themes, I just know I enjoy reading about them, from the foxes, to the martial-artist hermit who arrives spreading wisdom and working his magic.

The plot is full of twists and turns, and it is fun to read about how these kids are thrown into the scary underworld of Shanghai, and how they adapt to the situation and become little heroes!

What I disliked…

I’m at least fairly convinced a handful of the works Sedgwick uses aren’t real words. I’m not talking about the occasional sprinkling of Chinese (of which I understand only a teeny bit), but there are words that are put forward as English and I’m sure they are made up for no apparent reason. It’s not a big complaint, it’s just a bit weird.

Final thoughts…

I loved this book – I’ve already started the second on the series, Shadow of the Yangtze. I love the character Ruby, I love the setting and the plot – it’s all good. It’s a nice, easy read and very entertaining.

Recommended for anybody who likes adventure and mythology stories.

 

___________________________________________
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!