Sunday, June 28, 2015

Review: Ghosts of Shanghai by Julian Sedgwick

Title: Ghosts of Shanghai
Author: Julian Sedgwick
Series: Ghosts of Shanghai, Book One
Publisher: Hodder Children's Books
Published Date: 2 July 2015
Buy: Amazon | The Book Depository

I received this book through NetGalley from Hachette Children's Book for review.

Obsessed with martial arts and ghost stories, Ruby is part of a gang of Chinese and ex-pat children who hide out in ruined White Cloud Temple. But the world of Shanghai in the late 1920s is driven with danger: disease, crime, espionage and revolution are sweeping the streets. And since the death of her younger brother Thomas, Ruby is stalked by another anxiety and fear. 

Faced with a series of local hauntings, and armed with a lucky bookshop find - The Almanac of Distant Realms - Ruby forms the Shanghai Ghost Club to hunt down restless spirits. When best friend Fei is kidnapped by the Green Hand, Ruby must trust a mysterious stranger - and face her worst fears - in order to save her friends, and her own life. And in the ensuing fight she will catch a glimpse of the one spirit she has longed to see... 

The secrets that Ruby's father and friends have kept from her are coming back to haunt them all. (summary from Goodreads)

A haunting and thrilling read, Ghosts of Shanghai is chock full of action, suspense, wonder and ghosts!

I haven't heard much about this book, but that cover and it's summary? Hooked me. 1920s Shanghai and a Ghost Club? Yes, please! And Ghosts of Shanghai does not disappoint. From start to finish Ruby is on one heck of a wild ride and we're right there with her. There's so much to this book. Revolution, gangsters, Taoism, racism, ghosts and spirits - and in the middle of it all Ruby and her friends, with no idea what's going on but doing everything to keep each other safe. From page one Sedgwick kick starts the action and he doesn't slow down. I'm pretty unfamiliar with the history of China, and Nationalism versus Communism, so there's a lot to take in as you get into Ghosts of Shanghai. Especially as Ruby is so focused on her fears of hauntings and her quest to trap these spirits. The political nature of the world around her is revealed in snippets and as she doesn't understand, neither do we for the most part. While it is often a little confusing, feeling like so much information is thrown at us at once, it's purposeful and adds to the overall atmosphere of Ghosts of Shanghai. The tension builds as Ruby sees and overhears more and more, as she throws herself into the fray without understanding the true danger she's in. And then there's the other worldly elements - foxes, vampires and spirits - that Sedgwick writes so well. I read part of this book at about 1am, in the dark but for my booklight, because I couldn't sleep. I had hoped reading a little would settle me. Not my best idea. Instead I read about Ruby waking up, unable to move as a Black Thing stood at the end of her bed before crawling over her. My heart pounded, I tell you, and as a grown woman I was peering into the darkness surrounding me, honestly a little scared. Ghosts of Shanghai is full of moments like this, wonderful and frightening all at once.

Ruby is pretty amazing, stubborn and curious, absolutely determined to discover the truth and do the right thing. She's a little young, so her reckless naivete made me want to shake her now and then, but her ability to trust her instincts and the other worldly events surrounding her awes me. The rest of the Ghost Club - Charlie, Fei, Andrei and Yu - don't stand out quite as much, but each have a history and secrets that are intriguing and add to the story. Jin is cool, with his ninja ways - wrong country, I know, but it sticks with me - and I'm looking forward to more of his story to be revealed as this series continues. I am so very, very desperate to read more of this series - talk about a cliffhanger! Just as everything is coming together and falling apart at the dame time, Ghosts of Shanghai ends! I may have flailed about. Just a bit.

A little Nancy Drew and Scooby Doo, Ghosts of Shanghai is a unique and utterly thrilling story, and I want more, more, more!



  1. Oooooo I'm so glad to see a review of this book as I've had my eye on it for a little while but not really heard much about it so have been dithering over it. Thanks for the great review, my minds made up on it now..... I need to read it xx

    1. Yeah, there doesn't seem to be many reviews of this one out there. I was a little unsure too, but I am glad I read it. It's fast and fun. At times it's a little more Middle Grade, I think, especially in terms of the characters, but with the violence and spookiness it slides into YA territory. I hope you enjoy it, Thea! :-)