Advance Review: Ghosts of Shanghai, by Julian Sedgwick

Brief Blurb:
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.

Read the full description on Goodreads!

Ghosts of Shanghai, (Ghosts of Shanghai #1), by Julian Sedgwick • Published by Hodder Children's Books • Expected Publication Date: July 2nd 2015 • ★★★½ • Goodreads
First, I really like to read books set in Shanghai because the bridge between the rich and the poor is so short there. Or as far as my reading knowledge takes me. But I'm not familiar with 1920s Shanghai, so I'm happy to read a book about that time period. And I totally (and conveniently) forgot it was a period of internal warring for China, so Ghosts of Shanghai turned out to be both an interesting and illuminating read! Plus it had a map and I'm very happy when I see a map in a book, especially an e-book!

I enjoyed the creepy (ghostly) elements in Ghosts of Shanghai, especially the beginning where the fox spirit appeared. It really sent chills down my spine and I had to wait for morning to continue because I'm super timid!

Ghosts of Shanghai manages to bring together several elements together quite well -- the use of shadow warriors by the gangs, the political tension with a supernatural tint, the placement of expats in a Chinese city. It's all done almost seamlessly but the characters just seemed bland, except for Lao Jin. Ruby started out really awesome, but when it comes to Charlie, she always seems to lose her sure footing. But towards the end, she picked herself back up again (perhaps I had Lao Jin to thank for that)! The ending was wrapped up well in preparation for the next book, I'm super curious about Fei now.

The usage of WadeGiles and Chinese Pinyin is pretty decent, though certain phrases threw me off a little. For example:

  • Ni shi na? -- Where are you all?
  • Ni hao ma? -- Are you doing OK?
  • Follow me, [Ruby]. -- Lai ba.
Maybe it's because Mandarin Chinese is my mother tongue so it felt awkward to me, but it's (borderline) acceptable. Here's what I would have used:

  • Where are you all? -- Ni men zai na? (你们在哪?)
  • Are you doing OK? -- Ni hai hao ba? (你还好吧?)
  • Follow me. -- Gen wo lai. (跟我来。) [Because 'lai ba' is more of a 'come on' or 'bring it on' situation.]
Though of course, this is my own interpretation because Chinese is a tricky language when you romanise it, as one Pinyin can refer to several different characters.

In addition, there are references to Strange Tales (of Liao Zhai) and Water Margin (also known as Outlaws of the Marsh). I'm not sure if everyone knows about Strange Tales, unlike Water Margin. Though personally, I'm more partial to the Liao Zhai tales because of the supernatural elements! ;)

Language sensitivities aside, Ghosts of Shanghai is a really good beginning to an interesting series! I hope to read more on the supernatural side of things in the future.


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