Sure to resonate among activist readers of the Black Lives Matter and #AskHerMore era who know that the essence of justice is praxis, not just precept, Everfair (as both a nation and a novel) represents a country that upholds principles of equality and humanism through direct protest and political action. Shawl envisions resistance and empowerment among this global alliance of characters from different communities of oppressed peoples seeking justice. As she extends the story’s narrative arcs as far as historical agency might allow, Shawl’s Everfair fulfills the promise of utopian SF, especially 20th-century genealogies of socialist-anarchistic and feminist-LGBT storytelling.
--Los Angeles Review of Books
Nisi Shawl’s debut is an ambitious, fresh take on the steampunk genre that could inspire an entire generation to rethink how the world could change from a single turning point in the past.
--New York Journal of Books
For a book idea inspired by antipathy and alienation, Everfair is balanced by the audacity of making something that sounds strange and un-possible work. … Everfair the nation must change and cleave to the demands of its circumstances and conflicts between its peoples; Everfair the book rises to the challenge of encapsulating the grand experiment of nation-building.
Shawl creates intimate moments of stunning natural beauty, emotional poignancy, and philosophical insight. This is both an important expansion of the overwhelmingly European steampunk genre, and a marvelous reading experience in its own right.
--Historical Novel Society
It makes for a heady and sometimes challenging tale, one that blends swashbuckling zeppelin battles with visceral, awful scenes of slavery and its aftermath. It's a steampunk novel not quite like any other, and a story that only Shawl could tell.
Shawl deftly wields a diverse cast of characters to impressive effect, taking readers from the Victorian era to WWI and its aftermath. This highly original story blends steampunk and political intrigue in a compelling new view of a dark piece of human history.
Everfair is incredibly well written. It’s the kind of book that you can enjoy for the prose as much as anything else. There are a lot of plot points in this novel, and Shawl really takes an honest look at a lot of important problems like race, sexuality, gender roles and so much more, as well as other more obvious issues involving colonization and political issues. There are a lot of ways Everfair could have turned out, but Shawl’s ability to look in the face of so many important issues turned a book that could have been interesting to something completely compelling and enthralling.
"…the novel unfolds with deep intellect, epic sweep, and an unsentimental historical insight that remains all too rare in the genre.”
--Gary K. Wolfe, Locus Magazine, September 2016
It’s a tribute to Shawl’s powerful writing that her intricate, politically and racially charged imaginary world seems as believable — sometimes more believable — than the one we inhabit.
--Elizabeth Hand, The Washington Post
Shawl is brilliant at showing where the various ideals, motivations and desires for Everfair as a utopian experiment bump up against each other. From wealthy white families whose free attitudes towards sexuality and plural marriage compromise their return to England, to light-skinned characters deciding not to pass, to queer characters struggling to understand each other across racial lines, to indigenous characters coming to terms with their new prosthetics, the depth and breadth of experience represented in a richly imagined setting is a huge achievement.
--Amal El-Mohtar, NPR
Although it possesses elements of the fantastic, “Everfair” remains grounded in historical and psychological realism, making it a welcoming entry point for readers unfamiliar with steampunk…There’s plenty of pain and tragedy in the novel, but “Everfair” avoids the dystopian tone that afflicts so many alternate histories. It’s ultimately a hopeful book, an exciting and original take on a too-little-known period of history.
--Michael Berry, The Seattle Times
With Everfair, Shawl is melding the alternative history with the imaginative vigor of science fiction. In that way, she’s doing more than dwelling in the choices of the past. She’s promoting her ideas — of tolerance, of revolution, of freedom — and she’s telling us something that we desperately need to hear: if we are unhappy with the choices we are making right now, it is within our power to build a better world.
--Paul Constant, The Seattle Review of Books
I’ve never read any of Nisi Shawl’s short stories, as far as I know—but based on this, her debut novel, I’ve been missing out. Everfair is an incredibly ambitious, fascinating novel. Words like “complex” and “multifaceted” are appropriate; sprawling and dense. … It’s a gorgeous, complex, thinky novel, engaged with meaty themes. But it requires patience and a little effort on the reader’s part, and it offers no easy conclusion.
--Liz Bourke, Tor.com
I looooooved this book. It’s wonderful on its own merits, and it also made me feel excited for the ever-expanding (I hope) globalism of contemporary fantasy.
--Gin Jenny, Reading the End
In her unsentimental novel, Shawl does not indulge in either the pornography of pain and terror or the sentimental pornography of romance, though her story is filled with both. Her characters are all determined to do the right thing, but she is constantly aware that the right thing depends so much on who you are and how you see the world. She deals brilliantly with the complexities of class, and conscious and unconscious racism, and how they affect love and relationships.
--Laurie Toby Edison, Body Impolitic
This is Shawl’s eulogy for all of the enslaved people who died in the Belgian Congo and around the world. In the fictional colony of Everfair, she is giving them a voice and a better life in fiction than they were ever able to achieve in reality. … There are moments of beauty throughout, the prose lyrical and evocative.
--Ardi Alspach, B&N Sci-Fi & Fantasy blog