A Neo-Victorian alternate history novel that explores the question of what might have come of Belgium's disastrous colonization of the Congo if the native populations had learned about steam technology a bit earlier.
...a beautifully written and thrillingly ambitious alternate history ... 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.
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. I suspect it won’t quite be to everyone‘s taste.
The cast of characters is beautifully diverse in terms of faith, ability, ethnicities, sexual orientation and nationalities, making the web of relationships intricate and fraught; Shawl is brilliant at showing where the various ideals, motivations and desires for Everfair as a utopian experiment bump up against each other ... That said I wish the story had been split up over more volumes, to allow these fascinating people room to breathe and interact with each other in more sustained ways...towards the middle and end, Everfair feels like one long, slow pan across space and time, insufficiently anchored in characters whose interactions resemble a sequence of vignettes set against the backdrop of Shawl's carefully designed world.