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The Duchess of the Shallows

(The Grey City #1)

3.78  ·  Rating details ·  125 ratings  ·  38 reviews
A game is played in the fog-shrouded city of Rodaas, and every citizen, from the nameless of the Shallows to the noblest of the Garden, is a player or a pawn. And no one is as he appears.

Not Minette, brothel-keeper and obsessive collector of secrets. Not Uncle Cornelius, fearsome chief of the gang of brutes and murderers known as the Red. Not the cults of Death, Wisdom, an
Paperback, 306 pages
Published March 2nd 2012 by Peccable Productions
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3.78  · 
Rating details
 ·  125 ratings  ·  38 reviews

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Feb 19, 2013 rated it really liked it
The Duchess of the Shallows came my way through GoodReads after reading some very good reviews. Initially I was a bit skeptical due to the fact that it’s a “self-published” book, but after finishing it I can confidently say that it holds its own alongside some of the best sellers out there. Reminiscent of Scott Lynch’s Lies of Locke Lamora this is top notch cloak and dagger fantasy.

Duchess is the last surviving member of her family, and after a tragic accident she is adopted by a simple baker.
Jul 11, 2013 rated it really liked it
“The Duchess of the Shallows” follows the adventures of a young woman living a deceptively simple life under a false identity who one day gets a message from a mysterious benefactor offering her the chance to join the secretive and powerful underground organisation known as ‘The Grey’. As a test of her abilities she is asked to steal a valuable antique dagger recently acquired by a wealthy noble, as an extra challenge she is commanded to do it during a party the noble is throwing to show off his ...more
Sep 01, 2012 rated it really liked it
Character-driven, tightly-plotted, and propelled along by an intriguing central mystery, The Duchess of the Shallows is a refreshing addition to the fantasy genre. Neil McGarry and Daniel Ravipinto demonstrate their love for the genre, as well as their talent for creating living, breathing, identifiable characters. By the time the opening chapter is done, you can't help but want to see Duchess succeed, and it doesn't take more than a few chapters more for the likes of Lysander and his fellow gan ...more
Neil McGarry
Mar 07, 2012 added it  ·  (Review from the author)
Shelves: my-own-books
This my own book, so I will refrain from reviewing it. :-) However, I will report two other reviews:

"I enjoyed it very became un-put-downable. Sign me up for the sequels!" - Jane Wiedlin, Go-Go's guitarist and songwriter

"The story pulls in the reader from the first sentence and doesn’t let go...a fresh, compelling twist on fantasy." - Kirkus Reviews (Named to Kirkus Reviews’ Best of 2012)

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Apr 11, 2012 rated it really liked it
This book is smartly written, well paced, and entertaining, with a plausible world and some intriguing mysteries. But what really shines about the book is the characters. I tend to read for character more than plot, and I really like the characters in this book. Duchess makes for a very appealing heroine, plucky and bold without being idealized. In particular her relationship with Lysander, her closest friend/ally, is a wonderful depiction of a relationship I've only seen in real life, not in fa ...more
Pauline Ross
Some books draw you in with some dramatic piece of action right at the start; a battle, perhaps, or something intriguing and unexplained. Some start off slow and gentle, and build up to the action later. This one starts with the characters, with Duchess and Lysander, a relationship, a little bit of history and yes, a bit of a mystery, too. And within a chapter, it's tugging at me, making me care about these people. Some books take their full length to do that, and some (quite a few actually) nev ...more
Trina Talma
Aug 29, 2019 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
The plot of this book is started off by something that happens before the book begins and is never really explained. The story revolves around one small event; the remainder is padded with back story and hints of things to come, perhaps in another book which I will definitely not read. It could have been a decent short story. As a book it falls short — too much talk, not enough action.

And a note to authors: If you’re going to pin a thief’s escape plan on her knowledge of bread-making, you should
Will Knight
Nov 03, 2012 rated it really liked it
Originally posted at Bibliophilia, Please.

I’m not going to lie, this book was a struggle. It’s a good book, I just couldn’t get into it for at least 3/4 of it. Not sure why, ‘cause I ended up liking it.

I assumed this book to be YA, considering the age of the main character, but it didn’t read like it. There were male prostitutes, female prostitutes, torture, theft, gangs, drinking and intrigue up to your ears. I liked it. Even if it took me a while to get into it, the ending made the read worthw
David Meredith
Dec 16, 2013 rated it it was amazing
If you had but one chance at greatness, would you take it?

That is the question young Duchess must answer for herself. Despite her grandiose name, she is little more than an orphaned baker’s assistant living among a family of strangers in an ill-reputed corner of the capitol city known inauspiciously as “The Shallows”. She lives on the margins of a corrupt society, the friend of beggars and thieves, prostitutes and gigolos, the victim of brutal street brigands, lecherous nobles, and corrupt polit
Oj Stapleton
Feb 10, 2013 rated it liked it
I wish Goodreads allowed for half stars, because this book was better than a three-star but not quite a four-star review. But, if you go by the phrases Goodreads assigned to the star ratings, I liked it, but didn't quite really like it - so that's why I gave it three stars.

I liked the main character quite a bit. She was interesting and compelling. But I found the whole "steel" and "silk" aspects of her personality a little bit bothersome. I think the author brought that up a little too much and
Jun 13, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Review originally published on The Akamai Reader.

Actually a 4.5 star rating.

The Grey is a network of thieves and spies as well as secret traders. Duchess believes her entrance into their society will give her the answers she seeks about her family. Entrance into The Grey is hard to come by and her task is dangerous to say the least. She needs to rob a nobleman’s house while he’s having a party. Not easy.

Duchess is very ambitious and she’s driven by a need to know what exactly happened to her fa
Apr 11, 2013 rated it really liked it
I read this book in under a week and, on the whole, really enjoyed it. Duchess' story is an easy one to become sucked into, as a spunky, wise 16 y/o with still a touch of innocence about her. I really enjoyed reading through her decision making and her interactions with the other key characters. I am someone who has to connect with the characters in order to carry on reading, and I wanted to know what would happen to her throughout, rooted for her during the heist, and am still curious as to wha ...more
Jefferson Smith
Mar 02, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: adult-fantasy, indie
After growing up in hiding, a letter with a peculiar talisman changes everything for a young baker's girl named Duchess, and leads her into a dangerous world of thievery and intrigue, where the only thing she has at stake is her place in the world. And the truth about that terrible childhood night in which she lost everything.

Duchess of the Shallows is a deceptively simple book, but rich in details. The plot revolves around Duchess, once the youngest child of a wealthy family, but now living in
Apr 07, 2012 rated it liked it
Street urchin attempts to inveigle her way into the Thieves' Guild in a fantasy city. Expected trimmings include prostitutes, secret societies, priestesses, and a theft caper through high society.

The book does a decent job of solidifying these stock elements. Duchess is an orphan but not a street orphan; she's been working in a bakery since she was seven. (Yay for baking in fantasy, although this (sadly) does not achieve _Sunshine_ levels of pastry obsession.) The setting is non-magical (so far)
Nov 11, 2012 rated it really liked it
What worked: I really, really enjoyed this story! I loved the world-building and the fact that it actually reminded me of a Tudor London. The characters were all fleshed out and at one point in particular I found myself saying out loud "No....please don't let them do what I think they're going to do...." To say I was invested in the story would be an understatement.

Duchess is a poor man's Celaena Sardothien. She can kick ass, she knows exactly what she needs to do and she isn't afraid!
Apr 06, 2012 rated it really liked it
I received a copy of The Duchess of the Shallows from the authors for the purpose of review.

The Duchess of the Shallows is a fantasy novel set in a large city setting. The story takes place in a middle-ages time period with large doses of political intrigue, religious sub-plots, criminal mischief, and ancient mysteries!

The main character answers to the name Duchess and works in a bakery as the adopted daughter of the bake, but her real name and family are secrets that stem from the very history
Feb 10, 2014 rated it really liked it
Writing 3.5/5
Imagination 4/5
Plot 4/5
Setting 4/5
Characters 3.5/5

My Overall Enjoyment 3.5/5

This was an enjoyable, quick read. It's a thief story, which has been popular the last few years but this one is done very well and worth the read. I found the protagonist interesting and unique for this type of story. It was a bit hard for me to relate with that particular character but it was still a pleasure to get to know her and her story. In a short amount of time, the authors create a very rich world.
Brian Foster
Nov 27, 2012 rated it really liked it
In The Duchess of the Shallows, Mr. Ravipinto and Mr. McGarry tell of a young woman who, though born into nobility, fell into hard times. The book tells of her attempt to rise above her current lot in life regardless of the danger.

Why to buy this book: The book is fast paced and well written.

Why not to buy the book: My biggest problem with the book is that it took me quite a while to relate to the POV character, perhaps because the authors did not have her struggle enough at the start. Once I di
Mar 02, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is the story of Duchess, once the daughter of a wealthy family, but now in hiding after her family's death.

After her family's mysterious death she is raised by a baker and taught to keep quiet about her true identity. The story starts shortly after a mysterious letter and talisman are received by the baker and Duchess is kicked out and left to her own devices. The talisman leads her to one of the multiple factions in the city and to gain admittance she must perform a seemingly impossible ac
Nov 13, 2012 rated it really liked it
What I liked about this book was that it is like a how to guide in manipulation. So many people played one another that I often found myself wondering how long they would be able to keep that little game up. But then again when you are a thief that is what happens.

I loved the kick butt action that kept me glued to the story as I became so involved in the story it was hard to put down. I was actually a day late getting this book read due to NaNoWriMo and other sorts of things that are going on in
Stuart Langridge
Young woman with a mysterious past becomes a thief and gets involved in various schemes in a fantasy city. So it's a bit of a cliched setup, but the book overcomes this by having lots of politics. There's a heist too, but it doesn't have the two key elements of a heist story, which are meticulous detail on the plan and then some sort of clever reversal at the end, so it's not a heist book. The politics is what it's about; even at a low level there are lots of schemes within schemes and everyone'
Aug 06, 2013 rated it it was amazing
One of the few truly excellent and genuinely interesting indie novels I've read since I got into the habit. This book is one of the classic fantasy stories of thievery and intrigue in the city, but has enough new and interesting ideas to really inject a lot of life into material that would seem tired and cliche in the wrong author's hands. I really loon forward to getting my hands on the next book and finding out what further adventures await our dear Duchess.

On another note, I am extremely impr
Apr 14, 2012 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Dan by: Andrew
Shelves: indie, signal
Low-fantasy heist novel. Full of intrigue; people manipulate people who manipulate other people, etc.

The thing about intrigue novels is, you get a whole raft of NPCs doing stuff for secret reasons, but it's not entirely clear whether "secret reasons" means they actually had a good reason, or the author just wanted them to do that to advance the plot.

This book ended with a few too many threads hanging loose to Continued-Next-Book. I'll probably get the next one, but if it doesn't seriously explai
Suzanne Sisco
Sep 09, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I love "The Duchess of the Shallows"! The characters are interesting and varied, the world detailed and fascinating, and the plot incredibly enjoyable. Duchess's adventures in the city of Rodaas are something you'll care about, and for a book in the fantasy vein it manages to deftly sidestep the tired tropes that too often plague novels in the genre. Lysander is delightful. Minette is intriguing. And the Grey City itself will haunt you in your dreams. I totally recommend this book and the rest o ...more
Lily Callahan
Aug 15, 2015 rated it it was amazing
If George RR Martin looked at only one small slice of his complex world, he might come up with something like The Duchess of the Shallows, a fast paced, tightly written novel of a young woman up against considerable odds. Helping her is a pack of charming but unscrupulous young men known for renting out their bodies. Great fun and recommended to anyone interested in a fantasy with a modern feel.
Oct 13, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fantasy, read-2014
Really good world building - still odd gaps in the story of the main character, but then this is the first book of what would seem to be at least a trilogy, as the second book is published and there is a note to say that a third is in the pipeline.

I am certainly planning on getting the second book.
Jessica Buike
Apr 09, 2012 rated it really liked it
Other than a couple of editing errors this was a great read! The characters and situations were unique and interesting which I appreciated. There were a couple of slow moments but most of it was fast and action-packed. I loved the mystery surrounding Duchess and the relatable yet completely different world in which she lived. I look forward to the next book in the series!
Jon Thysell
Mar 10, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2013
The beginning almost completely turned me off the book. The main character was inconsistently portrayed and hard to connect with. Interesting politics, but way too much exposition and side stories. Might read the next book if I got it in a bundle, but wouldn't seek it out.
Jason Corfman
Mar 28, 2013 rated it really liked it
I'm not normally a fantasy fan, but I enjoyed this story about an orphan girl/young woman trying to make her way in a big city surrounded by forces much bigger than herself.
Elizabeth Creaghan
Mar 15, 2013 rated it really liked it
It certainly had me hooked and I'm quite keen to read more!
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Neil is a former technical writer, former stand-up comedian and current indie author and podcaster living in Philadelphia. While not working with Daniel Ravipinto on the third book in The Grey City, or on the Star Trek podcast, "Nipicking: The Next Generation", Neil reads about World War II, plays both Ultimate Frisbee and volleyball, follows politics and tries to perfect the peanut butter cookie.

Other books in the series

The Grey City (3 books)
  • The Fall of Ventaris (The Grey City #2)
  • The Ruling Mask (The Grey City #3)