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The Stockholm Octavoby Karen Engelmann
Synopses & Reviews
Life is close to perfect for Emil Larsson, a self-satisfied bureaucrat in the Office of Customs and Excise in 1791 Stockholm. He is a true man of the Town — a drinker, card player, and contented bachelor — until one evening when Mrs. Sofia Sparrow, a fortune-teller and proprietor of an exclusive gaming parlor, shares with him a vision she has had: a golden path that will lead him to love and connection. She lays an Octavo for him, a spread of eight cards that augur the eight individuals who can help him realize this vision — if he can find them.
Emil begins his search, intrigued by the puzzle of his Octavo and the good fortune Mrs. Sparrow's vision portends. But when Mrs. Sparrow wins a mysterious folding fan in a card game, the Octavo's deeper powers are revealed. For Emil it is no longer just a game of the heart; collecting his eight is now crucial to pulling his country back from the crumbling precipice of rebellion and chaos. Set against the luminous backdrop of late eighteenth-century Stockholm, as the winds of revolution rage through the great capitals of Europe, The Stockholm Octavo brings together a collection of characters, both fictional and historical, whose lives tangle in political conspiracy, love, and magic in a breathtaking debut that will leave you spellbound.
"Political and social intrigue are merged through the medium of the mystical card layout called the Octavo in this debut novel of maneuvering aristocrats and striving tradesmen in late 18th-century Stockholm. In the reign of the alternately enlightened and autocratic King Gustav III, his brother Karl and the society doyenne known as the Uzanne scheme to return control of Sweden to the nobility, opposed secretly by the mysterious gambling club owner Sofia Sparrow, whose prophetic visions link Gustav with the doomed king and queen of France. Moving among the conspirators are the beautiful apothecary Johanna Grey, the master calligrapher Fredrik Lind, the obsessive fan maker Christian Nordén, and the up-and-coming customs bureaucrat Emil Larsson, whose personal Octavo links him to players on both sides of the conflict. Neatly mixing revolutionary politics with the erotic tension and cutthroat rivalry of the female conspirators — whose exquisite, one-of-a-kind fans are both weapons and prizes — Engelmann has crafted a magnificent, suspenseful story set against the vibrant society of Sweden's zenith, with a cast of colorful characters balanced at a crux of history. Illus." Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
"A delicious page-turner that brings 18th century Stockholm to vivid life, complete with scandal, conspiracy, mystery, and a hint of magic. Karen Engelmann's spectacular debut drew me in....A captivating tale, beautifully told." Eleanor Brown, New York Times bestselling author of The Weird Sisters
"Delicious...the essence of witty intelligence. Readers will delight [in] every element in this Swedish weave, from the brutal winter weather to the unfurling of a lady's fan. The plot is an urgent one, and the characters mysterious, appealing, and memorable....I felt a real kinship with author Karen Engelmann." Sena Jeter Naslund, New York Times bestselling author of Ahab's Wife and Abundance: A Novel of Maire Antoinette
"Fantastic....This rollicking adventure story reads at times like a fairy tale, with Good Guys and Bad Guys and obstacles to be recognized and overcome. It's all quite fun. As either historical novel or adventure story, this clever first novel should appeal to a broad range of readers. Library Journal (starred review)
"If you like novels that work on many levels at once, read this stunning tessellation of a book, where fortune is the flip side of intrigue and where history is the flip side of chance." Charlotte Rogan, bestselling author of The Lifeboat
"Mysterious, suspenseful, and, at times, action-packed, Engelmann's masterful tale brings to mind the work of Katherine Neville (The Eight, 1988), Elizabeth Kostova (The Historian, 2005), and Félix J. Palma (The Map of Time, 2011)." Booklist (starred review)
"Elegant and multifaceted, Engelmann's debut explores love and connection in late-18th-century Sweden and delivers an unusual, richly-imagined read....The setup is wonderfully engrossing...this is stylish work by an author of real promise." Kirkus Reviews
"A juicy page-turner...Engelmann's intellectually playful take on the mathematics of love and power proves irresistible." O Magazine
About the Author
Karen Engelmann lived and worked in Sweden for eight years. She has an MFA from Goddard College in Vermont. She currently lives in Dobbs Ferry, New York.
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