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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.
“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
“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
“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
“Neatly mixing revolutionary politics with the erotic tension and cutthroat rivalry of the female conspirators....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.” Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“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)
"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
“A juicy page-turner…Engelmann's intellectually playful take on the mathematics of love and power proves irresistible.” O magazine
“The Stockholm Octavo, Karen Engelmann's impressive debut, is as marvelously and intricately constructed as the mysterious form of divination its named for. A true pleasure from beginning to satisfying end.” Shelf Awareness
“Karen Engelmann's The Stockholm Octavo is a bonbon box filled with treats designed to appeal to lovers of literary historical thrillers.” Salon.com
“A dizzying story of political intrigue and forbidden romance, all played out in an array of lost arts, from the reading of cards to the language of ladies fans to the healing power of plants. Each has its own delicious vocabulary and in Engelmann's debut, each word is savored.” Boston Globe
“Blends political intrigue, fortune-telling, alchemy, skullduggery, high treason and love. The plot is so compelling it will keep you up at night, and the characters so well-crafted you will gladly follow them through the streets and alleys of 18th-century Stockholm.” Minneapolis Star Tribune
“[A] deliciously sly first novel...The Stockholm Octavo is an irresistible cipher between two covers — an atmospheric tale of many rogues and a few innocents gambling on politics and romance in the cold, cruel north.” New York Times Book Review
“A full deck of piquant pleasures...elegant and precarious...Engelmann captures the lost enterprises and values of another time, the weird customs that strike us as alien and foolish...[and] craftily unfolds her fictional story pleat by pleat within the real history of 1792.” Washington Post
One man's fortune holds the key to a nation's fate in this sensational debut novel set in 18th-century Sweden.
The Stockholm Octavo by Karen Engelmann transports readers to a colorful Scandinavian world of intrigue and magic in a dazzling golden age of high art, music, and opulent fashion.
A masterwork of historical fiction in the vein of Patrick Suskind's classic novel, Perfume, Karen Engelmann's The Stockholm Octavo is mysterious and romantic — as magical and enthralling as The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern — and features a brilliant and unforgettable cast of extraordinary characters.
Stockholm, 1791. Emil Larsson is a self-satisfied bureaucrat in the Office of Customs and Excise. He is a true man of the Town — a drinker, card player, and contented bachelor. That is until Mrs. Sofia Sparrow, fortune-teller and proprietor of an exclusive gaming parlor, shares with him a vision she has had of a golden path that will lead Emil 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.
But as Emil eagerly searches for his eight, he comes to the startling realization that finding them is no longer just a game of the heart, but crucial to pulling his country back from the crumbling precipice of rebellion and chaos.
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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