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.
"The Stockholm Octavo is a book I really wanted to love. The premise: an historical fiction tale, laced with mystery, intrigue and hints of magic, set at a time and place I haven't read a lot about, really drew me to this novel. Coupled with the fact this is a debut work, I was utterly sold as soon as I read the description of the book.
Unfortunately, I found the story quite lacking. The pacing of the novel, rather than build anticipation and arouse curiosity, only served to drag the plotting down. Much time was spent in overwritten descriptions and setting scenes. By the time the action occurred - either with our cast of characters or to advance the story - I had lost interest. At moments, I actually found myself a bit bored - and this is not an occurrence I often experience while reading. I also found I was not eager to return to the book and could spend time away from it without feeling like I was missing out. I am sure these are the exact opposite reactions Engelmann was hoping for from a reader. I am sorry it turned out this way; I really am. I wanted to be transported and enveloped in this story and it just didn't happen for me." - Jennifer Dawson Oakes
"Starred Review. 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
"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
"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
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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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