THE STOCKHOLM OCTAVO by Karen Engelmann
Kirkus Star

THE STOCKHOLM OCTAVO

Email this review

KIRKUS REVIEW

Elegant and multifaceted, Engelmann’s debut explores love and connection in late-18th-century Sweden and delivers an unusual, richly imagined read.

Stockholm, “Venice of the North,” in an era of enlightenment and revolution is the setting for a refreshing historical novel grounded in a young man’s search for a wife but which takes excursions into politics, geometry (Divine and other), numerology, the language of fans and, above all, cartomancy—fortunetelling using cards. Emil Larsson, who “came from nothing” and now works for the customs office, is under pressure to marry. Offered advice by the keeper of a select gaming room, Mrs. Sparrow, he is introduced to the Octavo, a set of eight cards from a mysterious deck representing eight characters he will meet who will help him find the fiancee and advancement he seeks. As they appear, these characters each have their own story to tell, like Fredrik Lind, the gregarious calligrapher, and the Nordéns, refugees from France who fashion exquisite fans. But Emil’s Octavo overlaps with Mrs. Sparrow’s own, and his ambitions become enmeshed in a larger scenario involving a plot against King Gustav himself. Another of Emil’s characters, an apothecary fleeing a violent fiancee, who is taken on and groomed by a powerful but cruel widow, holds the key.

The setup is wonderfully engrossing; the denouement doesn’t deliver quite enough. But this is stylish work by an author of real promise.

Pub Date: Oct. 23rd, 2012
ISBN: 978-0-06-199534-7
Page count: 432pp
Publisher: Ecco/HarperCollins
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15th, 2012




NEW & NOTABLE FICTION: OCTOBER 2012:

FictionBACK TO BLOOD by Tom Wolfe
by Tom Wolfe
FictionBLASPHEMY by Sherman Alexie
by Sherman Alexie
FictionBUILDING STORIES by Chris Ware
by Chris Ware
Sci-FiTHE HYDROGEN SONATA by Iain M. Banks
by Iain M. Banks

SIMILAR BOOKS SUGGESTED BY OUR CRITICS:

FictionTHE CASTLE OF CROSSED DESTINIES by William Weaver
by Italo Calvino
FictionI, CLAUDIUS by Robert Graves
by Robert Graves
FictionCITY OF LOST DREAMS by Magnus Flyte
by Magnus Flyte
FictionTHE PRAGUE CEMETERY by Umberto Eco
by Umberto Eco
FictionTHE MINIATURIST by Jessie Burton
by Jessie Burton