The Stockholm Octavo: A Novel

The Stockholm Octavo: A Novel

3.2 18
by Karen Engelmann
     
 

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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

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Overview

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.

Editorial Reviews

The Washington Post
…once it gets moving, there's a full deck of piquant pleasures in this arch novel about late-18th-century Sweden in the final months of King Gustav's reign. Engelmann captures Stockholm at a turbulent confluence of political and social upheaval, a moment when new forces of capitalism and democracy were crashing against old aristocratic ideals. The fact that she embroiders this adventure in satin and kid leather only makes it all the more elegant and precarious…Engelmann emphasizes what historical fiction too often skimps on: She captures the lost enterprises and values of another time, the weird customs that strike us as alien and foolish.
—Ron Charles
Publishers Weekly
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. (Oct.)
Booklist (starred review)
“Mysterious, suspenseful, and, at times, action-packed.”
O magazine
“A juicy page-turner…Engelmann’s intellectually playful take on the mathematics of love and power proves irresistible.”
Shelf Awareness
The Stockholm Octavo, Karen Engelmann’s impressive debut, is as marvelously and intricately constructed as the mysterious form of divination it’s named for. A true pleasure from beginning to satisfying end.”
Booklist
"Mysterious, suspenseful, and, at times, action-packed."
Boston Globe
“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.”
Minneapolis Star Tribune
“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”
Real Simple
“Layered, absorbing, and rife with interesting fictional characters and genuine historical detail, Engelmann’s work kept me in suspense from this first page to the last.”
Plaxpena Blog
“The best novels are the ones that keep you up until 4AM ... Karen Engelmann’s The Stockholm Octavo is a true gem that manages to accomplish the above through a compelling storyline, simple yet beautiful prose, and a thought-provoking exploration of the Divine.”
O Magazine
"A juicy page-turner…Engelmann’s intellectually playful take on the mathematics of love and power proves irresistible."
New York Times Book Review
“[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.”
Washington Post
“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.”
Portsmouth Herald
Dangerous Liaisons meets Charles Dickens. . . Intrigue, lust, poisonous potions, murder, missed opportunities, misunderstandings, artisan French fans, cards—all combine deftly and, sometimes comically, to create a royal drama and a reading romp through the streets and back rooms of Stockholm. . . terrific fun.”
Christian Science Monitor
“Karen Engelmann’s absorbing debut doesn’t traffic in mystery so much as Mystery with a capital “m.” . . . . As she deftly shuffles characters, Engelmann’s hand moves faster than a reader’s eye in a thoroughly engaging story of intrigue and gamesmanship.”
Salon.com
“Karen Engelmann’s The Stockholm Octavo is a bonbon box filled with treats designed to appeal to lovers of literary historical thrillers.”
Sena Jeter Naslund
“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.”
Charlotte Rogan
“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.”
Eleanor Brown
“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.”
Library Journal
In her debut novel, set in 1790s Stockholm, Engelmann features a card game called Octavo. When the fortune-telling Mrs. Sophia Sparrow foresees a golden future for smug bureaucrat Emil Larsson, she lays an Octavo so that he can find the eight people who will help him realize that vision. Soon, it's evident that his search is linked with the fate of his country. With a 50,000-copy first printing and rights sales to ten countries.
Kirkus Reviews
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.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780062190482
Publisher:
HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
10/23/2012
Sold by:
HARPERCOLLINS
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
432
Sales rank:
159,046
File size:
6 MB

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