The Stockholm Octavo by Karen

Author: Karen Engelmann
Publisher: Ecco Books
Format: Paperback
Genre: Historical Fiction


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 parlour, 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 realise this vision—if he can find them.


THE STOCKHOLM OCTAVO is a wonderfully written historical thriller full of intrigue, fans—and yes, I mean those kind of fans. Fans women use to use to fan themselves with, and more, with a deft hand, secretly signal to friends and lovers—hinting at mystery, murder, and a dash of romance. A story that is as much about cartomancy is decked out with an unusual cast of characters, ‘The Eight,’ who Emil Larsson must find in order to achieve his destiny.

Set in Stockholm, Sweden, at the end of the eighteenth-century, we find out Larsson’s destiny isn’t his own, it’s tied up with that of the King of Sweden. All of which is the author’s way of opening up the various levels of society represented in the story, from seedy gaming houses and tap rooms, to the lofty levels of the government and royal palace and sumptuous world of Gustav III. Revolution is brewing on many levels, as the world in which Larsson finds himself, is undergoing tumultuous change.

Engelmann’s writing is fluid, graceful, and wonderfully nuanced, sucking the reader into the story where the descriptive prose conjure locations, activities, and conversations that evoke this world, perfectly. This is not by any means a fast, action-packed book, but a slowly nuanced complex story told from a number of POV, centred around Emil Larsson. A story that paints a richly detailed world of manners, morals, and a belief a person can rise above the station they’re dealt in life if but given a chance or, dealt the right hand of cards.

An enjoyable, immersive experience. Highly recommended.

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