Book Review: The Stockholm Octavo by Karen Engelmann

the stockholm octavo cover

View from the window seat:
Emil Larsson is a man of the Town: a drinker, card player, and a bureaucrat living in Stockholm in 1791. His life changes when Mrs. Sparrow, a fortune-telling woman who runs a gaming parlor, describes a vision for Emil of love and connection through the eight-card Octavo. Emil sets out to find the eight people who will lead him on this golden path, but soon he finds out that there’s more at stake than just his personal happiness: his country’s future may lie in the balance.

I loved the idea of a group of eight people who can affect a person’s future, a group that is predicted through a set of cards. I love these kinds of stories, where the reader is given a sort of puzzle in the beginning and as the narrative progresses, pieces are revealed until the whole thing comes together in the end. That’s exactly what drives The Stockholm Octavo. Emil must find his eight if he wants to have love and connection in his life. I loved watching his eight arrive, and seeing how they connect not only to him, but to each other.

Emil doesn’t listen very closely to the vision at first though. He makes assumptions easily and sticks to these assumptions until proven wrong. Most of the time he’s obviously mistaken, which made him pretty annoying at times, especially when he’s fixated on a woman. The other characters are fascinating. On one side stands Mrs. Sparrow, fiercely protective of her friend King Gustav III and desperate to save the French King Louis XVI. On the other is the Uzanne, a fearsome woman determined to put Gustav’s brother Duke Karl on the throne and restore the nobility to its rightful place, whatever the cost. Johanna, a girl escaping a terrible marriage, soon becomes entangled in the Uzanne’s plots. The women of the story are the strongest characters. All are so different, with motives that clash. Though the Octavo is Emil’s, the women are the ones who drive the events of the book.

Overall impression:
The Stockholm Octavo is an interesting read, a quest for one man’s love that soon turns into a race to save a king.


Note: I received this ARC from the publisher at the 2012 ALA Annual Conference.


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