This week I read The Stockholm Octavo by Karen Engelmann. This book is so unique and well-written that I couldn't put it down. This historical fiction combines suspense, romance, fanaticism, scandal, and magic.
The first question I asked when I first read the title is: What is an Octavo? An Octavo is a spread of eight cards used for divination where each card represents a person who will contribute to the seeker's destiny. The fortune teller first deals the seeker's card, and then on eight consecutive nights the fortune teller reveals the eight players, or Octavo:
Night One: The Companion
Night Two: The Prisoner
Night Three: The Teacher
Night Four: The Courier
Night Five: The Trickster
Night Six: The Magpie
Night Seven: The Prize
Night Eight: The Key.
The trick is to recognize the eight before the event. One can always see the eight in retrospect, but the seeker can push the players to his or her advantage if he or she can recognize the eight and their roles in advance.
Emil Larsson is a twenty-something Custom Secretaire in late eighteenth century Stockholm. He is a man about town, and an accomplished gambler. Madam Sparrow, a seer and owner of a high society gambling hall, has a vision about Emil and insists on spreading an Octavo for him. Mrs. Sparrow explains that "the cards we lay represent eight people. Any event that may befall the Seeker- any event- can be connected to a set of eight people. And the eight must be in place for the event to transpire."
Mrs. Sparrow's vision for Emil will lead him down "a golden path to love and connection." This can't happen soon enough for Emil because his boss is threatening termination if Emil doesn't settle down and marry.
Madame Sparrow reveals that her Octavo and Emil's are interconnected, and they will both contribute to a greater Stockholm Octavo that will impact King Gustav III. As it becomes apparent that Emil's event is that fateful masked ball where Gustav meets his destiny, I enjoyed seeing the players in Emil's Octavo play their parts. I found the role of card playing and the lady's art of fan wielding in eighteenth century society fascinating!
I love historical fiction from this Enlightened Era in history. Engelmann's enchanting tale juxtaposes enlightened thought with inexplicable magic and feminine mystique that could truly bring any king to his knees. I enjoyed Emil's voice and his thought processes as he discovers his Octavo players before his event. He matures and becomes a much better person as he connects with his eight, and I rooted for him until the very end to find his golden path to love and connection.
What have you been reading lately? This is a linky!