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Literary Friday: The Stockholm Octavo

Friday, April 5, 2013

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!

Until next time...
Happy reading!
Ricki Jill


  1. I just finished reading "Major Pettigrew's Last Stand" by Helen Simpson and it was a delightful read.

  2. I am trying very hard to get through The Newlyweds. I am glad you are back and that you still got to reading this week!

  3. This sounds like so much fun! I can't wait to read it....intrigue, history, it. :D

  4. Oh this does sound very intereting...and the cover has me hooked...This one is going on my WL.

    Hope you are fealing better.


  5. I hope you're feeling better soon and have been able to read some and watch films. The book you reviewed sounds fascinating. I have been reading and loving the letters betwee James Beard and Helen Evans Brown called Love and Kisses and a Halo of Truffles. Great recipes in it and an interesting look at culinary America before the advent of Julia Child.

  6. Oh Ricki Jill, your books sound so interesting, and you make me want to get back to reading. I am missing out on so much adventure. I hope you're feeling better. It sounds like you have bad allergies? I have a cold myself, and drinking lots of tea and resting this weekend.

    I know how much you loved Daisy Cottage, and I think you will enjoy my post today.

    Feel better, my friend.
    ~Sheri at Red Rose Alley

  7. Oh, I just noticed while reading your previous post that it was hives, not allergies. I do hope you are doing better.

  8. What a great review! Sounds like an awesome book.

  9. I haven't read a historical fiction in years, I use to love them I don't know why I haven't read any lately.

  10. love the cover! sounds like an interesting story too


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Hello, Lovelies!

I'm Ricki Jill. Welcome! I'm honored that you're reading my blog. I enjoy sharing my creative lifestyle @ The Bookish Dilettante. For more information about my blog, please read the Start Here page. Thank-you for stopping by, and I hope you'll consider following me via email.


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