The Stockholm Octavo, Hardback
4.5 out of 5 (1 rating)


In 18th century Stockholm, as the winds of revolution rage through the great capitals of Europe, the key to a nation's fate rests in the hands of an unlikely hero.

Emil Larsson is a drinker, card player and contented bachelor until he is told that his position at the Office of Excise and Customs depends on his settling down and finding a wife.

Mrs Sparrow, proprietor of an exclusive gaming house, fortune teller (and confidante of King Gustav III) offers to lay an Octavo for him - a form of cartomancy which can divine his future if he can find the eight individuals who can help him realise his vision.

When Mrs Sparrow wins a mysterious fan in her card game, the Octavo's deeper powers are revealed.

No longer just a game of the heart, collecting his Eight is now crucial to pulling his country back from the brink of rebellion and chaos.

A debut novel full of opulent period detail, brilliantly interweaving history, romance and intrigue, in which one man's fortune holds the key to a nation's precarious fate. 'A delicious page-turner that brings 18th century Stockholm to vivid life, complete with scandal, conspiracy, mystery, and a hint of magic.'- Eleanor Brown, New York Times bestselling author of The Weird Sisters


  • Format: Hardback
  • Pages: 432 pages, 19 b&w drawings throughout
  • Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton General Division
  • Publication Date:
  • Category: Historical fiction
  • ISBN: 9781444742695



Free Home Delivery

on all orders

Pick up orders

from local bookshops


Showing 1 - 1 of 1 reviews.

Review by

Emil Larsson is a young man working for the Office of Customs and Excise in Stockholm at the end of the 18th century. A sworn bachelor, he leads a fairly dissolute lifestyle until his superior sets him an ultimatum: marry or lose your position. Among Emil’s acquaintances is a Mrs Sparrow, a refugee from revolutionary France, owner of an exclusive gaming house and fortune teller practising an obscure form of cartomancy. One day she has a vision relating to Emil and offers to lay the Octavo for him; this would enable him to fulfil his destiny of love and connection if he could find the eight individuals who can help him realise it. But by entering into this agreement with Mrs Sparrow, he gets more than he bargained for as he finds himself embroiled in a political conspiracy to kidnap the king and replace him with his brother.This is a historical novel with a supernatural tinge. It shows how the fates of France and Sweden were closely linked from the 1770s onwards up until the horrors of the French Revolution and beyond to the present day. Its title of The Stockholm Octavo refers to a particular form of cartomancy where the fortune of an individual is predicted by the laying and interpretation of playing cards. Told in the first person from Emil’s point of view, the book tells of his search for the eight, and how this quest develops from a personal to a political one of national importance as the king, Gustav III, is threatened. Karen Engelmann’s prose is a delight, her descriptions of the location and period evocative and atmospheric, and the development of her major characters realistic and believable. The initial pace of the novel is, unfortunately, not sustained all the way through, and while I recognise that the lengthy middle section of the novel, where Emil ponders the possible identities of the eight individuals and we learn about the art of the language of the fan, is probably essential to establish the various characters, it also slowed down the narrative momentum considerably. The book feels impeccably researched (the author spent a few years in Sweden herself), and I was very interested to learn about the historic and political background to the plot that’s described in the novel. I would have welcomed an author’s note in the appendix where she elaborated a little on the historic events portrayed in the book, but that is a minor quibble. A very enjoyable (though not perfect) debut offering by a promising new author, I would recommend this novel to anyone looking for a well-written, skilfully crafted historical novel. If this book is anything to go by, Karen Engelmann's name will be one to watch.(This review was originally written as part of Amazon's Vine programme.)

Also by Karen Engelmann