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Book Nook: Review of The Stockholm Octavo by Karen Engelmann

Your librarian's review of a new fiction release set in Sweden during the late 1700s.

I chose this book because of the really persistent and brightly colored sidebar ads on Goodreads, my reading management website (www.goodreads.com). A historical fiction with just a hint of the supernatural; it sounded exactly like the kind of fiction that I enjoy reading.  Also it followed up perfectly after the General's Mistress, but I was kind of let down by the story. The characters were excellent and the vast net that drew everyone together was cleverly done. However, I had a hard time distinguishing between narrators when the author randomly decided to switch personalities. 

Back to the characters, Sekretaire Larsson, the main narrator, is a young man on the cusp of great things, but has no direction. An encounter with the fortune teller Mrs. Sparrow changes his world. Larsson is witty and charming, and somewhat louche. I've never used that word before because I had nothing to use it for but it describes Larsson to the letter. You really felt for his plights and his relationships were strong. But some of the situations that the author put him in felt a little forced. Mild spoiler, what starts the entire escapade of the novel is his supervisors new requirement to find a wife. It would have been a fine plot device if his supervisor wasn't such a pushover and kept giving allowances to the amount of time had to find said wife. Margot Norden, wife of the fan maker, was definitely my favorite character, she's spunky.

The historical setting was very interesting, taking place in Sweden at the same time France is falling into the Terror. I really liked the political intrigue woven into this book, but felt that some methods of influencing court decisions were either over exaggerated or just plain silly. Intrigue helped tie a lot of the characters together in a physical sense where the mystical side of the book only suggested they'd come together. Mysticism and intrigue go hand in hand in this book. Some of it is done very well with a good balance between the too, but sometimes Engelmann let the mysticism take over too much and the story got confusing or just plain weird. 

If you like character driven stories, and diverse personalities then this is a book you should pick up. History buffs will be tantalized by the glimmers of true history, but it just acts as a good backdrop for this particular story.

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