26 October 2012

Imprint Friday: The Stockholm Octavo by Karen Engelmann

Welcome to Imprint Friday and today's featured imprint: Ecco books. Stop by each week to be introduced to a must-read title from one of my favorite imprints. I know you'll be adding many of these books to your wish list.

When I first read the description of Karen Engelmann's The Stockholm Octavo, I was attracted by the setting, the time period, and the hint of occult. I couldn't wait to start reading.

Before I say more, take a look at the publisher's summary:
Life is close to perfect for Emil Larsson, a self-satisfied bureaucrat in the Office of Customs and Excise in 1791 Stockholm. He is a true man of the Town—a drinker, card player, and contented bachelor—until one evening when Mrs. Sofia Sparrow, a fortune-teller and proprietor of an exclusive gaming parlor, shares with him a vision she has had: a golden path that will lead him to love and connection. She lays an Octavo for him, a spread of eight cards that augur the eight individuals who can help him realize this vision—if he can find them.

Emil begins his search, intrigued by the puzzle of his Octavo and the good fortune Mrs. Sparrow's vision portends. But when Mrs. Sparrow wins a mysterious folding fan in a card game, the Octavo's deeper powers are revealed. For Emil it is no longer just a game of the heart; collecting his eight is now crucial to pulling his country back from the crumbling precipice of rebellion and chaos. Set against the luminous backdrop of late eighteenth-century Stockholm, as the winds of revolution rage through the great capitals of Europe, The Stockholm Octavo brings together a collection of characters, both fictional and historical, whose lives tangle in political conspiracy, love, and magic in a breathtaking debut that will leave you spellbound
The Stockholm Octavo is one of those novels that cannot be easily described. Nothing in Emil Larsson's world is what it seems, people have hidden depths, and the most unlikely characters are entangled in national events. Karen Engelmann creates an atmosphere of secrecy and mystery, mixing a bit of occult with the facts of history.

The novel revolves around Mrs. Sparrow's casting of Larsson's Octavo, which is a kind of tarot card reading. Instead of telling someone's fate, however, Mrs. Sparrow's version identifies eight people who will help the Seeker meet his or her goals. These people are initially defined by their roles: Companion, Teacher, Prisoner, and so on. It is up to the Seeker to figure out who each person is, using the clues given in the cards. Once started on the path of the Octavo, the Seeker is obligated to see it through.

According to Mrs. Sparrow's vision, Larsson is seeking love and connection. Presumably the people in his Octavo will play some role in his reaching that goal. The only problem is that everything about the Octavo is twisty. For instance, the Companion may be Larsson's love but could also be the person who helps Larsson connect with his love. The Companion may be a giver or a taker or even a welcome friend or an unshakable enemy. As another example, the Prisoner may need to be let free or perhaps is now free and needs to be ensnared. So not only does Larsson—and the reader—need to identify his Octavo but he also needs to determine who is good and who is evil.

Karen Engelmann develops The Stockholm Octavo carefully and along winding streets. We get hints of who each person in Larsson's Octavo will be, but, like Larsson himself, we sometimes jump to wrong conclusions. Mixed up in Larsson's quest and his group of eight is the fate of King Gustav III and the future of the county.

Engelmann rounds out the plot by adding interesting details about 18th-century Sweden, such as politics, the royal family, entertainment, and different occupations. Each character is unique and provides his or her own perspective on Larsson's life.

Be prepared: once you enter the world of the Octavo, you will not want to leave until you've figured out the role of each character and learned Emil Larsson's fate. With its complex world and fascinating characters, The Stockholm Octavo will appeal to readers who like mysteries, historical fiction, and great storytelling.

What to learn more? Start with Karen Engelmann's blog, which has maps, photographs, and other information about The Stockholm Octavo. Engelmann has given a number interviews; the best is a CBS "Author Talk" segment with Jeff Glor. For print interviews, see the Wall Street Journal's "Speakeasy" column and Sir Read-A-Lot blog. Other reviews can be found at Publisher's Weekly, Kirkus, and Salon.

Beth Fish Reads is proud to showcase Ecco books as a featured imprint on this blog. For more information about Ecco, please read the introductory note posted here on July 15, 2011. Find your next great read by clicking on Ecco in the scroll-down topics/labels list in my sidebar and by visiting Ecco books on Facebook and following them on Twitter.

Buy The Stockholm Octavo at an Indie or a bookstore near you. This link leads to an affiliate program.
Published by HarperCollins / Ecco, October 23, 2012
ISBN-13: 9780061994982


bermudaonion 10/26/12, 6:27 AM  

Okay, now I get what the octavo part of the title is - the eight cards. This sounds interesting!

Eleanor Brown 10/26/12, 9:57 AM  

I am SO glad you enjoyed this book. I read it back in January for a blurb (which of course I gave, because it's AMAZING), but I've been going nuts ever since waiting for other folks to read it. As you said, it's difficult to describe - in some ways, it's unlike any book I've ever read before, and I was so curious to hear what people thought of it. Thrilled you enjoyed!

Daryl 10/26/12, 10:18 AM  

sounds really good .. thanks!

Jenn's Bookshelves 10/26/12, 12:49 PM  

I got a pitch for this book a few weeks back...this post forced me to go back & accept the book for review. Super thrilled to read it now!

Susan Spann 10/26/12, 3:07 PM  

This sounds fantastic. I love the idea of integrating the tarot/fortune telling reading, and any story with multiple layers and characters who aren't what they seem is right up my alley. Definitely going to check this one out!

Julie P. 10/28/12, 8:12 PM  

Just received this one a few days ago. Looks interesting to say the least!

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