Thursday, March 6, 2014

Staff Pick - The Stockholm Octavo - Karen Engelmann

The Stockholm Octavo - Karen Engelmann (M) thing that initially drew me to this book was the interesting choice of cover design, with the blue background and the antique looking tarot cards. Reading the cover, however, I realized that this novel - Karen Engelmann's first - would combine a unique and fascinating story with an interesting historical setting.

In spite of the rumblings of revolution that were spreading out of France at the end of the 18th century, Stockholm remained a bright cultural center, the aristocracy continuing to live extravagantly under King Gustav III. Emil Larsson has the good fortune one night to gain an invitation to an exclusive card house owned by the clever and mysterious Mrs. Sparrow. Sparrow, experienced in the art of the occult, offers to lay an octavo of fortune-telling playing cards for Emil to help him find love and connection. Each night for 8 nights Emil goes to Mrs. Sparrow to receive a new card, each one representative of a person who would become important in his life. Emil's octavo, once complete, spells not only the love and connection he sought, but forces him into a world of power and politics, of assassination attempts and the delicate power of folding fans that would ultimately change the course of Swedish history.

Brimming with interesting characters and elements of magic, Engelmann's writing is charmingly complex and fills the reader with a sense of intrigue.

Three other books that share Engelmann's mixture of occultism and literary style are:

Foucault's Pendulum - Umberto Eco (M)"Three Milan editors, who have spent much time rewriting crackpot manuscripts on the occult, decide to have a little fun. Their plan encompasses the secrets of the solar system, Satanic initiation rites, and Brazilian voodoo. A terrific joke--until people begin to disappear." - Publisher

The Tree People - Naomi Stokes (M)
"When a sacred cedar tree is cut down on the Quinault reservation, the evil spirit of an ancient shaman, Xulk, is released. Thus begins a sequence of macabre events orchestrated by Aminte, a red-haired witch. Losing her husband in a mysterious accident, Hannah McTavish struggles to maintain the logging business while dealing with the environmental issues that threaten her livelihood. Jordan Tidewater, reservation sheriff, assumes her inherited role as shaman and undergoes Native American rituals that allow her passage into the spirit world." - Publisher

The Historian - Elizabeth Kostova (M)"Late one night, exploring her father’s library, a young woman finds an ancient book and a cache of yellowing letters addressed ominously to ‘My dear and unfortunate successor’. Her discovery plunges her into a world she never dreamed of – a labyrinth where the secrets of her father’s past and her mother’s mysterious fate connect to an evil hidden in the depths of history." - Goodreads

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