Review: The Stockholm Octavo / by Madeleine

The Stockholm Octavo is a historical novel set in the time of King Gustav III, who ruled Sweden in the 18th century. Sekretaire Emil Larsson is told that there is a big event in his future, and is led to discover his octavo, a chain of eight people who will set into motion a great change in his life. His octavo is shown to him by an old fortune teller who seeks her own octavo, one that could determine the fate of the French Queen, Marie Antoinette. As they both search the Town to discover who the characters in their octavos are history is being shaped. Center stage are the opulent fans wielded by the women of Stockholm, who are master manipulators. One of these women, a widow with a penchant for engaging with powerful politicians, is conspiring against King Gustav and her plans put his life in grave danger. Mr. Larsson seeks love and connection (and hopefully an engagement) but comes to realize that he plays an important role in the fates of many in Stockholm and in France.

I am finding myself more and more drawn to historical novels, and this one was a departure from my usual French and English picks. I really enjoyed learning about the culture of this novel, and especially liked learning about the fans that were used by women in that period, which were both a revered art form as well as a tool for flirtation and manipulation. What I loved most was that the female characters were generally stronger than male characters-- despite their fragile facades, many of them were the most powerful characters in the novel. I will warn any potential readers that parts of this story were not for the faint of heart. I was sometimes troubled by the more vulgar scenes in the book, but the suspense and mystery were enough to keep me reading, not to mention the heart-pounding moment when all the secret planning comes to blows. Definitely a recommended read for people who enjoy books with just a little bit of magic and a lot of conspiracy.

Bottom Line Rating: 4/5


  • Title: The Stockholm Octavo
  • Author: Karen Engelmann
  • Publisher: Ecco, 2012
  • ISBN: 1444742698
  • Format: Ebook
  • Price: $10 on Amazon
  • Source: Amazon
  • Genre: Historical Fiction