At 433 pages, this is a long book. It’s an easy read once you get into the spirit of the book, which is mystical, even occultic, in nature. Emil Larsson is the protagonist who stands at the center of a cast of interesting people from the King to a runaway in the early years of the French Revolution. King Gustav III made several attempts to spirit King Louie XVI out of France.
Larsson is a successful gambler and card cheat who is recruited by Mrs. Sparrow, owner of the most successful saloon in Stockholm. Together they cheat only those who can afford to lose and do it while keeping everyone happy.
Mrs. Sparrow has learned the secrets of The Octavo, a complex system of reading cards each day for eight days to learn who are the eight people in the best position to help, in this case, Larsson in his search for love.
The occult nature of the story is minimal as Larsson stumbles through events, suffering all manner of setbacks, even failing to prevent the assassination of King Gustav III.
Karen Engleman, an American, lived six years in Sweden, so is able to describe the capital in a believable way. She set the story against the backdrop of powerful events in Sweden, weaving her characters in and out of history so easily it is hard to believe it did not happen that way.
Some will be put off by the occult elements, but they are insignificant in this story. Still, if you were offended by Harry Potter, you might want to skip this one.
I like historically based stories, especially set in different places and more unusual times. This was a good read. As a Christian, I have no difficulty reading about people doing things I think are wrong, otherwise, I would not write about murder.