The Stockholm octavo
Life is good for Emil Larsson, a man who has risen from orphaned poverty to hold the respected position of customs officer for the City of Stockholm circa 1790. Emil is happily leading a life of low-level corruption, pocketing his share of contraband, drinking, gambling, and visiting the local brothels from time to time, until his superior at the Customs office issues an ultimatum: all officers must be suitably married or lose their cushy jobs. Confirmed bachelor Emil shares his resulting dilemma with the mysterious Mrs. Sparrow, shadowy owner of Stockholm’s most lavish gambling den, and his sometime partner in various con games. Mrs. Sparrow surprises Emil by revealing a hidden talent. She can foretell the future through an elaborate tarot card reading known as the Octavo. But Emil’s Octavo holds much more than the path to his future bride. The cards tell Mrs. Sparrow that Emil’s destiny is inextricably linked to the rise, or fall, of Sweden’s aristocracy, all the way up to King Gustav III. Set against the French Revolution, and the possibility of a similar uprising in Sweden, this spellbinding book is part historical novel, part fairy tale, part fantasy, and part melodrama, and always thoroughly enchanting.