I am delighted to share my review for The Embroidered Book by Kate Heartfield. This is an amazing read and is definitely one for fans of historical fiction and fantasy.
My huge thanks to Anne at Random Things Tours for my spot on the Blog Tour and for arranging my gorgeous paperback of this book from the publisher Harper Voyager UK.
‘Power is not something you are given. Power is something you take. When you are a woman,
it is a little more difficult, that’s all
1768 – Charlotte, daughter of the Habsburg Empress, arrives in Naples to marry a man she has
never met. Her sister Antoine is sent to France, and in the mirrored corridors of Versailles, they
rename her Marie Antoinette.
The sisters are alone, but they are not powerless. When they were only children, they discovered
a book of spells – spells that work, with dark and unpredictable consequences.
In a time of vicious court politics, of discovery and dizzying change, they use the book to take
control of their lives.
But every spell requires a sacrifice. And as love between the sisters turns to rivalry, they will send
Europe spiralling into revolution.
If you are looking for a historical fiction based on fact but with a fantasy reimagining to it then look no further than The Embroidered Book. This is based in Europe and concentrated on one generation of the Hapsburg family.
How does a little insignificant-looking book that has an unfinished embroidered cover lead to the rise and fall of some of the most famous monarchs of Europe? Well, this book is one that has something rather special in it and it opens up a fantastical world of magic. Where there is magic there is greed, there is the hunt for more power and not everyone has access to it, in fact, most people don’t even know that there is magic in Europe.
This story is set in the late 1700s when a young woman leaves her family and home in Austria to marry the king of France. She will have her name changed to help her fit in, she will have to change her style and her whole way of presenting herself. She will be known as Marie Antoinette. Her sister, Charlotte is her closest sibling and they have always been close. The Hapsburgs have been arranging marriages to bolster their own heritage, remain in power and always look to improve or stabilise countries through marriage. They are the power family of the time.
The author has picked such an interesting time in history, it is turbulent and there are revolutions and uprisings to come. Using this period makes the weaving of the fantasy element work so well. There is already a sense of distrust and of poverty. While the Kings and Queens of Europe are living lavish and opulent lifestyles, the common people are starving. So adding this twist into the story is just a great way of not only showing Europe at the time but of giving the reader an exciting alternative.
As this is a historical-based novel there is a lot of historical and political references to events. This has been done in a great way and is very much part of the story rather than a dry narrative. The author really brought the characters to life, rather than being figures from history she gave them thoughts, personalities and opinions. Even though this is an age of mistrust from regular people, it was also interesting to read the authors take on how the thoughts of the monarchs could have also been.
This is an absolutely fascinating read, the magical aspects are such a good inclusion and for me worked really well. The balance of it felt right within the contest so even if you are not a reader of fantasy I think you will get on well with this.
I adored this book and it ticked many, many boxes. It is riveting, exciting, mysterious, politically charged, has loads of research, a touch of magic, mistrust, infighting, double-crossing, treachery and treason, I could go on! It shows the wranglings and machinations of the powerful leading historical figures and thought it was done brilliantly. This is a book I would absolutely recommend.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Kate Heartfield is the author of The Embroidered Book, a historical fantasy novel out in February 2022.
Her debut novel won Canada’s Aurora Award, and her novellas, stories and games have
been shortlisted for the Nebula, Locus, Crawford, Sunburst and Aurora awards. A former
journalist, Kate lives near Ottawa, Canada.
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