The Toymakers
Do you remember when you believed in magic?The Emporium opens with the first frost of winter. It is the same every year. Across the city, when children wake to see ferns of white stretched across their windows, or walk to school to hear ice crackling underfoot, the whispers begin: the Emporium is open! It is 1917, and London has spent years in the shadow of the First World War. In the heart of Mayfair, though, there is a place of hope. A place where children’s dreams can come true, where the impossible becomes possible – that place is Papa Jack’s Toy Emporium.For years Papa Jack has created and sold his famous magical toys: hobby horses, patchwork dogs and bears that seem alive, toy boxes bigger on the inside than out, ‘instant trees’ that sprout from boxes, tin soldiers that can fight battles on their own. Now his sons, Kaspar and Emil, are just old enough to join the family trade. Into this family comes a young Cathy Wray – homeless and vulnerable. The Emporium takes her in, makes her one of its own. But Cathy is about to discover that while all toy shops are places of wonder, only one is truly magical...

The Toymakers Details

TitleThe Toymakers
Author
ReleaseFeb 8th, 2018
PublisherEbury Digital
ISBN-139781473551602
Rating
GenreFantasy, Historical, Historical Fiction, Magical Realism, Fiction

The Toymakers Review

  • Amalia Gavea
    January 1, 1970
    ‘’Are you lost? Are you afraid? Are you a child at heart?’’ I never thought that there would ever be another book that would make me experience all the emotions The Night Circus brought to surface. The awe, the magic, the sadness and the hope. Naturally, I was immediately drawn to the story of ‘’The Toymakers’’, but I thought that it would be an elegant fairytale, a book to prepare me for the festive reads of this year’s Christmas that’s fastly approaching. But this novel by Robert Dinsdale pro ‘’Are you lost? Are you afraid? Are you a child at heart?’’ I never thought that there would ever be another book that would make me experience all the emotions The Night Circus brought to surface. The awe, the magic, the sadness and the hope. Naturally, I was immediately drawn to the story of ‘’The Toymakers’’, but I thought that it would be an elegant fairytale, a book to prepare me for the festive reads of this year’s Christmas that’s fastly approaching. But this novel by Robert Dinsdale proved to be so much more. A gem of beautiful quotes, vivid characters, exceptional writing. A fairytale for grown-ups, a creation where life is seen at its most majestic and its darkest moments.Dinsdale has created a striking Prologue, written in a fascinating contemporary version of Dickensian language that is natural, flowing and poetic. So we are immediately transferred to the magical world of Papa Jack’s Emporium, a toyshop that opens with the first frost and closes when the snowdrops start blooming again...It’s a toyshop in the heart of London, but unlike any toyshop we’ve ever seen. Magic makes its home inside its walls and this is where Cathy, a young woman in need of safety, finds her way under difficult circumstances. Papa Jack and his two sons, Kaspar and Emil, offer refuge and the journey begins… ‘’It was the first frost of winter this morning. We don’t turn folk away, not on first frost.’’ The story is centered around Kaspar and Emil’s battle for the control of the Emporium and the affection of Jack and Cathy through her eyes, in a saga - because that’s what it is- that starts in 1907 and concludes in 1953. We go through the two devastating World Wars and the ongoing fight between the two brothers. The themes of love, loyalty and war are the ones that guide the story further. How hatred and affection are separated by a thin line, how war can wound our souls more than it can ever hurt our bodies. Dinsdale writes and magic and beauty flow through his words, but at the same time, he doesn’t shy away from darkness, pain and death. Jack’s background story of his imprisonment in Siberia is harrowing. As the Great War sheds its horrible shadow over Europe, the Emporium doesn’t remain unscathed and not only because of Papa’s nationality. The post-traumatic shock effect, the abominable ‘’white feather’’ incidents are brilliantly woven into the story, a dark reality to remind us of our bleak human nature amidst the otherworldly beauty of being a child. At the same time, there are scenes of ethereal, whimsical poetry, such as the night lights and the opening day of the shop year after year.The characters of Jack, Cathy, Kaspar and Martha are beautiful, strong, complex. Cathy is our eyes to the story and her strength, grace and loyalty are features that make her an extremely memorable protagonist. Martha is the exact, perfect copy of her mother. Jack is the rock that supports the construction of a turbulent lifetime and Kaspar is one of the most complex characters I’ve recently come across. On the other hand, Emil and Nina are horrible. I couldn’t stand them, I hated them so much...He is whiny, insecure, irritating, selfish. Nina is absolutely stupid, an utterly uneducated egoist, unlikable to the core. They were pretty well-matched and helped in making Cathy and Kaspar even more perfect.This novel is full of changes and implications and I try to safely step into the no-man’s land of spoilers. It starts like a fairytale, with a vague aura of ‘’The Night Circus’’ and a warm, cozy feeling of a late-Victorian Christmas read, haunting and dreamy. And it grows and becomes darker and darker. Darkened by a world drowned in blood and madness, by a man’s desire for control and self-assurance. Give yourselves the chance to experience a beautiful, bittersweet example of Historical Fiction and Magical Realism. Suspend all your realistic expectations, suspend disbelief and let yourselves enter the world of Emporium, where everything has a mind and life of its own. Where the aisles become a metaphor for every passion, strength and loss in our lives.Many thanks to Penguin Random House and NetGalley for the ARC in exchange of an honest review.My reviews can also be found on https://theopinionatedreaderblog.word...
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  • Paromjit
    January 1, 1970
    Robert Dinsdale has written a richly detailed and imaginative historical story of the place toys have in the hearts of both children and adults through Papa Jack's Emporium located on Iron Duke Mews in London. It begins in the early part of the 20th century with a pregnant 16 year old Cathy running away from home to work at the Emporium which offers accommodation. A traumatised Papa Jack Godman began to comprehend the role that toys have for a child and the importance of accessing that childhood Robert Dinsdale has written a richly detailed and imaginative historical story of the place toys have in the hearts of both children and adults through Papa Jack's Emporium located on Iron Duke Mews in London. It begins in the early part of the 20th century with a pregnant 16 year old Cathy running away from home to work at the Emporium which offers accommodation. A traumatised Papa Jack Godman began to comprehend the role that toys have for a child and the importance of accessing that childhood innocence and wonder after he spent so many years imprisoned in Siberia. He brings his sons, Kaspar and Emil to London, establishing himself as a master toymaker at the Emporium which operates on different laws on time and space, opening on the first day of frost, through Christmas and closing on the flowering of the first snowdrop. The rest of the year is spent coming up with and making new toys for the coming year. Kaspar and Emil are now toymakers too, their relationship riven with sibling rivalries. This is a dark story of love, family drama, war, loss and magic destined to enthrall.Both brothers are smitten with Cathy, but she has eyes only for the gifted Kaspar, driven by intense wonder in his toymaking, and the insecure, jealous Emil, pressed down by his never ending worries, never stands a chance. Living in the dream Wendy House with the patchwork dog, Sirius, Cathy gives birth to her daughter, Martha and goes on to marry Kaspar. The Emporium continues to flourish, a place seemingly apart from the rest of the world, until it is rudely reminded that it is a part of a troubled humanity after so many people take against the Godmans with the imminent threat of the Great War. Kasper goes to war, coming back a devastatingly broken man who has mentally retreated back to the safety of childhood, aided by his music box, and beyond the reach of his family. Emil is now married to Nina and has twin sons, he has sustained the shop through the war years with the toy soldiers he developed to fight The Long War, but cannot understand why his efforts remain unappreciated. A long drawn out war of attrition breaks out between Kaspar and Emil, emanating from their different perspectives and philosophy which has long term implications for the families, the toys and the Emporium. Kaspar leaves and disappears, lost to Cathy and Martha, to all intents and purposes, his beloved daughter.This glorious novel is related from the perspective of Cathy through the years until she ends up living with Martha and her grandchildren. Dinsdale has a surprise for the reader at the end as it becomes clear that all is not as it seems. This is the kind of novel that will linger long in the psyche after the last page is read. It burrows its way into that part of us that is nourished by our intimate and close connections to toys, its links to childhood innocence, magic and joy, which become a beacon of light in times of desperate need. This is particularly true for those whose lives and minds become infested and broken by the horrors and darkness that lurks within humanity. An unforgettable and sublime book that I recommend highly. Many thanks to Random House Ebury for an ARC.
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  • Kevin Ansbro
    January 1, 1970
    "Logic will get you from A to B. Imagination will take you everywhere."—Albert EinsteinSmall-town teen, Cathy Wray, finds herself in the family way.(I’m a poet, yet didn’t know it).She is also desperate to escape her parents, who want her pregnancy kept secret and the baby given up for adoption.A serendipitous moment occurs; a highlighted ad in a newspaper’s situations vacant column: a position at a toymakers’ store, Papa John’s Emporium, in London.As if guided by a deity, Cathy hightails it to "Logic will get you from A to B. Imagination will take you everywhere."—Albert EinsteinSmall-town teen, Cathy Wray, finds herself in the family way.(I’m a poet, yet didn’t know it).She is also desperate to escape her parents, who want her pregnancy kept secret and the baby given up for adoption.A serendipitous moment occurs; a highlighted ad in a newspaper’s situations vacant column: a position at a toymakers’ store, Papa John’s Emporium, in London.As if guided by a deity, Cathy hightails it to the capital with a swollen belly and a runaway’s dream of motherhood. She discovers the joint to be every bit as magical as she’d hoped: a place where saluting tin soldiers rub shoulders with eager Russian dolls. and where a pyramid of ballerinas stand en pointe, hoping to be bought.The emporium is out of step with the outside world and the toys therein burst wonderfully to life in the imagination of customers, and readers, alike. To make the toys work, their creators, Emil and Kaspar, retain a child’s perspective and I was lapping it up - a cynical adult once more flying the magic carpet of his childhood, or Robert Loggia, dancing on a giant piano keyboard with Tom Hanks.The book was subtly magical and so beautifully written. In fact, up until the 40% mark, I was already declaring it to be my best read, thus far, in 2018.Sadly though, like a toy bear that has lost much of its stuffing, the story began to sag in the middle.The character development required fresh batteries and the slow pace of the story would have benefitted from a new winding mechanism.This began as an epic tale of sibling rivalry; two brothers competing for their father’s (view spoiler)[(and Cathy’s) (hide spoiler)] affections in a Legends of the Fall/Twelfth Night kind-of-way but, by the end, it had morphed into a Willy Wonka/Chitty Chitty Bang Bang piece of nonsense!Such a shame, as it was initially so-o good, and promised much.It’s only Dinsdale’s exquisite prose that has stopped me from slinging this novel into three-star jail!
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  • Jules
    January 1, 1970
    I loved The Toymakers. This was a truly magical and emotional tale.I was sad to leave Papa Jack’s Emporium. It was a safe place so full of wonder, love, friendship, hope and the magic of toys. The whole place came to life in front of my eyes. I was surrounded by toys the whole time I was reading this book. It was such a delight.However, this book is not all fun and games. While one brother obsesses over his toy soldiers in the Emporium, another is made to face a much darker world outside those w I loved The Toymakers. This was a truly magical and emotional tale.I was sad to leave Papa Jack’s Emporium. It was a safe place so full of wonder, love, friendship, hope and the magic of toys. The whole place came to life in front of my eyes. I was surrounded by toys the whole time I was reading this book. It was such a delight.However, this book is not all fun and games. While one brother obsesses over his toy soldiers in the Emporium, another is made to face a much darker world outside those walls. Even in this place of wonder, there is anger, jealousy and secrets. This story seeped deep into my soul. It was emotional, heart breaking and thought provoking.I’ve always treated toys as if they’re alive. I talk to them, even at the age of forty. I’m the kind of person who strokes a cuddly toy in a shop and says hello to it or compliments its appearance. I fear this book may have just encouraged that behaviour even more, so now I’m going to come across crazier than I already do. I loved the idea that when we are young, toys make us feel grown up, as we use them for role-play, but when we are grown up, toys make us feel young again. Toys are wonderful and so important in all our lives, whether we’re young or old.Such a wonderfully magical and emotional story that made me feel proud of my quirky imagination and strong desire to go on believing. A little bit of belief can go a long way!My review is also available on my blog here:https://littlemissnosleep.wordpress.c...
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  • Hannah
    January 1, 1970
    I struggled with this. It took me about two months to read and I never felt compelled to pick it up. This is not a bad book by any means and I am still struggling to pinpoint what did not work for me. So stick with me as I am trying to figure out my thoughts.I adored the first chapter and was absolutely convinced I would love the book to pieces. It brilliantly introduces Cathy, knocked-up and desperate, who flees her parents’ home to find work in Papa Jack’s Emporium. Her sense of desperation is I struggled with this. It took me about two months to read and I never felt compelled to pick it up. This is not a bad book by any means and I am still struggling to pinpoint what did not work for me. So stick with me as I am trying to figure out my thoughts.I adored the first chapter and was absolutely convinced I would love the book to pieces. It brilliantly introduces Cathy, knocked-up and desperate, who flees her parents’ home to find work in Papa Jack’s Emporium. Her sense of desperation is wonderfully juxtaposed with the wonder of her new work place and here the immersive and inventive descriptions worked really well. When the Empirium closes for spring and summer, she decides to stay and hide as she has nowhere else to go. This is a trope I struggle with in books: lying and hiding makes me anxious.What developes next is a love triangle between Cathy and Papa Jack’s two sons: Kasper and Emil. I have no patience for love triangles; especially not for those between brothers. While it makes sense in the way the two have always been in direct competition (mostly for their father’s approval), it’s just not something I enjoy in books.In general, I thought the characters were the definite weak point of this book. While Cathy is nicely developed (espcially in the first half of the story) and I couldn’t not root for her and her courage, I found the brothers caricature-like and Papa Jack a non-entity. Perhaps this book would have worked better for me had it been written in a first person perspective. This way I would have been able to spend more time with Cathy and less time with the waring brothers. I also found Emil and Nina to be very abrasive characters whose motivations did not always quite work for me.I also figured something out just now: the book was overly descriptive. It feels like the majority of words were used to describe the Emporium in incredible detail; there must be hundreds of inventions described. And while I enjoyed this at the beginning, when the reader followed Cathy’s awe, it did not quite work for me later in the book when darker themes started to emerged. Then I felt the whimsy of the description detracted from the story.____________I received an arc of this courtesy of NetGalley and Random House/Ebury Publishing in exchange for an honest review.You can find my review and other thoughts on my blog.
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  • Phrynne
    January 1, 1970
    A magical story about a magical toy emporium. Some reviewers liken it to The Night Circus. They are right!I must admit to moments during the book when things were a bit too sweet, a bit too perfect, but then along came World War 2 and everything changed. The last chapters of the book are actually quite dark and the ending is amazing. I was stunned at the eventual outcome.The author writes well and has an excellent imagination. I felt sorry for the toy soldiers and how I wished I could have seen A magical story about a magical toy emporium. Some reviewers liken it to The Night Circus. They are right!I must admit to moments during the book when things were a bit too sweet, a bit too perfect, but then along came World War 2 and everything changed. The last chapters of the book are actually quite dark and the ending is amazing. I was stunned at the eventual outcome.The author writes well and has an excellent imagination. I felt sorry for the toy soldiers and how I wished I could have seen the Emporium in its heyday! I have real childhood memories of visiting a major store in London and seeing Santa in a magnificent grotto with elves and fairies and lot of snow. I guess I translated that into this beautiful book!Well worth reading if you are a child at heart and if you like a little magic in your books:)
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  • Dannii Elle
    January 1, 1970
    "Do you remember when you believed in magic?"Set inside a magical toy shop, in the heart of 1940's London, where paper trees grow in front of your eyes, patchwork dogs act like breathing ones, and doll houses are bigger than most city compartments live Kaspar and Emil. Two brothers who travelled, with their estranged father Papa Jack, to this foreign city to make their home and perfect their craft. The toy shop has grown and every year, at first frost, the lost, the afraid, and the still-believe "Do you remember when you believed in magic?"Set inside a magical toy shop, in the heart of 1940's London, where paper trees grow in front of your eyes, patchwork dogs act like breathing ones, and doll houses are bigger than most city compartments live Kaspar and Emil. Two brothers who travelled, with their estranged father Papa Jack, to this foreign city to make their home and perfect their craft. The toy shop has grown and every year, at first frost, the lost, the afraid, and the still-believers flock to the entrance to make this their home and their place of work, for the winter. But when the first flower of Spring thrusts its small head through the ice-hardened soil they must return to the normality that still reigns, outside of the toy emporium's doors.This was a seamless blend of the realistic and the magical. This was very much a portrait of pre-war London, but there was also the utter enchantment that comes with the suspension of belief that occurs when whimsical wonders are placed alongside the every day. This truly does revert the reader back to their childhood self, where any dream is possible and questions are allayed in favour of the blind belief in magic.However, this initial charming whimsy was soon overtaken by an undercurrent of fear. The beginning of WWII chronicles a change in this novel, that leads to both a severe return to the reality of the emporium's situation, as well as making this a startling bleak political insight. Prejudice is rife and the discourse returns countless times to the ideology of both cultural identity and gender stereotypes.My utter captivation with this novel stemmed from its juxtaposition of ability to charm my imagination whilst also providing many sources of discourse for my mind to ponder over. It was the amalgamation of stark reality and the childhood suspension of belief that makes this such an enjoyable read but, ultimately, it was my delighted rapture with the emporium that ensures I will never forget my experience of reading it.I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. Thank you to the author, Robert Dinsdale and the publisher, Ebury, for this opportunity.
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  • Pauline
    January 1, 1970
    Toymakers by Robert Dinsdale is a story of Cathy a teenage runaway who takes a job in Papa Jack's Emporium. A place where magical toys are made and sold by toymaker Jekabs and his two sons. I enjoyed the imagination and the description of the toys that were created. I really liked the character of Cathy. I would like to thank NetGalley and Penguin Random House UK for my e-copy in exchange for an honest review.
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  • Umut Rados
    January 1, 1970
    2.5 stars. Another book that doesn’t give itself away with the blurb. I don’t know you, but I get really annoyed when books turn out to be really different than what they promise in the blurb. Until about 40% mark, we were following Cathy in 1900s London. She was an interesting main character, who found herself working in a toy shop. There’s also a magical realism aspect to this book. But, something happens (which I don’t want to give away), and after that, the book took a completely different d 2.5 stars. Another book that doesn’t give itself away with the blurb. I don’t know you, but I get really annoyed when books turn out to be really different than what they promise in the blurb. Until about 40% mark, we were following Cathy in 1900s London. She was an interesting main character, who found herself working in a toy shop. There’s also a magical realism aspect to this book. But, something happens (which I don’t want to give away), and after that, the book took a completely different direction and tone. It became a really dark, depressing story. Honestly, it took e by surprise, and I can’t get over it. I feel cheated! I need to be fair to the author. I liked his writing. It was beautiful, complex and detailed. But, I wish he did better at character development, and keeping the structure. It went all over the place, and I didn’t know what I was reading at some point. For those reasons, I gave it 2.5 stars.
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  • Emma
    January 1, 1970
    3.5 starsThere's so much to like in this book- the Emporium is truly a magical place, somewhere a patchwork dog can run, and play, and love. It brings to mind every Christmas film you've ever seen, Santa's factory brought once more to life within the pages of the book. Such a place might seem inimical to disaster but conflict arrives in the form of a young girl, pregnant and in search of a place to survive. Cathy is the instant and everlasting focus of two brothers, Emil and Kaspar, whose kinshi 3.5 starsThere's so much to like in this book- the Emporium is truly a magical place, somewhere a patchwork dog can run, and play, and love. It brings to mind every Christmas film you've ever seen, Santa's factory brought once more to life within the pages of the book. Such a place might seem inimical to disaster but conflict arrives in the form of a young girl, pregnant and in search of a place to survive. Cathy is the instant and everlasting focus of two brothers, Emil and Kaspar, whose kinship was already strained by jealousy, competition, and the problem of inheritance. Here, the changing relationship between the two brothers, reflected through war and play, is fascinatingly developed through the use of toy soldiers and the Long War of sibling rivalry. Yet for all that, the last part of the book is wrong, just plain wrong. It doesn't fit, not with the development of the characters or the plot of the rest of the book. From the sublime to the ridiculous, the shine of the novel tarnished, and ultimately disappointing. Still, the memory of the beautiful parts remain and it's hard to argue the talent of an author who can create Sirius the patchwork dog. This might not have finished the way I wanted it to, but Dinsdale has a skill of creation that I will look for again.ARC via Netgalley
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  • Louise Wilson
    January 1, 1970
    The Emporium opens with the first frost of winter. Across the city, when children wake to see the ferns of white stretched across their windows, or walk to school to hear ice cracking underfoot, the whispers begin: the Emporium is open. In the heart of Mayfair, there is a place of hope. A place where children's dreams can come true, where the impossible becomes possible - that place is Papa Jack's Toy Emporium. For years Papa Jack has created his famous and magical toys. Into the family comes a The Emporium opens with the first frost of winter. Across the city, when children wake to see the ferns of white stretched across their windows, or walk to school to hear ice cracking underfoot, the whispers begin: the Emporium is open. In the heart of Mayfair, there is a place of hope. A place where children's dreams can come true, where the impossible becomes possible - that place is Papa Jack's Toy Emporium. For years Papa Jack has created his famous and magical toys. Into the family comes a young Cathy Wray - who's homeless and vunerable. The Emporium takes her in, and Cathy discovers that the Emporium is the only toy shop that is truly magical.This story is based around Papa Jack's sons, Kasper and Emils battle for control of the Emporium. Set between 1917 and the 1950's , it covers two World Wars. The authors style of writing does take a few chapters to get used to, but stick with it as this story is truly magical. I was whisked back to my childhood with this truly magical read that's tinged with sadness.I would like to thank NetGalley, Penguin Random House UK, Ebury Publishing and the author Robert Dinsdale for my ARC in exchange for an honest review.
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  • Lotte
    January 1, 1970
    3.5/5. An imaginative and magical story about a toymaker, his sons and a runaway finding refuge in their legendary toy store, Papa Jack’s Emporium. The detailed descriptions of the store and its inhabitants various incredible inventions reminded me of the beautiful writing in The Night Circus and made for a really fun reading experience. It was a rather slow read for me though and especially around the middle the story dragged quite a bit. Moreover, while I think there were some very interesting 3.5/5. An imaginative and magical story about a toymaker, his sons and a runaway finding refuge in their legendary toy store, Papa Jack’s Emporium. The detailed descriptions of the store and its inhabitants various incredible inventions reminded me of the beautiful writing in The Night Circus and made for a really fun reading experience. It was a rather slow read for me though and especially around the middle the story dragged quite a bit. Moreover, while I think there were some very interesting observations on how war effects people and specifically, the child in all of us, the ending was overly sentimental and quite cliché in my opinion, which soured my overall reading experience. However, I’d still recommend it and if you’re looking for a thoroughly magical read to cuddle up with on a cold day and get lost in for a while, this is a great choice!
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  • Sara
    January 1, 1970
    I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. A magical, wintery tale about a lost young woman and the toy shop that rescues her. Cathy is a pregnant runaway taken in by the family of Papa Jon’s Emporium - a toy shop that sells the unimaginable. With a story that spans 50 years, we see Cathy and Papa Jon’s children, Kasper and Emil, go through sibling rivalries, jealousy and two world wars all set against the backdrop of this wonderful shop. The writing style is hauntingly poe I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. A magical, wintery tale about a lost young woman and the toy shop that rescues her. Cathy is a pregnant runaway taken in by the family of Papa Jon’s Emporium - a toy shop that sells the unimaginable. With a story that spans 50 years, we see Cathy and Papa Jon’s children, Kasper and Emil, go through sibling rivalries, jealousy and two world wars all set against the backdrop of this wonderful shop. The writing style is hauntingly poetic, lyrical and gorgeous at first. It’s written like a historical fairy tale, with a hint of magical realism. It’s whimsical without being too light hearted, and treads the line well of telling a realistic historical tale without it being overly bittersweet or unbelievable. It’s a very character driven story, and because we follow the main characters over a long period of time, we see them develop and grow gradually as we experience some of the best and worst moments of their lives with them. It’s subtle and well done, as I grew very attached to some of them (Cathy in particular), and some of the emotional and psychological traumas are laid bare in a very raw and emotional way. In particular, I found the PTSD experienced by soldiers after the war harrowing and well written. I also liked the tension created between Kasper and Emil during the beginning of the book and thought their rivalry kept the first half of the book reasonably well paced and interesting. Cathy, however, was my favourite character. I found her resilient and her warmth for her family shines through. She’s almost like the matriarch that keeps everyone together. The Emporium itself also feels like a character in its own right. It’s a place for Cathy to feel at home, and raise a family, but also a place filled with warmth and childlike imagination that’s at once colourful and joyful. It has a personality all of its own, and the descriptions made me feel instantly transported to this magical place. I will say that this gradual character development over a long period of time did mean that at times the story slows significantly, with little advancement of the storyline (particularly in the middle). Because of this I struggled at times to cope with the slow pace. This isn’t really a book you can pick up and put down at will. It requires a certain amount of investment and concentration that was difficult to maintain during these slow moments. The tone certainly turns darker as it progresses, as we find the characters dealing with the aftermath of war and it looses a lot of its earlier charm. I found I unfortunately lost a lot of interest in the story by this point as I found it jarred so much with the promising and optimistic beginning. The characters are exposed to so much, and I found it really depressing. I wanted the whimsy and warm family atmosphere of the start. There’s also little to no magical realism, which seems to fizzle out after a promising start. This is a decent historical drama that is ambitious in scope and character development, but I just didn’t feel like the second half worked well with the first.Also, extra credit for coming from my part of the U.K. I’m all for supporting local authors.
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  • Lucy Banks
    January 1, 1970
    I received a copy of this book from Netgalley, in exchange for an honest review.Richly written, full of magic - a lovely book.Others have compared this book to The Night Circus, and for good reason; as it has similarly rich, lyrical language, and deeply evocative descriptions.The novel follows Cathy, a pregnant young runaway, who finds herself at Papa Jack's Emporium in London. This is no ordinary toy shop, as hints of magic rule every aisle; from soldiers able to do battle of their own volition I received a copy of this book from Netgalley, in exchange for an honest review.Richly written, full of magic - a lovely book.Others have compared this book to The Night Circus, and for good reason; as it has similarly rich, lyrical language, and deeply evocative descriptions.The novel follows Cathy, a pregnant young runaway, who finds herself at Papa Jack's Emporium in London. This is no ordinary toy shop, as hints of magic rule every aisle; from soldiers able to do battle of their own volition, to wind-up patchwork animals that behave much like the real thing. Papa Jack has two sons; the affable Emil and the dashing, daring Kaspar. Both are key parts of the story's narrative (for reasons I won't go into, for fear of spoiling the surprise!). The book took me a while to finish, but actually, that wasn't a problem at all, because I was immersed in the lovely writing, which took me right onto the floors of the magical Emporium. It's not only richly depicted, but gloriously imaginative, and the characters themselves are easy to get attached to.An absolutely wonderful read, especially this close to Christmas. Go and read... now!
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  • Helen
    January 1, 1970
    The Toymakers opens in 1906 with Cathy, a pregnant sixteen-year-old who runs away from home in order to avoid being forced to give up her baby. She sees an advert for a sales person for Papa Jack’s Emporium, a toy shop with a legendary status, and buys a one-way ticket to London. It wasn’t quite magical realism because the fantastical elements in the toy shop were not presented as the mundane, it was clear other shops don’t offer flying patchwork reindeer or Tardis-like wendy houses, for instanc The Toymakers opens in 1906 with Cathy, a pregnant sixteen-year-old who runs away from home in order to avoid being forced to give up her baby. She sees an advert for a sales person for Papa Jack’s Emporium, a toy shop with a legendary status, and buys a one-way ticket to London. It wasn’t quite magical realism because the fantastical elements in the toy shop were not presented as the mundane, it was clear other shops don’t offer flying patchwork reindeer or Tardis-like wendy houses, for instance, but they did start to feel more like everyday occurrences once Cathy officially moves in. This gave the story magical realism vibes, even if the writing can’t technically be classed as such. I’ll be the first to admit that the first 100 pages were so bizarre that I struggled to feel any emotional attachment to the characters, but after the outbreak of the First World War, the story really comes into its own. The way Dinsdale contrasted the blatant magic of the toys, and accompanying innocence of childhood, with the grim reality of war and violence was haunting.Papa Jack, of Papa Jack’s Emporium, has two mini-mes in the form of his sons, Kasper and Emil. Their shared interest in toy-making, and in Cathy, is pretty much where their similarities end. Kasper is the older, more charming and successful one, whereas Emil constantly feels as if he’s living in his brother’s shadow. It would have been so easy to turn these brothers into a continuation of the whole brother-rivalry trope that is everywhere in literature recently, but thankfully they developed quite nuanced personalities as the story went on. When Kasper comes back from the Front a shadow of his former self, we see a whole new, more disturbing side to both of the brothers. Once Kasper returns from the war suffering from PTSD and deeply disillusioned with everything, Emil not only discovers that his famous toy soldiers are refusing to fight each other but that they have developed a sort of autonomy of their own and rebelled against their toy owner masters. They escape from their packaging and run free in the skirting boards of the Emporium. Of course, this sounds ridiculous, but one has to see this less in the literal sense and more in the wider context of the First World War and the effect the conflict had on real-life soldiers. How we wish soldiers across both sides of the war could have just refused to fight and ignored their masters as the toys did. Obviously, that would never have been possible for them, there are no convenient skirting boards for them to escape into, but it’s a wonderful image. More than anything, the actions of these toy soldiers really emphasised the futility of the war, and the fact that there really were no winners here, just some countries who were marginally less decimated than others. I understand that this story won’t be for everything, and the writing does take getting used to but if you’re not drawn in right away, I would still recommend persevering. The story goes on to become much more moving and poignant than the initial 100 or so pages, with its juvenile descriptions and magical toys, leads you to believe. Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for sending me a copy to review .
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  • Helen (TBC)
    January 1, 1970
    Wow - Prepare for me to gush about this utter gem of a book because gush I must!The Toymakers is a magical, compelling and mesmerising read that totally absorbed me and has changed the way I'll look at toys forever. The writing is flawlessly beautiful and engaging and the characters are so well drawn that I feel I've left friends behind. The author vividly portrays the most magnificent awe inspiring scenes, totally capturing the wonders of childhood and the excitement of Christmas. This is brill Wow - Prepare for me to gush about this utter gem of a book because gush I must!The Toymakers is a magical, compelling and mesmerising read that totally absorbed me and has changed the way I'll look at toys forever. The writing is flawlessly beautiful and engaging and the characters are so well drawn that I feel I've left friends behind. The author vividly portrays the most magnificent awe inspiring scenes, totally capturing the wonders of childhood and the excitement of Christmas. This is brilliantly contrasted and interwoven with a story line of magical creations, complex relationships, love, rivalry and war and the impacts of PTSD - heartwarming, nostalgic, evocative and suspensefully dark in places.Anyone who was ever a child needs to read this book! An unreserved 5 stars and huge thanks to Netgalley and Penguin Random House UK for the ARC of this truly special book. It's one of the few that I'm sure I'll be reading over and over again!
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  • Aoife
    January 1, 1970
    4.5 starsI received a free digital copy of this book from the publishers/author via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.A magical toyshop, a family who can make the ordinary become extraordinary and a runaway girl looking for a new place to call home.This book - there is no other word for it but magical. Think The Night Circus meets the childish wonder and imagination of Toy Story, and you’ve got it - all set in pre-First World War London.The descriptions in this book and how the emporium 4.5 starsI received a free digital copy of this book from the publishers/author via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.A magical toyshop, a family who can make the ordinary become extraordinary and a runaway girl looking for a new place to call home.This book - there is no other word for it but magical. Think The Night Circus meets the childish wonder and imagination of Toy Story, and you’ve got it - all set in pre-First World War London.The descriptions in this book and how the emporium became alive in the pages, from the patchwork dogs to the toy soldiers, the Wendy House and the cloud castle. It was wonderful to read. I also loved how this story was able to combine real magic, ordinary magic but not also not disguise the horror of the real world such as jealousy and rivals between brothers, and what war can do to a man and his mind.I loved the relationship between Cathy and Kaspar, it was just so lovely - how it began, and how real it became, how Kaspar loved Martha so much from the moment she was born into his arms. There were moments when I was afraid he was too in the clouds and maybe didn’t feel for Cathy the way she felt for him, and the way Emil felt for her but the moment when the came together was lovely.I do feel sad about parts of this book, more so because what happened - it was such a long time. A long. long time and I mourn for the time wasted, the time they should have had together. The Emporium is definitely one of those bookish places I would love to become real, and visit. And I adored how vibrant and real it was in the pages - much like the books Papa Jack and Kaspar created themselves.I 100% recommend this book, it’s just lovely!
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  • Karen ⊰✿
    January 1, 1970
    Not all magical realism is the same, and this is a great example of the genre.Welcome to The Emporium where you walk into a toy shop, but are transported to a world of wonder where toys seem to have lives of their own and magic is around every corner.Papa Jack runs The Emporium with his two sons and in 1917 we follow Cathy Wray as she discovers and starts to work at The Emporium. It opens every year at the first frost and closes when the first snowdrop blooms. During the warmer months, Papa Jack Not all magical realism is the same, and this is a great example of the genre.Welcome to The Emporium where you walk into a toy shop, but are transported to a world of wonder where toys seem to have lives of their own and magic is around every corner.Papa Jack runs The Emporium with his two sons and in 1917 we follow Cathy Wray as she discovers and starts to work at The Emporium. It opens every year at the first frost and closes when the first snowdrop blooms. During the warmer months, Papa Jack and his sons Emil and Kaspar make new toys and new magic for the next season while everyone waits for the doors to open again in winter.This story spans from 1917 right through to the 1950s, and, I'll admit it, at times towards the end I was pretty angry at the author for what he did to these lovely characters. But as I got to the end I understood and accepted and was left with a huge mixture of emotions.And isn't that the best kind of book?One that transports you into a new place and time and has you CARING about the characters like old friends.I'm now going to seek out previous books by Dinsdale because I think he is a very talented author with a unique voice.Recommended to anyone who loves some magical realism in their historical fiction and is ready for a roller-coaster ride along with the characters.Thanks to the publisher and NetGalley for providing me with an advanced reader copy in exchange for an honest review.
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  • Marco
    January 1, 1970
    I had the privilege to be one of the first people to read this book (which comes out on 8th February 2018) - courtesy of Ebury Publishing and thanks to my friends from Parabatai Reviews for offering me a copy. Given that I have already read so many books as well as a great variety of them, nowadays it is hard that a book is able to make me drop everything I’ve got to do so I can immerse myself in it but there are, gladly, exceptions. From its first lines, I felt the magic The Toymaker carries wi I had the privilege to be one of the first people to read this book (which comes out on 8th February 2018) - courtesy of Ebury Publishing and thanks to my friends from Parabatai Reviews for offering me a copy. Given that I have already read so many books as well as a great variety of them, nowadays it is hard that a book is able to make me drop everything I’ve got to do so I can immerse myself in it but there are, gladly, exceptions. From its first lines, I felt the magic The Toymaker carries within its pages. From my very first encounter with it, I knew it would make me love a book in a way I had almost forgotten - and I was not wrong. When I finished this story, I found myself wanting to reread it all over again, and that’s when you know a book has left its mark upon you. The Toymakers contains more magic than any other book I’ve read and, unlike most magical books, you don’t even see the magic – you feel it irradiating because it takes you to your childhood, because it makes you travel to that dazzling opening of presents on Christmas Eve, and you revisit emotions you didn’t even know they still remained there, deep within you. Don’t worry, I won’t steal any of this magic from you – I could never reveal what lies inside these pages. I will only say that you will find a tale of a place where toys seem (or may even be) alive, where the rivality between two brothers grows, as every winter comes, inside its walls; a tale of devotion and despair in a time of war; a tale of finding the answer for this anguish in the vulnerability of your early days. I want everyone to get their hands on this book and (hopefully) experience the same. And I’m certain that, as the first frost of winter approaches, you will remember it. Dinsdale’s novel isn’t always easy to read, in the sense that at times it will attempt to drain you emotionally, and sometimes you will wonder how on earth these people can take so much, yet I don’t regret a single second I spent with it. You will realize that there is a reason for this nostalgia which is present, one way or another, in everyone’s lives, and that, in the end, the reminiscences of your journey will count for something. If you think you’ve read everything and that there isn’t uniqueness in literature anymore – pick up The Toymakers. From the gripping narrative to Robert’s enchanting writing style, I bet that you will find there is a place for you at The Emporium.
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  • Kelly Furniss
    January 1, 1970
    The first thing that attracted me to this book was the stunning cover and then also reading that the magical element was likened to 'The Night Circus' which is a book I really enjoyed. I also kept thinking of the film Toy Story and upon now reviewing this book to call it a likeness miss mash of these and War would be a fair summary.The tale starts with Cathy who at 16 and pregnant answers a newspaper add to work in Papa Jack's Emporium, she sees it as her chance to escape from entering the home The first thing that attracted me to this book was the stunning cover and then also reading that the magical element was likened to 'The Night Circus' which is a book I really enjoyed. I also kept thinking of the film Toy Story and upon now reviewing this book to call it a likeness miss mash of these and War would be a fair summary.The tale starts with Cathy who at 16 and pregnant answers a newspaper add to work in Papa Jack's Emporium, she sees it as her chance to escape from entering the home for young mothers.But the Emporium is more than just a shop it's a place where children dreams come true and adults are transported back to a time of ease and innocence.Dinsdale allows you to marvel at the wonderfully magical sounding toys then suddenly we are brought tragically to the raging War that is going on and how it effects the employees.So whilst we have magical realism we experience a dark shift with the tale but it still leaves you completely spellbound.I adored this book, the pure escapism of it all in to another World it's a book that leaves you smiling and thinking about it long after you have put it down and those don't come around often!.A full five stars from me.My thanks go to the publishers, author and Netgalley in providing a arc in return for a honest review.
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  • Demi Parker
    January 1, 1970
    WOW read this its brilliant
  • Thebooktrail
    January 1, 1970
    I remember when I started believing in magic againWhen I read this bookVisit the Emporium for yourself - Enter the store in LondonThis is a joy of a read. The sentences are exquisite and the magical feeling they evoke, reminiscient of that sense of amazement you got as a child. There is childhood magic in this book and words of wisdom such as ““There’s a shared heritage in toys. Take any man and show him a hobby horse and a little piece of him will be a boy again”I was like a child going into th I remember when I started believing in magic againWhen I read this bookVisit the Emporium for yourself - Enter the store in LondonThis is a joy of a read. The sentences are exquisite and the magical feeling they evoke, reminiscient of that sense of amazement you got as a child. There is childhood magic in this book and words of wisdom such as ““There’s a shared heritage in toys. Take any man and show him a hobby horse and a little piece of him will be a boy again”I was like a child going into that store. The trees, the soldiers and oh! the wendy house. The store comes alive in more ways than one.It’s a story to discover for yourself as there’s not just magic in these pages but a sombre and poignant story too. Sad moments and meaningful glances off the page, but the whole package is like a jack in the box, as when you open it, there’s shock, surprise, awe and that after effect when you sit back and take in what you’ve just seen and been part of.The story is centered around Kaspar and Emil’s battle for the control of the Emporium. The book guides the characters through two world wars, two harrowing world wars. Love of a family, loyalty of two brothers to the store and their vision for it, and the war..not just outside but on the battlefield in the toy shop itselfThere are some harrowing moments though despite this magic – Jack’s background story of his imprisonment in Siberia, one of the brother’s experiences of the ‘’white feather’’ incidents.And the result of Kaspar’s time on the front line.What words would I use to describe this novel? The language is poetic, ethereal, like a flickering night light projecting visions of flowers, people and soldiers on the walls of your imagination.Enter the Emporium and then delve into the darkness as the book progresses…a war both inside and out…and the ultimate salvation of a childhood dream.Truly magical and highly recommended! Kudos to the author for transporting me back to some very happy and magical moments we all share to some degree.
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  • Jodie Humphrey
    January 1, 1970
    This is the most fantastic, magical, enchanting book I have ever had the pleasure of reading. It is both heart-warming and heart-breaking. Pure wonder from beginning to end. (Proper review to come when I have gathered my thoughts and feelings)
  • Ula M
    January 1, 1970
    (7/10)I absolutely loved this book. It's about a girl named Cathy who has to run away and end up at Papa Jack's Emporium where she finds a home. The Emporium is brimming with magic, and only opens for the winter, from first frost to first thaw. Papa Jack has two sons, Kaspar and Emil, who have been playing the Long War,with toy soldiers, since they were children. Cathy and Kaspar were the most amazing characters, I loved their dynamic and I loved their story. Emil and Nina, but especially Emil, (7/10)I absolutely loved this book. It's about a girl named Cathy who has to run away and end up at Papa Jack's Emporium where she finds a home. The Emporium is brimming with magic, and only opens for the winter, from first frost to first thaw. Papa Jack has two sons, Kaspar and Emil, who have been playing the Long War,with toy soldiers, since they were children. Cathy and Kaspar were the most amazing characters, I loved their dynamic and I loved their story. Emil and Nina, but especially Emil, deserve a spacial place burning in the deepest pits of hell. The first half of this book is so so magical and warm and I found myself thinking about this book all the time during the day when I wasn't reading, the second half of this book deal with WWI and WWII, and as one can imagine, it got really dark really quickly. I thought PTSD was handled quite well, and showing the toll it took on those soldiers and their families. I loved how Papa Jack said, never forget that even the enemy soldiers played with toys once (paraphrased)The ending broke my heart, I was crying at 3am for all the time Cathy and Kaspar lost, entire lifetimes they should have had together but where robbed of by jealousy and small-mindedness. But this was still amazing, I would recommend it to fans of the Night Circus, but I don't think they are particularly similar books.
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  • Jersy
    January 1, 1970
    I was starting to read this book thinking it would be a heartwarming feelgood story full of magic. That was slightly wrong, it was more of a typical historical novel set in war time, with the addition of some small fantasy elements. That's not necessarily a bad thing, though.The characters are immensely interesting. Even if there not always likable, there flaws and mistakes were presented in a way that the reader could understand where they were coming from. It also made them more believable as I was starting to read this book thinking it would be a heartwarming feelgood story full of magic. That was slightly wrong, it was more of a typical historical novel set in war time, with the addition of some small fantasy elements. That's not necessarily a bad thing, though.The characters are immensely interesting. Even if there not always likable, there flaws and mistakes were presented in a way that the reader could understand where they were coming from. It also made them more believable as characters. Papa Jacks backstory, as well as the rivalry of the brothers, were fascinating. The plot itself, I feel though, was lacking. It offered nothing I had not read a lot of times already. I liked the setting of this book, but unwanted pregnancy and man returning from the war injured and/or mentally broken is nothing new when you like to read classics and historical fiction. And I just feel it has been done better before. That does not, however, mean that it has been done poorly here. The inclusion of magical elements, even if it was one of the main reasons I bought this book, was not done that well. In the first half, or even more, of the book I liked the little hints that were given. It was not made totally certain that it was magic and not just technological craftmanship, but when it became more apparent, which I would normally not have minded, I felt that an otherwise good message was ruined. A new message could have been made from this, but it never was and instead went into an obsurd direction. I did not like the ending. A lot of opportunity was wasted by not picking up any of the advises that Papa Jack has given Cathy or Kaspar. The big revelation at the end kind of felt forced and did not satisfy me. I still feel if you start this with the right expectations and are in the mood for basically anti-war historical historical fiction that drifts into fairy tale later on, you can have a good time reading it. It definitely made me want to read classic literature again, which is an achievement of its own.
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  • Lisa
    January 1, 1970
    This book is a joy. A complete and utter joy. The story, the characters, the setting, the writing, the cover, it was all top notch. I haven't read a book this magical since The Night Circus. Set in a mysterious toy emporium in London and covering a timespan of nearly 50 years, this book is a treasure trove packed full of surprises, magic and wonders of all shapes and sizes. I am in awe of Robert Dinsdale's imagination. Papa Jack's Emporium is a place like no other, a place where all the pleasure This book is a joy. A complete and utter joy. The story, the characters, the setting, the writing, the cover, it was all top notch. I haven't read a book this magical since The Night Circus. Set in a mysterious toy emporium in London and covering a timespan of nearly 50 years, this book is a treasure trove packed full of surprises, magic and wonders of all shapes and sizes. I am in awe of Robert Dinsdale's imagination. Papa Jack's Emporium is a place like no other, a place where all the pleasures and joy of childhood come to life, and it's a place I didn't want to leave. What surprised me most about this book however, besides all the wonderful toys that Dinsdale created, was the amount of depth and emotion contained within the story. Things took a dark turn on several different occasions and a number of themes were tackled, including PTSD, and these served as a nice contrast to the whimsy and innocence represented by the Emporium. I went through so many different emotions whilst reading this book. There were times when I was sitting there with a big grin on my face and others when I was moved to tears. It was such a pleasure to read and I had no hesitation in giving it 5 stars. I will be recommending it to anyone who I can get to listen to me and I'm sure I will be rereading it many times in the future. Go ahead, step inside the doors of Papa Jack's Emporium and experience for yourself all the delights contained within its walls. It's a visit you will be very glad you made...
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  • booksofallkinds
    January 1, 1970
    **RATING 4.5**THE TOYMAKERS by Robert Hinsdale is a beautiful story that will appeal to all of us who can remember the magic of toys and the special place they can hold in your heart.When Cathy Wray finds herself on the doorstep of the unusual Papa Jack's Toy Emporium she is afraid of the huge changes that are taking place in her life and hopes to find a job and a place to stay. But as soon as she walks through its magical doors, Cathy realises that there is so much more to the Emporium than mee **RATING 4.5**THE TOYMAKERS by Robert Hinsdale is a beautiful story that will appeal to all of us who can remember the magic of toys and the special place they can hold in your heart.When Cathy Wray finds herself on the doorstep of the unusual Papa Jack's Toy Emporium she is afraid of the huge changes that are taking place in her life and hopes to find a job and a place to stay. But as soon as she walks through its magical doors, Cathy realises that there is so much more to the Emporium than meets the eye ...THE TOYMAKERS by Robert Dinsdale really must be read to be understood but I will try my best to convey the magic that lies within these pages. From the stunning description of the toys and shop itself to the quirky characters that inhabit it, this story will transport you to another time and place and make you feel every emotion, and see every enchanting scene unfold before your very eyes. But not everything smells of roses as anger and jealousy find its place among the happiness, and with the shadow of the War serving as a comparison, THE TOYMAKERS has a rich depth to its narrative that works well. I loved this story and I highly recommend THE TOYMAKERS by Robert Dinsdale to everyone who loves a magical story with heart. *I voluntarily reviewed this book from Netgalley
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  • Kate (infinitelynovel)
    January 1, 1970
    Such a rich, evocative story, bursting with magical realism and imagination. A bit darker than I was anticipating but that was one of the reasons it kept me hooked! The Toymakers is definitely a new favourite of mine.
  • Nigel
    January 1, 1970
    I really loved the first half of this book. Magical, lyrical, poetic and had me completely engaged with it. Papa Jack is an excellent background character and the Emporium and Cathy's story are wonderful.Then it changes - I'll not give anything away. While Cathy and Papa Jack are excellent Kasper and particularly his brother, never seemed to quite fulfil the early promise. Equally the second half felt overly drawn out to me. I still think it's a very good read but... I read Little Exiles by this I really loved the first half of this book. Magical, lyrical, poetic and had me completely engaged with it. Papa Jack is an excellent background character and the Emporium and Cathy's story are wonderful.Then it changes - I'll not give anything away. While Cathy and Papa Jack are excellent Kasper and particularly his brother, never seemed to quite fulfil the early promise. Equally the second half felt overly drawn out to me. I still think it's a very good read but... I read Little Exiles by this author when it came out and I do think he is a very good writer indeed. I'll certainly read more of his work when I can.
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  • Tessa
    January 1, 1970
    This beauty was given to me by the lovely Parabatai Reviews as they had a spare copy (courtesy of Ebury Publishing) and I couldn’t be happier that I get to own such a masterpiece.This was my first ever proof copy and the experience of reading, first hand, something that wasn’t yet been released was incredible.Not only is this book absolutely gorgeous (I mean, look at that cover, it is the most beautiful thing I own), but the story was also out of this world. This book doesn’t abide to any standa This beauty was given to me by the lovely Parabatai Reviews as they had a spare copy (courtesy of Ebury Publishing) and I couldn’t be happier that I get to own such a masterpiece.This was my first ever proof copy and the experience of reading, first hand, something that wasn’t yet been released was incredible.Not only is this book absolutely gorgeous (I mean, look at that cover, it is the most beautiful thing I own), but the story was also out of this world. This book doesn’t abide to any standards, it is completely new and unique in itself.Reading the story of toymakers that create unique toys only a child could dream about takes you back on a journey through your childhood, when everything was magical. If I had to describe this book with one single word it would have to be: nostalgic. But the kind of nostalgia that makes you dream of better places, that leaves a smile on your lips. That invokes magic…Full review: https://wordpress.com/post/libraryofd...
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