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BLOG TOUR REVIEW & GIVEAWAY!!! The Embroidered Book by Kate Heartfield

Image Description: The cover of The Embroidered Book by Kate Heartfield is a dark blue with a stylised floral pattern picked out in gold, blues, and pearl effects. The gold silhouettes of two female profiles look at each other across the cover.

1768. Charlotte arrives in Naples to marry a man she has never met. Two years later, her sister Antoine is sent to France to marry another stranger. In the mirrored corridors of Versailles, they rename her Marie Antoinette.

But the sisters are not powerless. When they were only children, Charlotte and Antoine discovered a book of spells – spells that seem to work, with dark and unpredictable consequences.

In a world of vicious court politics, of discovery and dizzying change, Charlotte and Antoine use their secret skills to redefine their lives, becoming the most influential women of the age.

But every spell requires a sacrifice. As love between the sisters turns to rivalry, they will send Europe spiralling into revolution.

When The Embroidered Book landed on my doormat, the thump was so big I heard it from my office upstairs! At 658 pages, the hardback of Kate Heartfield’s latest novel is a slightly intimidating, albeit beautifully presented read (seriously, just LOOK at that cover!).

This initial impression was not erased by the four pages of ‘dramatis personae’ which opens the book and, sure enough, the sheer amount of characters was initially a little overwhelming. Within a few chapters, however, I was so caught up in the richly textured world of the House of Hapsburg-Lorraine – and in the stories of sisters Charlotte and Antoine – that such concerns faded into the background. Despite the story rapidly spiralling out across three countries and several dynasties, characters soon distinguished themselves and, with the central focus remaining on Charlotte and Antoine, it became surprisingly easy to follow the tangled web of court connections despite the massive scope of the novel.

Alternating between the perspectives of Charlotte, married off to the indolent King Ferdinand of Naples, and Antoine, married to the Dauphin of France and later known as Marie Antoinette, The Embroidered Book presents readers with an alternative history of the power struggles, conflicts, and revolutions that took place across eighteenth-century Europe. For Charlotte and Antoine, in addition to being daughters of the formidable Hapsburg empress Marie Theresa and Queens in their own right, are also magisters: keepers and users of secret – and dangerous – magical knowledge.

I have to admit that, whilst I found the magic in The Embroidered Book to be very well woven into the history, it was, for me, the least interesting part of the novel. To be fair, I’m not a huge reader of fantasy because, for me, real lives and histories are interesting enough on their own. So whilst Charlotte and Antoine’s use of magic – and the lengths they have to go to in order to conceal their use of it – is a unique premise, I have to admit I was more interested in the political intrigues and court politics than the spellcasting. The idea of these women having a secret power that allowed them to control empires was interesting but, I have to admit, I would probably have been more engaged if, as in the real history, it was their sheer force of will and determination – rather than their magical gifts – that enabled them to do this.

That said, the magical elements of the novel do allow Kate Heartfield to explore the prejudices against female power in this period in an accessible and engaging way. Even with their spells, Charlotte and Antoine are shown as often having to act through the men around them – by using charm, manipulation, threats, bribery, and coercion – to achieve their aims. It also provided a unique way of exploring the bond between two sisters and the way in which this strains and stretches as each pursues their goals within their respective nations.

As for this history, it’s clear that Kate Heartfield has done her research and The Embroidered Book provides an evocative glimpse into the heart of eighteenth-century Europe and the powerful factions that vied for control of it. Everything from political manoeuvring to the court fashion is richly depicted on the page, making for an engrossing and unflinching read. Despite it’s length, there’s absolutely no ‘filler’ in this novel and, although each page is replete with texture and detail, the story moves along and the characters develop and evolve at every stage.

As mentioned above, I’m probably not the ideal reader for The Embroidered Book however, even with some reservations about the magical elements, I ended up becoming engrossed in this richly textured and evocative read. Fans of historical fantasy are sure to adore this novel but I’d encourage even fantasy sceptics like myself to give it a go. If you’re interested in a richly imagined historical novel and prepared to try something a little bit different, The Embroidered Book may offer just what you’re looking for.

GIVEAWAY!!!

Thanks to Kate Heartfield, publisher Harper Voyager, and Anne at Random Things Tours I have ONE PRINT COPY of The Embroidered Book to giveaway to a lucky UK reader!

All you need to do to win is to follow me (@shelfofunread) on Twitter and retweet the pinned tweet that links to this post! The giveaway is open from 9.00am on 28 February 2022 and closes at midnight on 06 March 2022. There is one winner. Terms & conditions apply (see below).

TERMS & CONDITIONS: UK only. The winner will be selected at random via Tweetdraw from all valid entries and will be notified by Twitter and/or email. If no response is received within 7 days then I reserve the right to select an alternative winner. Open to all entrants aged 18 or over.  Any personal data given as part of the competition entry is used for this purpose only and will not be shared with third parties, with the exception of the winners’ information. This will be used only for fulfilment of the prize. The prize will be despatched by second class recorded delivery with Royal Mail. I am not responsible for delivery of the prize.

The Embroidered Book by Kate Heartfield is published by Harper Voyager and is available now from all good booksellers and online retailers including Hive, Bookshop.org, Waterstones, and Wordery.

If you can, please support a local indie bookshop by ordering from them either in person or online! Some of my favourites include Booka Bookshop, The Big Green BookshopSam Read BooksellersBook-ishScarthin Books, and Berts Books

My thanks go to the publisher for providing a copy of the book in return for an honest and unbiased review and to Anne Cater from Random Things Tours for inviting me onto this blog tour and providing the opportunity to run a giveaway for the book.

Reviews on The Shelf are free, honest, and unbiased and I don’t use affiliate links on my posts. However if you enjoy the blog please consider buying me a coffee on Ko-Fi!

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