A random stranger enters a very special workshop in which dolls are made. The dolls are very special too. The stranger wants to become an apprentice there – the only problem? Only family members are allowed in the family business. But the stranger has a good story to tell, and suddenly he’s allowed in – very much to the disapproval of Persephone, the girl who has dreamed of doing just that all her life. And then, all of a sudden, the most valuable possession of the family is stolen…
Does this sound promising or what?! Yes, very much so (if I’m allowed to answer the question myself lol). And it did deliver! This book was one of my most anticipated books of the year, and I’m so thankful to the author and the lovely publishing team at Head of Zeus for my physical arc which will get a special place on my shelves! Read on to find out more about the book, as well as my thoughts!
The Kendrick family have been making world-famous dolls since the early 1800s. But their dolls aren’t coveted for the craftmanship alone. Each one has a specific emotion laid on it by its creator. A magic that can make you feel bucolic bliss or consuming paranoia at a single touch. Though founded by sisters, now only men may know the secrets of the workshop.
Persephone Kendrick longs to break tradition and learn the family craft, and when a handsome stranger arrives claiming doll-making talent and a blood tie to the Kendricks, she sees a chance to grasp all she desires.
But then, one night, the family’s most valuable doll is stolen. Only someone with knowledge of magic could have taken her. Only a Kendrick could have committed this crime…
When we lose an object, we say it’s been taken by the Thief. He’s one of the fae folk and he rides a winged horse. He only returns what we’ve lost when we offer something in exchange…
Making people feel a specific emotion at a single touch, the dolls crafted at the Kendrick family’s doll workshop are something very special. I loved the premise of this book – doesn’t it sound so very magical? And the quote above (which is printed on the cover of my arc) made me sooo curious, as I love myths and fae stories so much.
The story is set on a small island in Oxford, and I loved the kind of contemporary, yet fantastical, and kind of also historical feeling the story conveyed. The characters are nicely shaped, and I immediately connected with some while disliking others (as it should be, I think).
Persephone (I love the name!) was told from a young age that women are too emotional to wield magic, and yet it has always stayed the one thing she wanted to do. Unfortunately, there are two rules in her family: Only a Kendrick can work in the doll workshop, and only men can become sorcerers. However, a long time ago, when Persephone was little, she met her great (great great?) grandmother who did magic. So it can’t be impossible, right?
My love for myths and folklore was definitely satisfied here, as we get lots of references to changelings, the fae folk (as the characters magic is supposedly be linked to them). But not only that, also the families (Kendrick, Botham, Jackson, and later also Ramsay) which are in the foreground here have tales and myths interwoven in their own history, and I loved reading about them.
What I probably loved most about the book though was that it served as a kind of coming-of-age for Persephone. She becomes sort of a heroine for the other females in her family, as most of them are bound to more traditional roles (since only men are allowed to work in the workshop and do magic, the women are confined to the roles of sales ladies in the shop).
Even though I found the fact that the story is set in modern times very interesting, I think it would have worked better if it was set in the past. I feel like the protected kind of sorcery that is only meant for men – as well as the traditional distribution of roles – would have seemed more believable.
However, this tale of magical realism is absolutely beautifully written, has a great set of characters and an interesting mystery at its heart. I would recommend it to lovers of fantasy, mythology, and folklore – you will not be disappointed!
4.5 stars from me, and I can’t wait to read more by Kate Mascarenhas!
Thank you all so much for reading!