Wednesday 14 February 2018


The Toymakers by Robert Dinsdale

How stunning does the proof for The Toymakers look (and you can't even see properly that the door actually opens up and that the edge of the pages are stamped with a toy soldier design too)? I'm sure I'm not the only one who instantly thought of the nutcracker when laying eyes on the lush cover and that magical wintery feel really comes across within the pages of this beautifully imaginative read too.

Set at the start of the 20th century, we meet Cathy, a 15-year-old pregnant girl who is about to be send away to have her baby away from prying neighbour eyes. However, Cathy doesn't want to have her baby in secret and be forced to give it up, so when she sees a vacancy in the paper for a shop hand at Papa Jack's Emporium in London she doesn't think twice about the implications and she runs away to the big city.

The enchanting toy emporium has always been a shelter for those in need and as Cathy is swept up in the whirlwind day-to-day activities, she befriends Papa Jack's two sons, Kaspar and Emile. Along the way she becomes privy to the boys' quiet rivalry – the Long War – to create the most intricate and innovative toys, laced with charm and real magic, that will ultimately ensure one of them the key to the toy kingdom when their father retires.

But with a real-life war on their doorsteps, not even the magical world of the emporium can prepare those within its intricate doors for the horrors they're about to face...

I'm struggling to come up with the words that can do the incredibly rich and enchanting world of The Toymakers justice. I don't tend to read much historical fiction, but the magical realism aspect to this book (and that gorgeous cover) is what caught my eye initially and I am so very glad it did because this was a truly wondrous read that delighted me with the turn of every single page.

This book is constantly surprising in its imaginative world building, yet beneath the incredible and innovative toys detailed within its pages – from paper trees growing into a real life forest through to actual cloud castles – there is a captivating and surprisingly harrowing tale of hope, family and loss.

After all, the majority of the story is set against the backdrop of the First World War, and not even Papa Jack's magic can hide the devastating effects of this on Kaspar, Emile and Cathy. Despite the magic leaping off the pages when inside the emporium, author Robert Dinsdale doesn't shy away from the physical and mental affects of the war and the sharp contrast to the innocent naivety felt only pages earlier leaves a noticeable impact not only on the characters but on the reader too. 

The Toymakers is a magical realism historical fiction like no other. It lures you in with promises of an enchanted world beyond your wildest imagination but keeps you hooked with its captivating story of the three characters at the core of it all; Cathy, Kaspar and Emile. Their rivalry and friendship, their love and hate are what drive the story and the emporium. It's not always an easy journey, but even in the darkest of moments the author manages to surprise us all - and that's what makes this a truly magical read.

The Toymakers is published by Ebury and you can get your copy from Foyles or your own preferred retailer.

🎵 Listening to: Eurgenius! – Go Eugenius
🔹 Mood: Okay


  1. Anonymous15/2/18 10:10

    This sounds like a really great read! I am 100% adding this to my TBR. I love historical fiction AND magical realism, so this sounds like my two favourite genres combined into one. The cover is gorgeous too, oh my! Stunning review lovely, I've actually just ordered a copy thanks to this review! <3

    Charlotte |

    1. So pleased to hear this, Charlotte, I hope you enjoy the book as much as I did!


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