The Toymakers by Robert Dinsdale is the first ARC I’d ever requested and I was so pleased when it came in the post. I was mostly intrigued by the gorgeous book cover and magical synopsis. I’m so glad I decided to be brave and make my first request because this was a truly enchanting read, with magic brought to life on every page.
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…
I was immediately captivated by the style of narration Robert Dinsdale chose. Whilst most of the book was in third person, at times the narrator spoke directly to you, the reader. I instantly felt like I was being asked into The Emporium to experience the magic. And, boy, did that happen. Every page was brought to life by the gorgeous, in-depth descriptions of the toys and their magical being. The imagery was so vivid I could easily see the story like a film as I read. This made it all the more exciting because I felt like I was experiencing the magic the characters saw. Initially, The Emporium reminded me of Fred and George Weasley, and I couldn’t help but think this is what a toyshop would look like if they owned one. I was so captivated by the personal narrative and magic already.
The Toymakers wouldn’t be what it was without its endearing characters. They all had their faults and battles to overcome throughout the novel which kept the story fresh and exciting. I loved Cathy Wray, one of the protagonists, who is an outsider to The Emporium. Using her allowed the reader to experience the magic for the first time as she did. I also loved the Godman brothers, sons of Papa Jack, who really combined sibling rivalry and love in many aspects of the book. It was easy to sympathise with all characters at times as they were so human.
The final thing I’m going to talk about in my review is the wonderful plot. Amongst all the magic and loveable characters was a really great story. The whole novel encapsulated the idea of lost people and outsiders finding their way, all by realising the child inside them. I did prefer the first half of the novel which followed Cathy and her journey to find herself, which introduces us to The Emporium, its charming inhabitants and its mysterious way of life. I did, however, enjoy the use of historical events to inform the plot in the latter half. The novel has a long time span and cleverly uses World War Two as a turning point. I loved the way past and present weaved together and the interesting uses of communication, too. Whilst the beginning of the novel was fun and enchanting, the ending has serious undertones and themes. I thought the plot as a whole was cleverly wound together and kept me engaged throughout.
The Toymakers by Robert Dinsdale is an captivating read and one I’m so glad I requested. Reading this book was so much fun and made me feel like a kid again, which is exactly how The Emporium wanted its customers to feel. There were so many aspects to the novel which drew me in, from its vivid imagery, to its loving characters and complex plot. This is such a magical book and it perfect for fantasy readers and toy lovers, as well as readers who enjoy a story they can really sink their teeth into.
I feel compelled to end by talking about how beautiful this ARC is. So much thought has been put into the design and it is really breathtaking. The front cover is made up of two parts which create a wonderful silhouette. My favourite is the back cover which shows the advert included in the novel! It’s so mysterious and hardly gives away any information which made me love it even more. I felt compelled to dive in and find out what the book was all about. Check out a few images of the detail below!