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Published on: January 17, 2022
Published by: Harper Perennial
Genre: Ancient Historical Fiction, Ancient World Historical Romance
Author: Susan Stokes-Chapman
Book Length: 413 pages
Read: January 22, 2023
Shelved: February 08, 2023
Rating: 4 / 5 stars ⭐⭐⭐⭐
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Steeped in mystery and rich in imagination, an exhilarating historical novel set in Georgian London where discovering a mysterious ancient Greek vase sets conspiracies, revelations, and romance in motion.
London, 1799. Dora Blake, an aspiring jewelry artist, lives with her odious uncle atop her late parents’ once-famed shop of antiquities. After a mysterious Greek vase is delivered, her uncle begins to act suspiciously, keeping the vase locked in the store’s basement, away from prying eyes–including Dora’s. Intrigued by her uncle’s peculiar behavior, Dora turns to young, ambitious antiquarian scholar Edward Lawrence who eagerly agrees to help. Edward believes the ancient vase is the key that will unlock his academic future; Dora sees it as a chance to establish her own name.
But what Edward discovers about the vase has Dora questioning everything she has believed about her life, her family, and the world as she knows it. As Dora uncovers the truth, she comes to understand that some doors are locked, and some mysteries are buried for a reason, while others are closer to the surface than they appear.
A story of myth and mystery, secrets and deception, fate and hope, Pandora is an enchanting work of historical fiction as captivating and evocative as The Song of Achilles, The Essex Serpent, and The Miniaturist.
**More research on the book can be found on the author’s page here.
POV: third person
Main characters: Pandora Blake and Edward Lawrence
Trigger Warning: death of a beloved animal, parents, and sibling, child abuse, domestic violence/abuse
Pandora (Dora for short) is an orphaned girl whose uncle (Hezekiah) took her under his care and continued with their family business of selling antiques. She aspires to continue with the antique shop and add her jewelry design drawings to the business. Little does she know that her uncle had other things in mind when a precious cargo arrived at their shop one fateful day that would affect Dora and the people around her.
The world-building was sufficient and suitable. The places, people, and clothing depicted the 1780s well. There was enough research on antiquities and the society that governs them.
The characters were relatable, and the connection between Dora and Edward (Lawrence) – their shared trauma and thus their attraction was subtle but fitted perfectly.
This book is more character-driven than a plot one. Things moved more because each character’s actions later constituted dire consequences – i.e., Uncle Hezekiah’s injury and bad luck.
Overall, I found Pandora slower than expected, but I understood the reason for this much better after everything. There were many clues and hints sprinkled throughout the book that later culminated in an ending I did not see coming. Granted that it seems so “lucky” for Dora, BUT I get it. The twists and revelations were executed well at the end. Sometimes, bad things do come back to “bite back” the evil ones. I appreciate how much research the author did to create the story, and it made me love the book a lot more! (Please read through the author’s notes at the end of the book, and you will see why.)
Recommended for its:
- myths and mythology reimagination
- mystery and intrigue
RATING BREAKDOWN:- Character: ★★★★ Atmosphere: ★★★ Writing: ★★★★ Plot: ★★★★ Intrigue: ★★★★ Logic: ★★★★ Enjoyment: ★★★★ OVERALL: 3.8 ~ 4 stars ★★★★
“Herein lies the fate of the worlds.”Pandora by Susan Stokes-Chapman
About the Author
It’s the age-old tale, isn’t it? Insular, bookish, ‘fell into writing.’ It’s cliché, but that was me down to a tee. As a child, I could very happily – and often would – lose myself in a book and was caught many times by teachers looking out a window daydreaming, feeling far more at home in my imagination than anywhere else. Inevitable, then, I turned out to be a writer in later life! I grew up in the historic Georgian city of Lichfield (where my love of the era began) before moving on to spend four years in the coastal town of Aberystwyth, graduating with a BA in Education & English Literature and an MA in Creative Writing.
My debut novel Pandora was published in the UK in January 2022 and became an instant #1 Sunday Times bestseller in hardback. A loose reinterpretation of the Greek myth Pandora’s Box set in Georgian London tells the story of aspiring jewelry artist Dora Blake and her encounter with an ancient vase that her tyrannical uncle is desperately keen to keep a secret. The novel was previously shortlisted for the 2020 Lucy Cavendish Fiction Prize and longlisted for the Bath Novel Award that same year.
I live in North West Wales, endlessly pestered by a pair of very beautiful (and very naughty) British Shorthair cats named Byron and Brontë while I work on my next novel.
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