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Susan Stokes-ChapmanRecensioner

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It’s 1783 and Henry Talbot has been dismissed from his position as a physician at a London hospital. Consequently he has had a request to take over as doctor in the Welsh village of Penhelyg by Lord Julian Tresilian. He has also been asked to keep an eye on his sister-in-law, Lady Tresilian of Plas Helyg and her daughter, Linette. The villagers are very wary of Henry and his English ways but he strives to fit in. He finds out his predecessor died in mysterious circumstances and then he himself is shot at whilst out and about visiting patients. Henry and Linette are determined to discover what is behind all the strange goings on.

Gothic fiction is a favourite genre of mine and this story is an excellent example of such. It has an atmospheric setting which is Wales. It seems well researched with plenty of mentions of myths, folklore and the odd spot of witchcraft. The characters are clearly described and it’s written with a good sense of menace throughout. The suspense builds up gradually, rattles along at a fair old pace, culminating in an exciting finale. I read this book via the Pigeonhole app, one stave a day for ten days. I was totally gripped by this story and found it a page turner. I would highly recommend it to those who enjoy a little fantasy mixed in with their historical fiction.
VanessaCW | Apr 20, 2024 |
This is a great first novel with a really interesting plot and characters that appeal.The frisson of gothic throughout is fun and keeps you in suspense. Plus, a magpie, who can resist
cspiwak | 12 andra recensioner | Mar 6, 2024 |
Twenty-one-year-old Pandora “Dora” Blake lives and works in her late parents' antiquities shop in Georgian London. Her parents had been renowned antiquarians specializing in Grecian artifacts and had made their living excavating tombs in South-Eastern Europe. Their untimely death in a mishap during an excavation twelve years ago left Dora orphaned and under the care of her unscrupulous and corrupt uncle Hezekiah Blake who promptly took over the shop and is responsible for its present state of disrepute, dealing mostly in forgeries and objects with not much historical significance. Dora aspires to be a jewelry designer and spends time honing her craft with her faithful pet magpie Hermes by her side, despite the constant beratement and ridicule of her uncle who would rather be rid of her.

One day her uncle acquires a mysterious crate and stores it in the basement of the shop under lock and key. Hezekiah’s obsession with the object and strange sounds coming from behind the locked door of the basement fuel Dora’s curiosity and she manages to trick her uncle and enter the basement and is fascinated by what she sees. The crate contained a rare Grecian jar or “pithos” in pristine condition with images of Greek mythological figures across its surface.

“There is a sudden sigh, a hum, a fluttering. It comes not from behind but in front of her, from within the vase, and Dora hears all at once its siren call, its darkling plea. It is the hush of wind, the whisper of waves, the music of grief, and she cannot help it, she cannot resist. Dora lifts the lid.”

The intricate patterns on the artifact inspire Dora’s new designs that she hopes will attract the interest of local jewelers who up until then haven't been too impressed with her sketches. To find out more about the pithos and its origins she enlists the help of bookbinder and aspiring antiquarian Edward Lawrence, who expresses a scholarly interest in the same, in hopes that his research into this mysterious artifact would earn him a place with the Society of Antiquaries, an endeavor in which he has been unsuccessful so far. It also appears that the pithos has brought with it a bout of bad luck to those involved in the acquisition- the Coombes brothers who extracted it from a shipwreck are each afflicted with strange injuries and illnesses that won’t heal and Hezekiah incurs an injury while transporting it to his shop which also seems to fester. Together as Dora and Edward dig deeper into the origin and history of the pithos and also try to figure out how it ended up in Hezekiah's possession, they uncover much about Hezekiah’s nefarious dealings as well as the secrets and myth surrounding the pithos and how it connects to Dora and her family.

Susan Stokes-Chapman's Pandora is an impressive debut novel. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this story with its historical backdrop of Georgian England, a cast of interesting characters, engaging narrative and a mystery with the Greek myth of Pandora at its core. The prose is elegant, the story is well-paced and the setting is quaint yet atmospheric. I found the segments detailing facets of the antiquarian trade and illegal practices in the sale of valuable artifacts prevalent in that era very interesting. The cover design of the physical book is stunning and worthy of display. I would definitely recommend this novel to fans of historical fiction who don't mind a bit of fantasy and myth thrown in for good measure.
srms.reads | 12 andra recensioner | Sep 4, 2023 |
couldn't get into it. Main character was unlikeable. May try again later
Tip44 | 12 andra recensioner | May 24, 2023 |
Dora’s parents died in an archaeological dig when she was but a child and now as a woman almost grown, she lives in her parent’s former antiquities shop in London with her uncle. Although he has been distant her whole life, recently he has become even more secretive and Dora cannot help but think it is tied to whatever was delivered to the shop basement. Then there is Edward Lawrence - who is convinced by a mysterious man that Dora will be able to help him achieve his dream: admittance into a prestigious historical society. So these two are thrown together to discover Dora’s uncle's mystery before more tragic events befall those around them.

The premise of this story was awesome and original, but it was bogged down with over dramatic writing. That being said, it did pick up a bit in the second half and the plot itself was so compelling that I felt I had to keep reading. I truly liked Dora, Edward and his mystery were harder to get into and ultimately, to follow, (I think there were too many mysteries wrapped up in mysteries here for my liking?) and some of the other bit characters were intriguing. But there were a lot of tangential storylines that didn’t necessarily coalesce.
tarapeace | 12 andra recensioner | Apr 24, 2023 |
Since the deaths of her parents when she was a child, Pandora Blake has lived with her uncle, a nasty man who took over his brother's antiquarian shop and has been making shady deals, selling fakes and possibly illegally acquired objects. Her only friend is a pet magpie named Hermes. Pandora, a talented artist, dreams of escaping by making her living as a jewelry designer. She discovers a pithos--a very large Greek vase engraved with mythological scenes--hidden in the basement and enlists the help of Edward Lawrence, a bookbinder and amateur antiquarian, to learn more about it. Edward has long sought membership in the Antiquarian Society and hopes that his research, along with Pandora's drawings of the engravings, will gain him entry.

This book is primarily a historical mystery (hence I don't want to give away too much), but it also has a lot of Dickensian elements and a bit of romance. Hezekiah is the perfect Victorian villain, aided by the Coombes brothers and his housekeeper/lover Lottie. There are also several interesting upper class characters, including Cornelius Ashmole, Edward's friend and benefactor; Sir William Hamilton (who turns out to have saved Dora's life) and his scandalous wife Emma; and Lady Latimer, an aristocratic hostess who shows interest in both the pithos and Dora's jewelry designs. Overall, I enjoyed this one, although it took a while to get through its 400+ pages.
Cariola | 12 andra recensioner | Apr 14, 2023 |
Just OK. A bit of mystery, a bit of romance. No mythological, fantasy, or supernatural elements.½
1 rösta
libraryhead | 12 andra recensioner | Mar 26, 2023 |
Sadly I was very MEH on this book. It was easy to read mostly although I did need a dictionary for some of the descriptions. But it just never had any jeopardy for me. The supposed "bad guy" just never felt very dangerous and I never felt that the 2 main characters were at risk at all. Disappointing.
infjsarah | 12 andra recensioner | Mar 19, 2023 |
I found this really boring.
The multiple POVs really weren’t necessary.
The “mystery” didn’t end up being anything amazing.
And worst of all this included animal cruelty - something I hate reading about.
The “romance” was also crap.
spiritedstardust | 12 andra recensioner | Feb 27, 2023 |
A book about archelogy and greek mythology? Yes, please. I was intrigued by the blurb about a mysterious greek vase (could this be the famed Pandora's vase?) and the book was ok. I did find the story to drag now and then and it was a bit predictable with the romance and who's good and who's bad. Actually, my favourite character was Cornelis, Edwards's best friend. I found his story to be most tragic and I would have loved him to take a more central place instead of the usual pairing of a young woman meets a dashing young man and the usual cliché romance. Not that I disliked Dora and Edward, but it's the usual pairing and I do like more memorable characters.

The book was ok, but not as thrilling to listen to as I had hoped it to be. But if you like archelogy and greek mythology isn't it a bad book to read.
MaraBlaise | 12 andra recensioner | Feb 26, 2023 |
Dora fights her uncle to hang onto her parents' legacy and antiquities shop. She meets Edward Lawrence who is interested in the academics to get accepted into THE Society . They join forces to unlock the mystery of an ancient Greek vase as they slog through the worst of London - the smells, the sewers, etc. Very descriptive!½
1 rösta
MartyB2000 | 12 andra recensioner | Feb 18, 2023 |
Oozing old-fashioned literary charm, this book pulls readers into the heart of the antiquities industry in Georgian England. With a mysteriously cursed ancient object, a sweet romance and an ambitious heroine who longs to sell her jewelry designs, this book brings myriad delights.

Pandora Blake, named by her archeologist mother for the famous myth, lives with her uncle after the death of her parents. Always the less-talented member of the family, he's resorted to selling fake antiques to unsuspecting customers. But when a mysterious package arrives and is delivered to the basement, Pandora begins to suspect that something more sinister may be going on. Her uncle's associates suspect a curse is haunting them all, while her uncle has his own reasons for the package - a Grecian vase - being the most important thing in his life.

Meanwhile, a chance meeting with Edward Lawrence, a bookbinder trying to build a name for himself in antiquities, may bring Pandora some answers. But letting others into her insular world also brings dangers, as her uncle's ambitions refuse to be thwarted and Edward's wealthy friends aren't as sympathetic to her precarious home life.

The mystery kept me turning pages to find out what the Greek vase was bringing to the characters' lives, and the three-character POV was used perfectly to reveal secrets and motives at the right time. I especially loved the flashbacks to Pandora's early childhood on dig sites with her parents and the description of how she gained inspiration for her jewelry designs.

Perfect for any lover of historical mysteries.

Thank you to the publisher for the advance review copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
Asingrey | 12 andra recensioner | Sep 10, 2022 |
I'm so frustrated with this book. After showing early promise which had me staying up page turning, the plot dwindled a bit and by the end I was flagging and disappointed. Dora, orphaned as a young girl and forced to live with her unpleasant uncle and his housekeeper above her parents old antiquities shop. Consigned to the attic, with her rescued magpie, Dora dreams of making a living for herself as a jewellery designer.

Not far away lives Edward, a skilled craftsman bookbinder, dissatisfied with his work and dreaming of becoming an Antiquarian, searching for and documenting antiquities.

And then the unusually large Greek jar, or pithos, turns up in highly suspicious circumstances .

So far so good and I was really gripped for the first half of the novel. Then I felt it all became a bit too clean - for me, the darker plot was perhaps not dark enough, resolutions were perhaps a bit too tidy and the book finished a bit too soon and could have had a bit more plot development at the end. I enjoyed it and would read this author again as I think she has great potential but hasn't quite nailed this one.
ArdizzoneFan | 12 andra recensioner | Dec 14, 2021 |
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