Paris by Starlight by Robert Dinsdale

ParisbyMy Five Word TL:DR Review : Beautifully written tale of home

The Toymakers by Robert Dinsdale is an absolutely gorgeous book full of magic, toys and beauty, I loved it and so you may imagine that my expectations were astronomical when it came to Paris by Starlight and whilst I might not have loved this book as much as The Toymakers it certainly demonstrates the writing chops of this particular author.

The story is essentially a tale of home, and the fact that home can be found anywhere that family resides, intertwined with a love story of two characters searching for something more.

Isabelle is a young musician.  She trawls the streets of Paris, playing her lute at bars.  Essentially she’s looking for the father who left home when she was only a child.  Isabelle’s father was also a musician and Isabelle hopes that she might draw his attention by playing the precious lute that he gave her.  One evening Isabelle finds herself responsible for the care of a young lost girl and this is when she meets Levon and his family, refugees living a hidden life in Paris.

The People, as they are known, were cast out of their own country where they lived and worked on the landlocked sea.  They’ve travelled thousands of miles carrying their few belongings and clinging to thoughts of safety and new beginnings.  Eventually, their traditions, cultures and stories create a magic of their own, the rooftops are full of night blooming flowers and beautiful birds, water dogs begin to appear and underground caverns lit by phosphorous plants appear.  More People flock to the City, keen to find a home amongst their own and the magic spreads further.  Unfortunately, not everyone welcomes these changes and soon enough the People find themselves in a war between those who live by day and those who live by night.

What I really loved about Paris by Starlight is the writing.  Dinsdale writes with a beauty and style that is really captivating and brings scenes to life with vibrant detail.  The magic here is captivating and well wrought and without doubt this envisaging of Paris is something truly wonderful to read about.  I can see where the comparisons to Gaiman come from with the place being split between two worlds, in a similar way that Neverwhere existed beneath the streets of London.

The setting and magic are amazing.  Paris is an enchanting place to begin with and really lends itself to the magic created here.  The Eiffel Tower  alive with tendrils and flowers, hotels with underground tunnels and caverns and the many dark clubs where haunting music plays into the night.

We predominantly follow Isabelle and to be honest that’s something of a relief as she is a good character filled with hope and love.  Some of the other characters are less easy to like, they have their own agendas, or are filled with anger and resentment.

In terms of criticisms.  I felt that this could perhaps have been cut a little, only because it felt a little repetitive in some parts and there was a slowing of pace about half way through where I began to wonder if anything more would actually happen.  Obviously, I got past this point and the tension and action were ramped up but for a moment I started to feel like everything was dragging out a little more than I liked and it definitely held things up for me.

I enjoyed Paris by Starlight but I didn’t fall completely in love with it as much as I’d hoped or expected and I think that this lies mainly at my own door, probably because elements of this felt more real than I expected and at the moment I’m all about the escapism.  Without doubt, this is a tale with a message.  It’s about finding home and overcoming adversity in a way that really drives home what is truly important.  There’s a message about acceptance and learning to live amicably with others in spite of differences.

I received a copy through Netgalley, courtesy of the author, for which my thanks.  The above is my own opinion.

My rating 3.5 of 5 stars

Can’t Wait Wednesday : Paris By Starlight by Robert Dinsdale

Can't Wait Wednesday

“Waiting On Wednesday” is a weekly meme that was originally created by Breaking the Spine.  Unfortunately Breaking the Spine are no longer hosting so I’m now linking my posts up to Wishful Endings Can’t Wait Wednesday. Don’t forget to stop over, link up and check out what books everyone else is waiting for.  If you want to take part, basically, every Wednesday, we highlight a book that we’re really looking forward to.  This week my book is : Paris By Starlight by Robert Dinsdale.  This sounds amazing and I loved The Toymakers so I’m very excited for this release:

ParisEvery city has its own magic…

Every night on their long journey to Paris from their troubled homeland, Levon’s grandfather has read to them from a very special book. Called The Nocturne, it is a book full of fairy stories and the heroic adventures of their people who generations before chose to live by starlight.

And with every story that Levon’s grandfather tells them in their new home, the desire to live as their ancestors did grows. And that is when the magic begins…

Nobody can explain why nocturnal water dogs, only native to Asov, start appearing at the heels of every citizen of Paris-by-Starlight like the loyal retainers they once were. There are suddenly night finches in the skies and the city is transforming: the Eiffel Tower lit up by strange ethereal flowers that drink in the light of the moon.

But not everyone in Paris is won over by the spectacle of Paris-by-Starlight. There are always those that fear the other, the unexplained, the strangers in our midst. How long can the magic of night rub up against the ordinariness of day? How long can two worlds occupy the same streets and squares before there is an outright war?

Expected publication : August 2020

The Toymakers by Robert Dinsdale

toysThe Toymakers is a book that I felt certain I would love, there was something about it that simply called out to me.  Perhaps it was a childish whim, perhaps it just appeals to the romantic side of my nature that is called forth by nostalgia, but, if you remember a time where a cardboard box was a castle, the underneath of a kitchen table a fortress and a sheet thrown between two washing lines a tent in the wilds then I dare say this will appeal to you too.  This is a book that simply shouts out to the child in everyone. It’s packed with imagination.

It starts at a time where the country has seen much war and perhaps in such times dreams become hope and toy shops become little miracles of possibility.

The year is 1917,  We meet with Cathy Wray who has brought shame to her family by becoming pregnant out of wedlock.  There are two solutions, Cathy can be taken to an institution that will deliver her baby and take it for adoption, or she can take herself out of that possible situation by running away.  Cathy chooses to run away from her home and finds herself in London where she becomes fortunate enough to find a job, room and board at Papa Jack’s Toy Emporium.

I’m not going to go into the plot any further because not only do I think that this book is best explored by the reader without any fore knowledge but also this book is so much more than the plot itself.

The writing here is beautiful.  The Imagination is captivating.  And, I think my biggest disappointment is that I just wanted to spend all my time in the Emporium itself – it’s magical, wonderful and breathtaking.  I felt like a child in a sweetie shop reading this.  It simply took me back.  I defy anyone to read this book and not feel the childish wonder that is evoked.  The emporium is incredible of itself, wonders that seem to defy expectation, Wendy Houses that are like a tardis once stepped inside, paper trees that seem to grow from tiny little boxes, toy boxes with more space within than physics can explain. Isn’t this just what your imagination was like as a child when anything and everything was possible?  The moon was a balloon that you could capture, your bedsheets became a rabbits’ warren and shadows could menace you with hidden faces.

The characters are also something out of a fairytale.  We have Papa Jack.  He’s like a big old grizzly bear.  Everyone is afraid of him whilst at the same time knowing that he’s softer than a wet tissue.  He has a history full of sorrow but at the same time he seems to be full of impossible magic.  He has two sons, Kaspar and Emil, they love their father, they love the shop and they love each other but at the same time they are inextricably set in a battle, not just of the toy soldiers that they pitch against each other year after year, but for the admiration of the father that they both adore.

Herein lies the crux of the matter.  Both boys are in a competition of sorts and one that eventually blinds them to the love they have for each other.  They compete over who makes the best toys, who will run the store, who wins their ongoing battle of the soldiers, who gets the girl, and who has the most magic.  And, unfortunately, things eventually turn very real and a little bit ugly.

The characters are a mixed bunch.   Cathy, although very much at the forefront of things almost feels secondary.  The competition between the two boys is very much the underlying force of the story and does in fact lead to something of a love triangle. The thing is, you have sympathy for one of the boys but at the same time it’s always clear who is the favourite of the piece.  Not just of Cathy or Papa Jack but of the reader and it’s a little bit sad because you really don’t want to choose between the two but at the same time it feels simply inevitable and also a little bit obvious.

In terms of criticisms.  Well, this is a book that, whilst I should have seen the way it was going, I really didn’t.  It’s a book that moves with the times and with it comes almost the death of a dream.  But, my niggle here comes in the actions of one of the characters.  For me it doesn’t ring true and the ending also takes something that is a beautiful dream and tries too much to turn it into something more.  For me, the ending chapters simply didn’t work and whilst it didn’t spoil the book for me it changed the feeling somewhat.  Otherwise, a stunning book.

Overall I loved this, it’s beautifully told and is perhaps one of the most evocative stories I’ve ever read.  I was a little bit underwhelmed with the ending but at the same time, on reflection, I can appreciate how difficult it was to maintain this fantasy and I can see why the author went down this route – I suppose I just wanted the dream to continue.

I received a copy through Netgalley, courtesy of the publisher, for which my thanks.  The above is my own opinion.

Waiting on Wednesday : The Toy Makers by Robert Dinsdale


“Waiting On Wednesday” is a weekly meme that was created by Breaking the Spine.  Every Wednesday we highlight a book that we’re really looking forward to.  This week my book is : The Toy Makers by Robert Dinsdale

the toymakersThe 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…

Publication date: February 2018