Timy reviews The Square of Sevens, a standalone Mystery / Historical Fiction novel by Laura Shepherd-Robinson. Out on June 22, 2023 by Mantle.
I received an eARC on NetGalley from Mantle in exchange for an honest review.
|Genre:||Mystery, Historical Fiction|
|Date of Publishing:||June 22, 2023|
|Trigger Warnings:||death, suicide, implied child abuse, mental illness, implied rape|
Possible The Sound of Madness Reading Challenge prompts:
- Free Your Mind
- Family Portrait
- Cotton Eye Joe
A girl known only as Red, the daughter of a Cornish fortune-teller, travels with her father making a living predicting fortunes using the ancient the Square of Sevens. When her father suddenly dies, Red becomes the ward of a gentleman scholar.
Now raised as a lady amidst the Georgian splendour of Bath, her fortune-telling is a delight to high society. But she cannot ignore the questions that gnaw at her who was her mother? How did she die? And who are the mysterious enemies her father was always terrified would find him?
The pursuit of these mysteries takes her from Cornwall and Bath to London and Devon, from the rough ribaldry of the Bartholomew Fair to the grand houses of two of the most powerful families in England. And while Red’s quest brings her the possibility of great reward, it also leads into her grave danger . . .
“People like to say they seek the truth. Sometimes they even mean it. The truth is they crave the warm embrace of a lie.”
I admit I’m not 100% happy with my pick, but I also couldn’t come up with anything better, so Justice by Rev Theory it is.
The Square of Sevens was my most anticipated release for 2023, despite the fact that when I requested a copy on NetGalley (December 2022), I hadn’t read a single book from Laura Shepherd-Robinson. I heard good things, though, and the blurb sounded super intriguing. Then over the spring of 2023, I read the audiobook version of her second novel, Daughters of Night which I loved. And it made me want to get my hands on a copy of her new one even more. The problem with having high expectations, though, is that they very rarely get paid off. The Square of Sevens is one of those few exceptions where my expectations were absolutely met and even got surpassed. What. A. Book.
The Square of Sevens tells the story of Red (some know her as Rachel Antrobus), an orphaned girl, whose past is shrouded in mystery. She has a peculiar skill at cartomancy which makes her stand out within Bath society. Using her skills at both reading the cards and the people, she sets out to find out what really happened to her parents. And reveal a couple of De Lacy family secrets too along the way.
Most of the book is written from Red’s POV in first person, as she tells her story from the moment she and her father met a rich gentleman, who ends up being her guardian after her father suddenly passes away. Shepherd-Robinson‘s prose sucked me in right from the beginning. Red is very easy to relate to, even if she is not always easy to like. Sometimes she makes decisions that are hard to agree with or even see anything else than selfishness or pure obsession. But you can also not help but admire her bravery and stubbornness to find out the truth. Sometimes, the truth sets a high price, and the consequences might be far worse than one is ready to face. And yet, she goes ahead no matter what. Consequences be damned.
It’s hard to talk about The Square of Sevens without spoilers, because it has layers upon layers of intrigue, secrets and emotions. All building on each other, and when you’d think you know where things are heading, then something comes along to challenge your views. It doesn’t happen too often that I find my jaw scraping the floor, but Shepherd-Robinson definitely managed to make me exclaim loudly a few times. I just love it when that happens. I’m fairly certain she could write even a shopping list in a way that it could take you on a rollercoaster ride.
I loved how the story built from Red seeking answers about her mother, which led her to not only to London but even bigger secrets than she would have thought. And not only does she have her own secrets, but all of the De Lacy family has a thing or two to hide, and an agenda as to how they want things to turn out. Especially when it comes to a certain lawsuit deciding the fate of the De Lacy fortune between the two branches of the family. Everything is related to everything, and as we get further into the book, the deeper the roots go, and more we learn about what lays beneath the respectful facade. It’s not only gripping mystery, but it also gives us a glimpse into 18th century British society, and I loved the historical bits just as much. Shepherd-Robinson has a gift of bringing that era into life for the reader and I wished I could walk alongside Red, exploring both Bath and London. Not only the places feel absolutely real, but the characters too. They were all well rounded, although there were a few I would have liked to see more of. But that’s what you get when there are a huge cast of characters – not everyone can get enough screen time. Still, what I get is still enough to give the reader a really good idea of what’s going on (or not, as it might turn out).
Another aspect I absolutely loved was how cartomancy played a big part in the whole story. From styling the parts around fortunes told to different characters, through the chapter headings to the actual fortune telling in the book. *chef’s kiss* I couldn’t be happier that I pre-ordered the hardcover copy because I just can’t wait to see those pretty cards on the pages and to reread this book in style.
The Square of Sevens is undoubtedly one of my favorite reads in 2023. It got everything I love – mystery, historical fiction, secrets, intriguing characters, and excellent writing. I could barely put it down and it kept me on the edge of my seat throughout. The Square of Sevens is a masterpiece that begs you to reread once you are done with it. Whatever Laura Shepherd-Robinson writes next, I’ll be in the frontline wanting to put my hands on a copy, because I just can’t get enough. I very highly recommend her books to any mystery/historical fiction lover.
If you don’t want to miss any of our posts, please consider signing up to receive email notifications or follow us on social media:
You can also support us on Ko-fi so we could keep maintaining the Asylum!