Cover Image: The Toymakers

The Toymakers

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Member Reviews

There is so much to like about this novel. The magic smartly and heartfeltly intertwined into the story, the believable conflicts, the poetry hidden in the text, the strong humanistic message about war and peace, pain and love. Yet...how much better this novel could be if the author concentrated on one ot two main motifs and delivered them constantly till the end! I find the novel being prolonged, with many beautifully written, but unnecessary side plots; while the central conflicts (the tension between the brothers and - quite criminally - the power of the magic created for the novel world) are somehow downplayed. I understand that the author had wanted to cover both of the world wars - but for what reason? One war and its horrors would serve well the message as I see it. 
Luckily, many of the side motifs (lik the rag dog!) are so lovely than one can only admire their beauty. And while I find the ending not finished well (lots of motives and further fates of the some characters are left unexplained), the last scene is breathtaking in my imagination - the love lost and found and still creating for the better good.
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I want to preface this review by saying it would have easily been four stars if it hadn’t been so long. It seemed to take me forever to finish this book. I loved it, it was magical, it was engaging. I get why it was so long, because it spans across a whole lifetime. But boy was it long.

This book follows the delightful Cathy Wray who I found to be a pleasant protagonist and narrator. My favourite things about Cathy were how perceptive and imperfect she was, I enjoyed following her along in her story as she discovers the magical Emporium where toys become real and dreams come true.

The Emporium really is magical. I loved meeting Papa John, and Kaspar. I loved reading about the romance, and when little Martha comes along. I loved reading about the thousands of toys in the Emporium that come to life – the Wendy house that is endless, the patchwork dogs that come to life. The author’s imagination is to be marvelled at – everything that could possibly come to life, does.

This book is certainly recommended for those who are nostalgic about their childhoods. This novel is brimming with references to toys that you probably couldn’t find now in an age where iPads have replaced toy soldiers.

I think something else that put me off the novel beside the length of it was just how sad it got. It felt a bit too reminiscent of real life which is perhaps why things turned out the way they did – we lose people along the way, the characters in the novel endlessly try going back to a past that is lost to them. It gets very sad and very dark, and the ending, which felt too sudden as endings sometimes do, was quite bittersweet.
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Quirky and fantastical, what an unusual but lovely read this book was. There's magic, romance, magical realism and saga in this book. A truly escapist read.
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DNF @ 41%

This novel has a lot of potential. The prologue is so enchanting and the first few chapters, following 15-year-old Cathy who finds herself unmarried and pregnant and flees to London to answer a job advert, were so well done and gave me that feeling that I was reading a book that would be a 4 star read at least. This is especially surprising for me as someone who isn't often drawn to fiction set in the early 20th century, which is a setting I'd actually like to see more of--the Victorian era is fun, but I think the Edwardians deserve some love, too.

Unfortunately, after those first few chapters, The Toymakers lost its way for me. I don't think is the fault of the author but of the marketing team. Both the cover and blurb for this novel had me thinking this would be a charming, heart-warming, Christmassy tale centred around a magical toyshop, but I saw very little of the shop in action which seemed like such a missed opportunity. Instead the story was taken up by the not-so-fun rivalry between brothers Kaspar and Emil who both fall in love with Cathy for some reason - Cathy's a nice girl, but it didn't feel like either of the brothers really spent enough time with her for that - and Cathy spending an awful lot of time in the shop while it's shut, which is the exact opposite of what I expected.

It could be that more of what I wanted is in the second half of the book, but after reading through other reviews saying how depressing this book gets, I realised I didn't care enough about any of the characters to put myself through feeling down for them. Obviously the second half of this book is set in 1917 while Europe is at war with itself (again, the blurb was misleading as I thought the whole novel was going to take place during WWI) so I wouldn't expect it to be a light-hearted book, but I was hoping for it to be a beacon of hope of a story set against the backdrop of the conflict. Wherever this book was going it didn't really feel like the magical toyshop was going to be at the centre of it the way I was expecting, and as that's the Christmassy vibe I was originally hoping for I decided to set this novel aside.
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This book was magical and although not a Christmas book per se it does have a Christmas theme running through it as the Toymakers only open for a certain part of the year. It was an excellent read in the run up to Christmas. It took me back to my own childhood and the magic within it; toy soldiers, games, I’d love to have had paper trees that sprang up into a forest although not sure my mum would have approved.

That childlike quality changes as Cathy, Kasper & Emil grow up and experience war and loss and we follow them and feel their pain as they change with each new heartbreak. The ending took me by surprise but then did make some sense when taken overall within the book and it’s quite bittersweet. It captured me from beginning to end
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Maybe this is my imagination, but I can't help but feel that this book was trying too hard to be the next "The Night Circus" by Erin Morgenstern. Now, I  thoroughly enjoy Night Circus (though I know this a marmite read for most people), but I feel this is too similar and trying so hard to be seen as "The Next Night Circus" or "If You Liked The Night Circus, You'll Love..." that this book missed its target and its uniqueness.
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A magical and whimsical read. This book really reminded me of The Night Circus and was perfect to read during the cosy winter months
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Thank you so much for letting me review this title. Unfortunately this just was not the book for me and I only made it through about the first 80 pages. I don’t write reviews for books I don’t finish as I feel this would be unfair.
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Rep: Main character who develops with PTSD.

I was really intrigued by The Toymakers by Robert Dinsdale when I first heard about it. A toyshop that sells magical toys? Sign me up! I've recently been looking for enchanting books that feel like a fairy tale, and saw reviews on Goodreads comparing The Toymakers to The Night Circus, which is just what I'm looking for. And while it wasn't exactly what I was expecting, The Toymakers is absolutely beautiful.

It's 1906, Cathy is 15-years-old, and pregnant. Because of the scandal it would cause, her parents have arranged for her to go into a home for unmarried mothers to have her baby, and then have the baby adopted. But Cathy desperately wants her baby, so when she sees an advert in the vacancies section of the newspaper for Papa Jack's Emporium, reading, "Are you lost? Are you afraid?" she makes the decision to get a job there as a shop hand, and keep her baby. But the Emporium isn't what she expected. It's the Godman family business, and they make their own magical toys; Instant Tress, where when the shell is broken, out pop full size paper versions of various trees; patchwork and clockwork toys that come to life; toy boxes that where the insides go on forever; a wendy house that's bigger on the inside; and so much more. The decision to go to the Emporium and work with Papa Jack, and his sons Kasper and Emil, is one that will change the course of her life forever.

The Toymakers is a truly magical story. While the shop holds such wonders, and more are invented as the story goes on, making you yearn to be a child again and wish the shop was real, it's not actually the fantastic that is the focus of the story. Don't get me wrong, there is a lot of the fantastic - the toys in this book really blew my mind, and would rival the wonders created by the magicians in The Night Circus - this book focuses more on the human story, the everyday magic. It's a story of family, heartbreak, and tragedy; of love and of jealousy; of competition and of feeling inadequate; of trauma and PTSD; of the worst kind of betrayal. It's a story that spans years and two World Wars, from teenagehood to old age, with the love and joy and hardships and tragedy that are apart of life.

Kasper and Emil are a year apart in age, but Kasper far surpasses his younger brother when it comes to the magical side of toymaking. While Emil's toys - especially his wind-up toy soldiers - would be incredible in any other other toyshop, they're not magical. He's never really worked out how to do it, and is in constant competition with his brother. He feels inadequate, and it doesn't help that Kasper knows he's better and will always strive to do better. When Cathy arrives, a friendship is formed between her and the two boys. But what she doesn't realise is that when Winter ends, the shop hands go home. Having found out that she's pregnant, Kasper is determined to help her, and smuggles her into the wendy house. Inside it's as big as a normal room, and he's decked it out with a hot plate and kettle, and with food to last her. When Emil discovers she's there, he thinks she herself decided to stay in the wendy house, and is determined to help her. Knowing Emil needs to have something that is just his, even if it's only a secret, she doesn't tell him that Kasper brought her there, and doesn't tell Kasper that Emil knows. When Cathy goes into labour, the truth is discovered, and so another layer of bitterness and envy is added to the mix, as both boys have fallen in love with Cathy, but she only loves one.

As I've mentioned, this story spans years, so this is just the tip of the iceberg. The story follows the relationships between Cathy and the boy she loves, between Kasper and Emil, and all of them, including Papa Jack - or Jekabs, his real name - as a family, and the fortune of the business. Things drastically change when one of the brothers goes off to fight in the First World War. The man who returns is not the man who left, and the changes in him effect the whole toyshop. He suffers from severe PTSD, though no label is given. The wind-up toy soldiers surrender and refuse to fight, and the Emporium is never the same again as a result.

What's wonderful about this story is that while it's mostly from the perspective of Cathy, we do get to see things from the perspectives of the other characters, too. So you can absolutely see where every character is coming from, and it's difficult to think too badly about anyone - until. You understand Emil's resentment and envy, and how it builds; how he tries and tries, but it's never enough,and it doesn't matter what anyone says. You really feel for him. I liked him, and I got him. I just wished he had more faith in himself, and saw that it was his constant competition with Kasper that was the problem. Yet Kasper just gets better and better, and revels in the excitement and of creating some new wonder. He's so exuberant, and just jumps off the page, and I really warmed to him. Then there's the war, and the changes in people is astounding, and not just in regards to PTSD.

There are some truly awful things that happen in this book, alongside such wonders, and not just in regards to war and PTSD, though those are bad enough. There are times when this book is so hard to read, and sometimes you simply can't believe what is happening. It's just unbearable and unthinkable, and so very upsetting.

The Toymakers is also so gorgeously written. It's beautifully enchanting, and feels like a fairy tale, even with the focus being a much more human than fantastical one. There are so many bookmarked pages of quotes that are just so lovely and need to be remembered. And the toys! The toys really are just incredible, and there's so much wonder and joy! And we're never really told how the magic works, and I just love that! And Papa Jack is a gentle giant, a real life Father Christmas, and just the most lovely, lovely man. I so wish we had more of him! He has gone through so much in his life - such terrible things - yet he's never let it make him hard and hateful. He is just the most beautiful soul, and I love him.

The way the book ends is both a punch in the gut, and possibly the most gorgeous thing I have ever read. It was at first devastating, then filled me with so much joy. Just incredible! The Toymakers is a story that is going to stick with me for a very, very long time. I implore you to read this book!

Trigger/Content Warnings: This book features teenage pregancy, discussion of forced adoption, discussion of male rape, discussion of violence, arrest and punishment not equal to offence, katorga/penal labour, starvation, suicide ideation, war, death, discussion of gas attack, PTSD, discussion of injuries and wounds, and false imprisonment.

Thank you to Del Rey via NetGalley for the eProof.
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The Toymakers follows the story of Papa Jack's Emporium and those who reside within it through the ups and downs of life, love and war. It tells a story of nostalagia around childhood, of returning to that innocence and magic, showing both the ways it can fill your life with warmth and the ways it can destroy you. Set around the early 20th century and both world wars, it speaks of a changing time and how the world can destory magic.

Entirely whimsical, I adored Dinsdale's writing. Although dense in places, it was brilliant to read and kept you immersed in this world of toys. This wasn't a story of plot but of place and time, with speculative fiction elements that added to the wonder of the toyshop. Even when the plot leaned into the fantastical, it didn't ever seem wildly out of the place, even with the harsh realities that come, for example, with war.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book and the tale it told. I'm definitely interested in trying out more of Robert Dinsdale's writing in the future.
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Just stunning! Every once in a while there's a truly stunning, fantastical book that comes out and this is one of them. A wonderful, imaginative read that is a joy to read through.
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I'm not sure why it took me so long to read this book! 

I was in a slump, going through a tough time and this book lifted me through it all. 

The magic made me wish the emporium was real. It made me feel like a child again. 

On par with The Night Circus and I love it!
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Now here's a book that was just magical. The Toymakers by Robert Dinsdale was just beautifully written throughout with so much detail.  Wow.....This book is so Beautiful throughout. I loved it.

It's Based in 1917 in London and London has spent years in the shadow of the First World War. In the heart of Mayfair.  There's a place of hope and magic. A place where children’s dreams can come true, where the impossible becomes possible – that place is Papa Jack’s Toy Emporium a magical toyshop. 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. 
WoW......what beautiful toys that can be opened especially at Christmas time. Watching your child's face when they play with their new magical toys made by Papa Jack. 

His his sons, Kaspar and Emil, are just old enough to join the family trade, and their adventure begins..............

It's one of the few  books that I went and purchased the audio version as well. I enjoyed listening to this while crocheting in my snuggle chair.

Big thank you to Netgalley and Penguin Random House UK for the ARC of this truly special book.
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Robert Dinsdale’s The Toymakers has as its setting Papa Jack’s Emporium, a strange and magical toyshop that opens with the first frost of winter, and closes again when snowdrops appear.

It’s perhaps unsurprising that I wanted to read The Toymakers when one of my favourite places to visit in London is Hamleys. Famous the world over and with seven floors of toys and games at its Regent Street store, I hoped to find in the Emporium some of the magic and creativity that can be found there.

I wasn’t disappointed. There are such wonders and marvels among the toys being created by Jekabs (aka Papa Jack) and sons, Kaspar and Emil. As Kaspar says: “… our papa’s training us – to never lose that perspective. To make a toy, you’ve got to burrow into that little part of you that never stopped being a boy… hidden down there, are all the ideas you would have had, if only you’d never grown up.”

But children do grow up. And while Jekabs may have become Papa Jack and a toymaker to escape from past horrors in his own life, the Emporium can’t keep the adult world at bay indefinitely. It provides a place of refuge and work for young runaway Cathy Wray, yet her arrival and plight both indicate that the Emporium is not immune from the outside world. It creeps inside and disturbs the equilibrium even here. 

Once their playground, Jekabs’ sons have grown up in the Emporium, one brother’s games and memories incomplete without the other. Now, though, things are altogether more strained, with the age gap more keenly felt alongside an emerging skills gap. The older brother’s toy making performs “the feat of magic… Kaspar’s night light had cast those enchantments… There was a time only their father was capable of such things.” Emil tries to hold on to “where the true joy of the Emporium existed – in the ordinary magic of children at play” but it’s not easy for him. Especially once he decides where to focus his attentions.

The story of The Toymakers begins in 1906 with Cathy’s arrival at the Emporium and it is one that will take us all the way through the lives of the Emporium’s characters up to 1953. It’s a story of the magic in play and how powerful the imagination is when being creative, and allowed to roam free. But there’s always a darker side to all good fairytales and The Toymakers is no exception; Robert Dinsdale shows us what happens when we lose that childlike wonder as we grow up or when we lose sight of the magic and possibilities, either by allowing ourselves to become blinded or preoccupied with uglier concerns or through undergoing a traumatic experience. Dark and magical, The Toymakers totally captured my imagination.
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Received a free copy from NetGalley

This book was not my cup of tea, the plot sounded promising enough  and caught my attention but i felt the book didn't deliver
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It is 1917, and while war wages across Europe, in the heart of London, there is a place of hope and enchantment.

The Emporium sells toys that capture the imagination of children and adults alike: patchwork dogs that seem alive, toy boxes that are bigger on the inside, soldiers that can fight battles of their own. Into this family business comes young Cathy Wray, running away from a shameful past. The Emporium takes her in, makes her one of its own.

But Cathy is about to discover that the Emporium has secrets of its own…

Thank you to NetGalley for an ARC.

I read this in one sitting it was so beautiful!  Reminiscent of the Night Circus in its' imagination, I love, love, loved this book.  Wonderfully crafted and magical, a perfect read at Christmas or any time of the year.  A genuine work of art.
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From the outset of this story, Dinsdale sucks you into a magical world of beautiful prose, magical experiences and immersive characters. 

The story follows Cathy, who is hired to assist a family run toy shop in London. They make their own toys which appear to be magical. Cathy is immersed in this fantastical world and their shared love of toys sucks the reader into the novel. It evokes the feeling of childhood wonder and imagination that everyone reading would remember feeling themselves. 

The intertwining plots of the two brothers was heartbreaking to read about, and I enjoyed how the outside war was reflected within the shop itself. The contrast between the horrible nature of war and the effects it has on people is in stark contrast to the magic and wonder of the toys in the toy shop itself. 

The prose that Dinsdale uses is excellent, very stylistic and a joy to read. 

Definitely, a book that has inspired me to check out the magical realism genre in more detail
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The book starts with such a wondrous and magical description of the shop. Full of mysterious aisles and surprises, it makes you feel as if you are actually there, watching the happenings. 
The Emporium is a shop full of magical toys, paper trees that grow as soon as you open the box, marching soldiers that fight the long war, and patchwork animals that run around and act as pets. 
Cathy finds herself drawn there when she finds an advertisement in the paper and sees it as a sign, specially for her. Young and pregnant, she decides to run away from her parents so she doesn't have to give up her baby. The Emporium becomes her home and the strange owners almost like a family to her, but then she finds out that it is only open through winter, until the first snowdrops appear.
I really enjoyed the story, the descriptions and all the characters. Not all are as they seem, and first impressions can be misleading, but you learn about them all through Cathy's feelings and changing impressions.
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It’s a shame I did not read it earlier... it is so emotional and the story is so catching.. 

Definitely one of my number one book this year.
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Fifteen-year-old Cathy, pregnant and in danger of having to give away her baby, runs away to London and secures a job in Papa Jack’s Emporium.

The emporium isn’t just any old toy shop. Open only for winter, the toys use the magic of imagination, the innocence and magic of childhood, to create patchwork dogs that seem alive, toy soldiers that really fight, Wendy houses that are as big inside as they seemed to be when you were little.

Cathy soon becomes an essential part of the emporium, safe, happy and loved. But war is looming and the repercussions of a sibling rivalry put that happiness and safety at risk.

This is such a beautiful book. The writing is truly lovely, absolutely magical in places and it really is the perfect book to sink into on a winter’s afternoon. The magic is presented in such a way that it seems totally believable, and the dark threads of war, violence, jealousy and cruelty are wound through so skilfully, that this is much more than a fantasy.

Cathy is a lovely main character and her relationships with Kaspar, Emil, Papa Jack and Martha are a real highlight of the book – as is lovely Sirius, the patchwork dog. If you think you can’t cry over a toy, think again!

Perfect for Christmas, and one of my books of the year.
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