The Embroidered Book

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Pub Date 01 Aug 2023 | Archive Date 22 Aug 2023
Harper 360, HarperVoyager

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‘Spellbinding’ JJA Harwood‘An entertaining and dark read’ Stylist‘An absorbing novel’ Guardian‘Beautifully written’ Elizabeth Chadwick

‘Power is not something you are given. Power is something you take. When you are a woman, it is a little more difficult, that’s all’

1768. Charlotte, daughter of the Habsburg Empress, arrives in Naples to marry a man she has never met. Her sister Antoine is sent to France, and in the mirrored corridors of Versailles they rename her Marie Antoinette.

The sisters are alone, but they are not powerless. When they were only children, they discovered a book of spells – spells that work, with dark and unpredictable consequences.

In a time of vicious court politics, of discovery and dizzying change, they use the book to take control of their lives.

But every spell requires a sacrifice. And as love between the sisters turns to rivalry, they will send Europe spiralling into revolution.

Brimming with romance, betrayal, and enchantment, The Embroidered Book reimagines a dazzling period of history as you have never seen it before.

‘Spellbinding’ JJA Harwood‘An entertaining and dark read’ Stylist‘An absorbing novel’ Guardian‘Beautifully written’ Elizabeth Chadwick

‘Power is not something you are given. Power is...

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ISBN 9780008380632
PRICE $17.99 (USD)

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Average rating from 57 members

Featured Reviews

*I reviewed this ARC from NetGalley for my honest review.

I enjoyed this book, and its story of Marie Antoinette and her sister Charlotte. I do believe it could have been cut down some, as it is quite long, and some of it felt unneeded. The author did a good job with research for the book.
I really disliked Charlotte. Her character was very narcissistic in my opinion. Even when she was suppose to be helping others, I felt like she was still looking for what she could get out of it.
Overall, the book was well written, and I would suggest it to anyone who likes historical fiction.

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This was a lengthy and sometimes wordy book. The whole magic concept, The Order, etc. were a little distracting for me, and I usually really enjoy magic intertwined within a story. It would be hard for me to truly leave it in the historical fiction category. The historical events were accurate and you can tell the author did her research before diving in to writing. Sometimes the time jumps worked but at times I wish we could have seen more of what happened during those times. I would have enjoyed it more if it was a little shorter, but that is just how my attention span for books is personally! I would try another book by this author.

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The Embroidered Book is everything I've been wanting in a book since FOREVER!

-Historical setting
- Royalty from our real world, a la Marie Antoinette and Charlotte from the Habsburg dynasty
- Sisterhood
_ Complicated relationships (forced marriage, becoming enemies,etc. )
- Mystery

I give this read 5 stars, as it has been one of my favorite reads of 2023 and I'm so excited for everyone else to read it. I'm definitely buying a physical copy when it releases, and possibly gifting a copy to my sister and best friend.

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I received a temporary digital copy of The Embroidered Book by Kate Heartfield from NetGalley, Harper Voyager and the author in exchange for an honest review. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

Queens Maria Carolina and Marie Antoinette sit on the Naples and French thrones, young, alone, and miles away from their home. As children, the two girls discovered a book of spells, which they interpreted as best they could and used to their advantage in court. However, each spell requires a sacrifice, sometimes trivial, other times as great as love for another. The two sisters will use their magical knowledge to guide them through their reign, making friends and enemies along the way, and maybe even taking down one another.

The Embroidered Book was hands down creative. It was really fun to read of the spells Maria Carolina and Marie Antoinette creates in order to assist them as queens. Heartfield uses magic to explain natural disasters, court rivalries, ailments, relationships, and politics. It truly sparks one's imagination and was extremely innovative. Like many of the other reviewers, I found that this book went on just a tad bit too long. I think 100 pages could have easily been cut out.

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A magical and intriguing book about a woman who can stitch stories into reality. The book is full of twists, secrets, and surprises. It made me feel curious and enchanted. A great read.

Thank you NetGalley for the ARC!

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"'Power is not something you are given. Power is something you take. When you are a woman, it is a little more difficult, that's all'

1768. Charlotte, daughter of the Habsburg Empress, arrives in Naples to marry a man she has never met. Her sister Antoine is sent to France, and in the mirrored corridors of Versailles they rename her Marie Antoinette.

The sisters are alone, but they are not powerless. When they were only children, they discovered a book of spells - spells that work, with dark and unpredictable consequences.

In a time of vicious court politics, of discovery and dizzying change, they use the book to take control of their lives.

But every spell requires a sacrifice. And as love between the sisters turns to rivalry, they will send Europe spiralling into revolution.

Brimming with romance, betrayal, and enchantment, The Embroidered Book reimagines a dazzling period of history as you have never seen it before."

Historical fiction with magic, there is nothing more my jam than this.

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The story of two sisters, Marie Christine and Marie Antoine who would find fame and immortality, not with magic, but as Queen of Naples and Marie Antoinette of France.

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Very enjoyable retelling of a favorite, Marie Antoinette, the Hapsburg and Charlotte of Naples. Well researched historical drama that kept me invested following the lives of the sisters. It was beautifully detailed and even though the paced slowed at times, I found it very enjoyable!

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The Embroidered Book by Kate Heartfield is a stunning ,thrilling, powerful story of sisters Carolina, Queen of Naples and Marie Antoinette Queen of France. As magisters, practitioners of magic, they seek to use their blossoming skills to benefit their nations. As time advances and their power grows, Carolina joins the ancient Order of 1326, a brotherhood of magicians who seek to control all magic and exterminate other practitioners who they label rogues. Meanwhile in France her sister Antoinette herself is a rogue who seeks to build her own network of power. The story that unfolds will pull the sisters apart and tear Europe asunder. The Embroidered Book is magnificent. Thank you to Netgalley for the opportunity to read it.

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The Embroidered Book was an interesting twist on the lives of two well-known daughters of the Habsburg empire, Charlotte, the Queen of Naples and Antoine, better known as Marie Antoinette, the Queen of France.

This novel follows Charlotte and Marie from the last few months of their childhoods in Austria through the events of the French Revolution which saw Marie dying by guillotine at the hands of the French people.

Seen as little more than pawns in the dynastic schemes of their mother, Empress Maria Theresa of Austria, Charlotte and Antoine are thankful for a mysterious book of spells left behind by their murdered governess. After Charlotte finishes the embroidery on the cover of the book, the spells become known to the girls who then begin to dabble in magic. As they are sent off to their prospective husbands, each sister will continue to grow and hone their magical knowledge, albeit in different ways, to both fantastic and devastating effect.

As time and differences in ideology pull the sisters further and further apart and the world's political climate changes, both are left to wonder if all the sacrifices their magic required were worth it.

Ms. Heartfield very clearly put a lot of time and effort into her research of the historical period covered by the events of the Embroidered Book. Her descriptive prose paints a stunning picture of this decadent era of history with a world on the brink of collapse. The swift changes of the political climate of the time form the perfect backdrop to this story of love, loss, and sacrifice. We see Charlotte and Marie each struggle with similar situations, choosing vastly different paths, and are forced to watch alongside them as the consequences of their actions play out on a global stage where we, the reader, already know the outcome.

However, this does not take away from the magnitude of the story. Although the fates of Charlotte and Marie are by now part of our history, I found myself living these events fresh through their eyes. There was never a dull moment while reading this book!

My only criticism would be the length of the novel. I don't think I went into this realizing just how expansive a tale I was taking on. This left me feeling a little like I would never reach the conclusion. That being said, I did read until the end and I am glad I did. This story will stay with me for a long time.

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This book is so amazing. I am still thinking about it. I loved the fact that Katie took real history and mingled it with fiction and fantasy so well. This was an absolute stunning book.
I just reviewed The Embroidered Book by Kate Heartfield. #TheEmbroideredBook #NetGalley
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Big thank you NetGalley and to the publisher for the chance to review this book pre-release. I really enjoyed this twist on a historical fiction, even though it is not my normal genre. A more formal review will be available on my IG/TikTok and Goodreads.

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I highly recommend this fiction tale. I love that there are elements of real names and real ways of history. Add a little sorcery and it's all you'll ever need in a book. Technically I feel like what's happening isn't really magic to me. Idk I can't make sense to you why I feel like it. Maybe because I associate magic with catch phrases 🤣🤣 I'm childish. Anyways I felt so horrible for these kids and how they couldn't be children and have a nice childhood. Being born out of obligation and your whole life has expectations! Just not what I would want to do. Every decision has a motive. An unending cycle. I like all the details about the siblings and side characters. Even the mother. Everyone has feelings but they don't show any feelings. It's crazy! When something happens (don't want to give spoilers) and someone meets someone the story gets even more interesting and things take a turn. At a point I realize these 2 are dangerously being foolish. I won't give spoilers but it's a good read and I highly recommend it. The cover is absolutely beautiful! Thank you. Netgalley!!

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Thanks so much to the publisher and to Netgalley for providing me with an e-ARC copy of this book!

I have scheduled promotional posts around release day for this book and I will provide a full review on my Instagram once I am able to get to this read.

Rating 5 stars on Netgalley as a placeholder for me to update later once the review is complete.

Will also complete a review on Goodreads once read.

Thanks again!

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Wow. This book blew me away. The creativity of weaving magic into history was stunning.

I loved the way the author told the story of these two sisters, queens and magicians, falling apart and then falling back together. Heartbreaking, but beautiful.

I would not pass this book off to a young teen: too much of sex and marital disloyalty for me to be comfortable. The system of magic also relies upon sacrifices, which are often blood.

If we rank books on being brilliantly written, this gets a 5 star review. If ranking it on how well I liked the story, the rating would be lower. But I'm rating on brilliancy of the writing here, and giving the disclaimer: this book is sad and quite miserable. The writing is well done, and to be applauded. Again, I just was fascinated by the creativity with which Kate Heartfield wove magic into history!

I received a free ARC from NetGalley, all opinions are my own.

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Twisting the tragic tale of the Habsburg dynasty (which gave the world Marie Antoinette), The Embroidered Book throws potent magic into the existing pile of family tensions, political chess playing, and romantic complications. A few clunky turns of phrase, awkward pacing and a weak magical subplot keep this one from a higher grade, but the worldbuilding is fun, with characters worth caring for.

Empress Maria Theresa of Austria plans on using marriage instead of never-ending war to ensure the safety – if not the happiness - of her thirteen living children. She is not doing this out of altruism of course; she wants Austria to regain its land and political favor, and believes her children will be the perfect pawns in achieving this objective. Thus, two of her girls – Maria Antonia and Charlotte (Maria Carolina) – are destined for politically delicate foreign marriages. In these girls’ cases, however, that destiny is blighted by change – the unexpected death of their sister, Johanna, which means that Charlotte must fill in for Johanna in Naples and France must settle for Antonia instead of Charlotte.

Iron-willed Charlotte’s marriage to the merry, womanizing Ferdinand, King of Naples, is awkwardly forged. They are not attracted to each other, and he demands non-stop procreation. Charlotte will go through eighteen pregnancies during her lifetime, producing seven children who make it to adulthood, and will live to see Napoleon’s invasion – but first she will take on a daring affair and try to gain entrance a secret magical society, along with her lover, Sir John Acton, as well as leading Italy to enlightenment.

The problems of Maria Antonia – redubbed Marie Antoinette by the French - are well known to even history neophytes. While Charlotte had been trained her whole life to participate in the French court, Marie was not; she is only fifteen and not prepared for the harsh spotlight cast upon her, she suffers from homesickness, divided loyalties, scorn and gossip. She becomes a notorious scandal and has an impassioned affair with Count Fersten.

It seems as though both women are destined for unhappy lives, but a secret binds them together. In their childhood, they discovered the titular embroidered book, which belonged to their governess. Using the spells within, the sisters teach themselves the dark sacrificial magic it holds, creating, among other things, enchanted portraits through which they can speak. But magic has a price. Are they willing to pay it?

This is a solid piece of historical fiction that perhaps binds itself too strongly to the movement of history. Sadly, the most disappointing facet of The Embroidered Book is its use of magic. The magic the sisters practice is incredibly painful and sacrificial; important artifacts, memories and even blood itself must be sacrificed to encourage the existence of magical artifacts or a piece of good luck. The problem with that is that the inclusion of magic does little to sway the bend of history in any unique way. The sisters cannot save others with it, rewind time, or poison their enemies. The most interesting use of it surrounds the secret magical society Charlotte encounters.

Much of the book is about Charlotte, whose story is lesser known, and although, by the mid-point, the narrative lean becomes more evenly distributed between the sisters, hefty chunks of Antoinette’s life story are skipped to get to the Big Sweeping moments (the birth of her son, the affair of the necklace, the storming of the Bastille, the execution). But the sisterly connection – close in real life – remains paramount.

Also - points off for some too-modern turns of phrase. I doubt either princess used four-letter words in courts where their every word was attended to. But The Embroidered Book is worth a read due to its strong historical research. Perhaps it would have worked better without the magical components, but it’s still compelling.

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This book far outsurpassed my expectations. Although I enjoy historical fiction novels, I often find them slow-paced and rarely come across one I can't put down. Because this one includes magical whimsy, which spices things up a bit even when it's a part of a familiar story, I found myself quickly captivated. However, the fantasy element is minimal, creatively woven into the historical accounts.

Seeing the world during this time period from the perspective of two important female historical figures, Marie Antoinette (Antoine) and her older sister Maria Carolina (Charlotte), was fascinating. The development (ups and downs) of the sister's relationship over decades was intimate, and as Queens it was also frighteningly utilitarian and stoic. I appreciated the realistic mirroring the fantastical aspects of the story throughout the book.

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I loved this story. I’m a Mrie Antoinette girlie and this was such a fun take on her story as well as her sister’s story. The magic system was fun and I liked seeing the sacrifices the sisters had to make. It upped the stakes from a normal magic system. I loved watching the sisters relationship and dynamics change as they grew as people and rulers. I also really loved the general aesthetics of this book. And the magic items. I just really truly enjoyed reading this

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This book was so well done, fantastic detail oriented writing and historical facts. Yet at the same time absolutely charming, very readable, unique view of history. This book was a delight and interestingly unique.

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What if Marie Antoinette and her sister Charlotte encountered magic when they were girls and used them to become powerful women of opposing sides of the world of magic? A question I never asked, but am so glad someone else did.

The book I do feel could have been shorter but I am also a reader who prefers reading without a ton of detail so I think a lot of my struggle with this was that. Overall, a beautifully written book that I genuinely enjoyed reading.

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I truly loved this book. This particular time in history and Marie Antoinette are some of my favorite subjects to dive into. So this book caught my attention immediately for those reasons, the added idea of magic on top was also an intriguing concept that I had to see how the author fit into real life events.

The two main characters of the sisters Charlotte and Antonia are written so well. The bond that they share is so very tangible and real that it almost felt like watching what was going on like a fly on the wall. How it mingled historical events with the magic of the world was top tier and just over all it was really lovely to read. At times, it could be a little long-winded as it had to fit in not just the characters feelings but the politics at the time, but that honestly is not too much of an issue once the girls are sent off to their respective countries and that is where the book really picks up in pace.

The ending is bittersweet and the lead up to it is perfect. This is one of my favorite books of the year.

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The heart of the Embroidered Book revolves around the concept of power and sacrifice. Set against the backdrop of revolution—The American and French, not to mention a general European uprising against the monarchy and feudalism, two sisters must learn to fight for power just to attempt to survive.

Our heroines are none other than two of the Habsburg sisters, Marie Antoinette (known as Antoine as a girl) and Maria Carolina (Queen of Naples and referred to as Charlotte in the story). We meet them as young girls, discovering their murdered governess’ eponymous Embroidered Book and exploring the magical spells revealed inside. For each spell, they must grant a sacrifice, which could be a simple as a fingernail and memory, or as dire as the love for a brother. These early moments in the novel stole my breath, creating a captivating metaphor for meaning making and discovery of power and loss. The prose is mesmerizing and elegant and the relationships feel deeply authentic.

When their elder sister dies, their strict and power-hungry mother sends Charlotte to Naples to fulfill her sister’s marriage obligations. Charlotte is devastated, as she has been trained her whole life to be the Queen of France. Antoine, fully unprepared, must now become Marie Antoinette, and learn to make France love her. They are determined to do this through their magic. Remember, in this world, magic demands a price, and the sisters must continue to make great sacrifices to become the wildly different rulers they eventually grow into.

As they grapple with the weight of their responsibilities, the loyalty and love they hold for one another is tested, demonstrating the complexity of their relationship in the face of power struggles and external threats.

I could not resist a deep investment in these characters, especially Marie Antoinette. Despite being keenly aware of the tragic outcome (this doesn’t feel like a spoiler, her story is common knowledge), I felt an irresistible urge to root for her survival and triumph! It’s an odd position to find oneself in, when you are vehemently anti-monarchy as a person! However, the emotional investment in her character underscores the author’s gift in crafting a compelling portrayal of one of history’s most fascinating figures.

I particularly loved Kate Heartfield’s exploration of the societal limitations placed on women in the era. Through the magic system, readers are invited to reflect on the sacrifices women make in their pursuit of power, autonomy, and recognition in a world that often undermines their capabilities and potential.

Heartfield’s meticulous research into the history of these formidable women and events is also impressive, as she provides a beat by beat unfolding of the French Revolution’s treachery and multitudes of characters (in fact, so many that I constantly found myself running to google to look up more information on each character).

The Embroidered Book is an enchanting work of magical historical fiction that weaves the fascinating worlds of Marie Antionette and Charlotte. Although the book sags a bit in the middle as the author has a lot of historical detail to navigate and loses the human connection, it’s impossible not to power through to follow the emotional journey of these two incredible queens who make heartbreaking sacrifices for their family and country. This is an absolute must-read for lovers of magical historical fantasy and powerful women—but have your tissues ready!

Thank you so much to Netgalley and Harper Voyager for the advanced copy, all opinions are authentic and my own.

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I can only imagine the sheer amount of research that went into this hefty yet engaging tome.

I love reading about this time period, and the way Heartfield brings these historical figures to life is absolutely impressive.

I found myself rooting for and then against each character, often within the same chapter.

It is 600 plus pages, so go into it with an open mind and know that you’re gonna be here for a while!

Look for an episode featuring this novel on the Books Are Magical podcast.

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Thanks to HarperCollins and Netgalley for the ARC.

This was an unexpected surprise. I was taken in by the cover and really didn't know what it was about but I am so glad I took a chance on this story. History + magic and a fresh perspective on historical events that so many are familiar with and it makes for a captivating and intriguing read!!
This is the story of Charlotte and Antoine of the House of Habsburg- Antoine is better known as Marie Antoinette. While generally aware of Marie Antoinette's life, I did not know her sister Charlotte was Queen of Naples and the extent of the Habsburg's influence throughout Europe. I love how the magic was woven into actual events and it did make me fantasize about the possibilities of magical influences in history. While Louis' & Marie's endings are well known, when reframed in this way, it really makes you think about the people they were and not the public perception of them at the time. The ending really was quite wrenching. Overall, a thoroughly enjoyable reading experience!!

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Kate Heartfield's The Embroidered Book is an engrossing tale following the lives of Antoine and Charlotte, two remarkable women from childhood to Marie Antoinette's untimely demise during the French Revolution. Though set in royalty, it's more about sisterhood, finding personal power within society's constraints, and carving out one's space. The incorporation of a magical book adds a fantastical element, making the story even more captivating. Despite its massive page count, the book never feels overwhelming and maintains tension throughout, making it a character-driven masterpiece with poetic writing and well-balanced historical detail.

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A fascinatingly complex historical fiction novel, The Embroidered Book brings magic and secret magical societies to the eighteenth century. Following sisters Antoine and Charlotte, daughters of Holy Roman Empress Maria Theresa, as they grow up from Archduchesses into Queen Marie Antoinette of France and Queen Carolina of Naples, Heartfield adds a fascinatingly complex element to the historical narrative that readers may be familiar with. Add in a secret Order of 1326 and gender and organizational lines and rivalries between magical users to the already fraught political situation of the late eighteenth century, and readers are in for a fascinating story. Shifting perspectives between the two sisters, Heartfield’s characters are complex, well-intentioned, and realistic, with complex internal monologues, struggles and loyalties. The tension of the era, when combined with the magical society’s tensions, exponentially increases the significance of Charlotte and Antoine’s actions as they seek to make their ways in the world as magisters and queens. Heartfield’s novel is incredibly diverse and dynamic, and her characters are simply fascinating, while her magic system is clever and complex. The Embroidered Book is compelling from page one as it covers decades of historical drama and tension, and the magic weaving across the pages only heightens the stakes.

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