In 1917, Alma Pihl, a master craftsman in the House of Fabergé, was charged to protect one of the greatest secrets in Russian history–an unknown Fabergé Egg that Peter Karl Fabergé secretly created to honor his divided allegiance to both the people of Russia and the Imperial tsar’s family. When Alma and her husband escaped Russia for their native Finland in 1921, she took the secret with her, guarding her past connection to the Romanov family.
Three generations later, world-renowned treasure hunter Nick Laine is sick and fears the secret of the missing egg will die with him. With time running out, he entrusts the mission of retrieving the egg to his estranged daughter, Ava, who has little idea of the dangers she is about to face. As the stakes are raised, Ava is forced to declare her own allegiance…and the consequences are greater than she could have imagined.
My thanks to Kelly of Love Books Tours for the invitation to take part in the tour. I’m delighted to be one of the reviewers starting off the tour on its first day. As regular readers of this blog will know, I love historical fiction and any story that involves the Russian Romanovs is a must read for me. I therefore jumped at the chance of reviewing The Master Craftsman. I’m thankful that on this occasion the book had already been published as the pdf ARC supplied for the tour was so badly formatted, I bought my own ecopy of the book so that I could continue reading.
Mainly set in St Petersburg, this dual timeline story covers both the period in 1917 leading up to the Communist takeover in Russia and the consequences afterwards, particularly for Peter Karl Fabergé, the official jeweller to the Tsar and whose craftsmen were responsible for the famous Fabergé eggs given to senior members of the Russian Imperial Family. I kept going down rabbit holes whilst reading, I couldn’t resist Googling the eggs as they were described – apparently no expense was spared in their making with precious jewels and metals and each one contained an exquisitely created miniature surprise inside; with so many ordinary Russian people struggling to survive, such extravagance was considered an outrage and when the Bolsheviks seized power they had anyone associated with the Tsar in their sights, and that included Fabergé and his business.
In present day Florida, Ava Laine will become a treasure hunter, following in her estranged father’s footsteps by trying to locate a missing Fabergé egg which has never been accounted for. Whilst excited at the prospect, Ava really has no idea of what she is getting into or how dangerous the mission could be and this is where the story shifts from historical to one of adventure/mystery with some surprises along the way. I did feel for Ava, a complicated family backstory had led to an estrangement and now the pressure is on her to fulfil her father’s ambition and make him proud of her.
I thoroughly enjoyed The Master Craftsman and found the historical part especially interesting. I knew of Fabergé of course but the story behind the name was fascinating and I also learned a little more about Russian history. There is a significant level of detail throughout and the author has used this to create an intriguing fiction story around historical events. Alma Pihl, Fabergé’s young protégé, who is at the heart of the missing egg in this story, was responsible for some stunning creations, including The Winter Egg (pictured below) and it is her footsteps that Ava and her fellow hunters have to follow.
The Master Craftsman gives some fascinating insights into the history of Fabergé – his personal and professional life and its place during the Communist revolution. There is intrigue, suspense and betrayal with an added poignancy to the story resulting from the characters circumstances. I’m very glad I read it and have no hesitation in recommending to readers interested in this period of history.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Kelli Stuart is the author of the Carol Award–winning Like a River from Its Course, as well as A Silver Willow by the Shore and Life Creative: Inspiration for Today’s Renaissance Mom (with Wendy Speake). Stuart has written for The Huffington Post, 5 Minutes for Mom, Tonic.com, Disney, American Girl, The MOB Society, Extraordinary Mommy, God Size Dreams, Short Fiction Break, and (in)courage. Kelli is a storyteller at heart, fluent in the Russian language, and has spent the last two decades studying the Russian and Ukrainian culture. Kelli lives in Tampa, Florida, with her husband and five children.