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Dinsdale’s The Toymakers is about Magic, Toys and Love in an Emporium

13th February, 2017

Book review : The Toymakers by Robert Dinsdale

One toy shop. Two brothers. A young girl. Their lives become tangled together in a place where an old man creates magic and toys come to life.

In brief

Papa Jack’s Emporium opens with the first frost of the year. For years Papa Jack has created and sold magical toys: patchwork dogs, instant paper trees, pop up books and tin soldiers that can fight their own battles. Soon his sons, Kaspar and Emil, need to take over the family trade. The brothers love each other; but they also know each other’s strength and weakness. They know that only one man will head the Emporium in the end. Then there is Cathy Wray, a homeless, pregnant runaway child. She becomes part of the Emporium and before she knows it, an irreplaceable part in the lives of the family.

…magic, toys

I loved the setting of the story. Who would not want to visit a magic toyshop where your wildest dreams come true? Papa’s Emporium is closed in the summer when Papa and his sons, Emil and Kasper, work on toy designs. The shop opens every winter with new toys. paper trees that sprout on their own, birds that fly and roost on trees, a patch work dog that is as loyal as a real dog, a bag that can hold infinite amount of things, a nook where children can hide in and never be heard and more.

…tricky relationships

Dinsdale gives a lot of importance to bare the bonds and emotions that define each character; the worries, the pride, the jealousy; everything. The novel effectively moves between the atmosphere of the magical toy shop to the life outside the walls of the shop. The back stories of the characters make us empathize with them. The flaws of the characters land the readers in a dilemma of deciding who deserves our sympathy more – the insecure Emil, the vulnerable Cathy or the ambitious Kaspar. As the story progresses, the characters go through the several shades of growing up; they don’t remain the same people we started the story with. Such a character development was fascinating to read about.

..and hidden layers

On the outside, The Toymakers seems like a magical fantasy read. But just as the Emporium succeeds in giving the unexpected to young children who rush through its doors on opening night, the novel opens up to darker layers of discrimination, sibling rivalry, abuse, effects of war and what it means to a human in an inhumane world. The overall theme of the novel remains  ‘we are happy when the child in us is happy’ and Dinsdale does full justice to even out the theme throughout the novel.

Book review : The Toymakers by Robert Dinsdale


The beginning of the book just vacuumed me into a magical world where toys came to life and everything you imagine is made possible. Soon after, the parts towards the middle of the novel seemed repetitive. I was expecting more toys and more imagination.

Martha, daughter of Cathy, was a complete let down. She didn’t talk like a child at any point but rather like an old, wise adult. The child lives in a toy shop secluded from the company of fellow children but there was no explanation about the implications of such an isolation on her development into an adult. She seemed to be perfectly at ease walking into the real world as an adult after many years of not having any children to play with, which didn’t seem realistic. Her dialogues seemed forced and not with the child-like wonder. Talking about dialogues, the book often had conversations that felt like ‘out-of-a-book’ (especially Kasper and Emil). These lumpy conversations felt forced and sucked the magic out of an otherwise incredible novel.

Final Verdict :

One of the good releases of 2018. If you are looking for something with a fantastical twist, pick this up. It merges magic and emotions together in a seamless way. Fans of The Night Circus will absolutely love this read. The ending was so magical and perfect too.

Title : The Toymakers
Author : Robert Dinsdale
Publisher : Ebury
Publication: 2018
Language : English
Pages : 480
Rating : 4/5

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Have you read this series The Toymakers yet? Are you a fan of the Night Circus?


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The Toymakers


This Post Has 6 Comments
  1. I’m so curious about the setting of this book I like the fact that it explores such complex relationships. It’s also great that it addresses such issues under the surface. Shame that the conversation was so lumpy and out of place for a child. But it sounds worth reading despite these hiccups. Fantastic review!

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