Review: The Toymakers by Robert Dinsdale


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The Toymakers sounds initially like such a good book. Magical realism! The world of the toy shop! Set in the first half of the twentieth century! Romance! Excitement! What’s not to like?

What a disappointment I was in for! My feelings about this book started off great, then descended gradually towards apathy and boredom as it dragged on…and on…and on…yawn. I started off thinking that the novel could be given a five star review but soon changed my mind. Such a shame.

The Toymakers is the story of Cathy, a pregnant teenager. She runs away from home to avoid having her child taken off her for adoption and ends up working at Papa Jack’s Emporium, a magical toy shop in London. She befriends the owner’s sons (Kaspar and Emil Godman) who give her a place to stay and raise her child. However, the First World War strikes and leaves Cathy literally holding the baby. The war changes the Godman family forever, and a rift between the brothers begins a slow decline of their lives together.

At first, The Toymakers is utterly enchanting. The world of the toy shop, the special magic that makes Emporium toys just a little bit more real, the ideas that the family have for creating the most fantastic playthings are all completely spellbinding. The world of the Emporium is beautifully crafted and the magical realism reminded me of The Night Circus or The Paper Magician. There’s a floating castle, paper trees that shoot out of boxes, wind up animals that behave like real pets…I loved the sense of excitement and inventiveness.

However, as time passes and the war begins I began to loose interest in the story. There’s a slow decline in the profits of the Emporium but there’s very little action except for a slow burning resentment between the two brothers. It’s almost as if the author himself began to get bored, as the years begin to turn faster and faster. The lack of interesting plot began to depress me, as none of the characters are happy and things start to fall apart.

I initially liked the gumption of Cathy – the desire to see the world, her resolve to keep her baby and her work ethic all made me warm to her. However, as the book progressed she seemed to get dragged down (along with the rest of the plot) and she became a bit wooden. I hated – HATED – the stupid half love triangle depicted between her and the two Godman brothers, especially when Emil effectively claims Cathy and she doesn’t protest. Neither of them appear to be particularly enamoured with her and Cathy seems to grow out of any feelings she had for either Kaspar or Emil (until the rubbish ending). It seems like a competition between the boys as to who can win Cathy and I thought the book would have been much better without the odd tension.

I really liked little Martha (Cathy’s daughter) and I thought a lot more could have been done with her character. It’s such a shame that she jumped from being a child to a 27 year old woman in the space of one sentence. I would have liked to know more about her life and it could have provided some light relief through the depressing middle section.

The ending to the book is beautifully depicted (although ridiculous and annoying) but I’m afraid that even the breathtaking scenes at the very end couldn’t salvage the storyline. I’ve never read a book that manages to be so good and so bad at the same time.

Overall, I loved certain parts of this book and thought that the inventiveness and creativity was great. I loved the world of the Emporium, the language used and the sense of wonder that was portrayed. Sadly, I felt that the book lost its way and it really dragged towards the end.

Overall rating: 3/5
Inventive, exciting and magical…for the first few chapters at least. All downhill from then on.

Please note that I read this book for free via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. Thanks, Netgalley!

8 thoughts on “Review: The Toymakers by Robert Dinsdale

  1. Oh darn I was so excited for this one as well! It really did sound like the perfect book, cos I’m really feeling stories like this at the moment :/ Honestly boredom is the one thing in a book that I really can’t stand. I’m okay with slow- but if it’s boring and slow I’m just gonna lose interest so quickly :/ Oh gosh a love triangle as well?! Gosh that’s quite the time jump!! It sounds like there’s still some positive elements to this book- but it’s a bit disappointing that it wasn’t nearly as promising as I thought it would be. Ah well- good to be prepared I guess- amazing review!! (and happy birthday again *throws confetti*!)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you! I know, I was really excited about the book too and when I first started reading it I was impressed, but it really REALLY went downhill. It’s quite unnecessarily long too, so I’m not sure why the publishers allowed it to drag on – as far as I’m concerned there’s no place for a sentence in any book that goes “1927…1928…1929…1930…1931 was a better year”. Yes, your favourite love triangle trope features heavily and it’s incredibly stupid and unbelievable.

      Thank you for my birthday wishes! πŸ’œπŸ’™πŸ–€πŸ’›πŸ’šβ€οΈ

      Liked by 1 person

      1. You’re welcome! Ach that is such a shame!!! So disappointing!! Nooooo I can’t it believe it does that- what?!!? That’s just so so wrong. Oh man, that takes me back to New moon and the missing pages for “blank months”- so so bad- and this honestly sounds worse! I’d have got so mad reading that. hahaha oh gosh yeah you know how I hate it πŸ˜‰ That’s not good.

        You’re very welcome!! πŸ’œπŸ’™πŸ–€πŸ’›πŸ’šβ€οΈ

        Liked by 1 person

    1. I totally agree that everyone should read my blog! Aww, thank you for the shout out lovely 😊

      I think it’s really important to find trustworthy bloggers who give balanced opinions on books too. The book blogging community is my primary source of book recommendations as well and I love making likeminded new blogging friends πŸ’šπŸ–€πŸ’›β€οΈπŸ’œπŸ’™

      I have a love/hate relationship with hyped up books – I want to get in on the action but often the attention is unwarranted. I feel like YA fantasy is having a bit of a moment so as “similar” books get churned out they get a huge amount of hype, even though the quality can be questionable (as you quite rightly pointed out, Everless is a great example). I think it very much depends on what the book is being hyped for – if it’s “the next whatever” it’s never going to be as good as the original. If it’s “genuinely original…” then I might give it a look.

      PS sorry I’ve not been around much, after feeling super smug that I’d avoided that horrible such-a-bad-cold-it’s-almost-flu bug – I caught it. Bleurgh. I’m back now though 😊


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