by Ahmad Hassan Nadeem
Enter a realm of enchantment and gripping storytelling with Susan Stokes-Chapman’s spellbinding new novel, Pandora. In this masterful tale, readers embark on a captivating journey, as the author unveils the enigmatic world of Dora Blake.
The story is set in Georgian London,1799, in an antique shop where Dora Blake struggles to make a name of her own and where her uncle sells fake antiques. The novel begins with her uncle, Hezekiah, finding an ancient Greek vase of value beyond imagination. The vase holds secrets that are dark and mysterious. Dora asks for Edward’s help – an antiquarian scholar- in digging deeper about the origins of the vase.The plot thickens when it is revealed that some delivery men hired by Hezekiah have endured unhealable injuries. These delivery men make desperate attempts to convince Hezekiah that the mysterious vase is cursed and is the very reason behind their afflictions. Despite witnessing his own injury worsening day by day since the vase’s arrival, Hezekiah stubbornly dismisses their claims.
Further on in the novel, Stokes-Chapman injects a few rays of light into the narrative. We see how Edward takes a decisive step by submitting scraped material from the vase to the esteemed Society of Antiquaries for age testing. Meanwhile, Dora unexpectedly crosses paths with Lady Latimer, a highly regarded socialite who not only admires Dora’s exquisite jewellery creations but also commissions her to craft a unique piece.
Stokes-Chapman skilfully steers this hope toward a more foreboding path, later in the book. Hezekiah learns that Dora has stumbled upon his hidden treasure, which compels him to reluctantly loan the cursed vase to Lady Latimer for an upcoming soirée. The atmosphere of urgency intensifies as Hezekiah realises he must expedite his plans before they crumble to dust.
Throughout the book, Stokes-Chapman expertly unveils the depths of her characters and their underlying motivations, allowing us to truly empathise with their journeys. The evolution of Dora, our protagonist, is a sight to behold as she unearths an inner strength she never knew existed. As she grows as a person, she captivates us, earning our admiration with every step.
On the flip side, Hezekiah makes an impression right from his initial appearance, solidifying his role as the quintessential antagonist. As the story progresses, our disdain for him deepens, as he embodies everything we love to hate—a truly despicable character.
But amidst the unfolding drama, another character emerges, bringing an element of romance to the mix. Edward, slowly but surely, becomes a potential love interest for Dora. His presence adds an extra layer of intrigue to the narrative. In the midst of this budding connection, we encounter Cornelius, Edward’s closest confidant, whose presence subtly stirs a tinge of jealousy within the former as he witnesses Dora and Edward’s relationship blossom. The resulting dynamics weave a web of emotions that keep us engrossed in their intertwined destinies.The mix of supernatural happenings, unforgiving conspiracies, and unexpected romantic waves throughout the novel make it a buffet of emotions that entertain the reader to the last page. The scrumptious details which Chapman provides are a treat for those who are fond of history, particularly in the way it shows how culture, language, architecture, and trade are interconnected to form a unique society.
At times, the narrative takes unexpected turns, leaving one’s heart pounding in anticipation, yearning for resolution. The tonal quality of the book shifts effortlessly from moments of serenity to heart-wrenching despair, keeping the reader on the edge of their seat, clinging on to a frail twig of hope that keeps the reader and the characters afloat throughout the novel.