Author: Kelli Stuart
Genre: Dual-Time Fiction
Release Date: April 5, 2022
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.
Reviewer: Mary Polyakov
The Master Craftsman's premise intrigued me when I first came upon it, with its promise of an adventure in 20th century Russia involving the Romanovs and a modern storyline to complement it and uncover some of the mysteries surrounding the family. The cover is beautiful, with different shades of the sky, the layout of the buildings, and the lady at the center running toward those structures.
Sadly, however, the book didn't live up to expectations. It opens with a character speaking a line and scares the viewpoint character. But it doesn't give the reader an idea of who said the dialogue except that she's referred to only as "she" until the story shifts to her POV. There are POV inconsistencies there too, but those are more easily overlooked. The writing style was sparse and focused more on what the characters were doing with their hands, expressions, etc. while neglecting their deeper feelings and motivations.
The characters themselves also didn't seem very multi-dimensional, making decisions that were out of character but convenient for where the story was headed. It would have helped a lot if readers were given information more organically, instead of getting it from a character taking several paragraphs to stop and think back over a particular time or aspect of their life. Meaning has to be established first before the reader will care. Otherwise, the information is little more than an info dump.
Another thing that didn't work well for me was that from the first, Ava came off as an immature, whiny, irresponsible character. Every "Whatever," "Fine," and "She was weird, Mom" reinforced that impression. Both her parents caved to her wishes even when she acted half her 26 years, which was much of the time, taking into account her "rebellious bent," as her parents put it.
And the gestures were used excessively to the point where the characters seemed like puppets. Because of that overuse, they became cues for the characters to move around on stage. It didn't feel authentic or natural.
One of the most jarring things was the cursing mentioned in this book and how it's portrayed as harmless. The modern protagonist's mother sugar-coats it as "unnecessary language." But, by saying that, she puts it in the same category as filler words and stutters. I find this unacceptable. Taking into account other things, this could have been written to cater to the secular market to expand readership, which would, to an extent, explain the content. It might also explain the part on page 80 where Ava reads about a craftsman who made elaborately simple, breathtaking works of art and says, "Well, obviously that was because she was a woman." I had to do a double-take when I hit that one.
I did appreciate that the love interest wasn't introduced until over a hundred pages into the story. The parts about how hot he looked with his blue jeans clinging to "his thick thighs" and in the tight T-shirt, not at all. But I appreciate that the author took the time to set up the story and the other characters before the love interest came onto the scene.
The above concerns considered, this book appears to be geared toward a secular audience even though it's printed in the name of a well-known publisher of Christian Fiction. Those who prefer such books might enjoy this one.
I received a review copy of this book from Revell through NetGalley and Interviews & Reviews. A positive review was not required.
Reviewer: Connie Porter Saunders
This is a sweeping dual-time story that spans a century. It is a captivating blend of historical and contemporary fiction. In 1917 Russia, a master craftsman with the House of Faberge is asked to protect an egg that Karl Faberge himself created. Alma Pihl accepts this challenge during the traumatic events of the Russian Revolution, and author Kelli Stuart captures the danger, the drama, and the uncertainty of that time. Then, in the present time, Ava Laine is sent by her critically ill father to hunt for this elusive egg. Nick Laine is a man who has spent his life hunting for treasures while ignoring the treasures he already has, a loving wife and daughter. Danger and adventure are a part of this present-day chronicle also. But I was especially touched by this estranged family's journey to finding each other again.
"I spent...so much time...trying to find the perfect...treasure. It was...right there in front...of me. The...whole time."
"You," he whispered. "You were...the treasure. You're my treasure."
Stuart proves that she is a master craftsman of words and imagination, and she displays her skill in the way that she weaves these two timelines together. I enjoyed learning more about the Russian Revolution and the Faberge eggs designed for the Russian Czar's family. The possibility of a missing egg and the mystery that spans a century is a satisfying element. But the human connection is the best plot development of all. We are reminded that our true treasures are not material possessions...they are the people around us! I enjoyed The Master Craftsman, and I recommend it to all who enjoy dual-timeline books.
This book was provided courtesy of Revell through Interviews & Reviews for my honest opinion.
Reviewer: Lisa McGuire
I chose to read The Master Craftsman due to the subject matter and historical content I hoped it would contain. I rate this book 3 stars only as it is very repetitive in the past tense content. The characters are very shallow and unlikeable in the present day.
This is not a Christian book, as there is no mention of God or reference to faith, even though the characters in this book are in desperate need of the Lord. I found reading the book became a chore toward the end, but I was hopeful for an ending with some degree of redemption for the characters and the book as a whole. Disappointed.
I received this book courtesy of Revell through Interviews & Reviews for my honest opinion.
Reviewer: Paula Shreckhise
This dual-time novel showcases the artists who crafted the fabulous Fabergé eggs and a treasure hunt in the modern-day. What if there was a secret egg taken out of Russia just after the Revolution?
Ava is summoned to her estranged father’s death bed. He wants her to find an object steeped in the elegance of 1900s Russia and The House Of Fabergé. With extensive research, the author takes us to St Petersburg in the early 1900s and the almost fairytale setting amidst political turmoil.
Ms. Stuart brings us to the present with a cast of characters that can be surprising. I was disappointed that Nick chose treasure hunting over his daughter, Ava, and wife, Carol, in the past. Things change when his health deteriorates. Ava is adrift in her go-nowhere job when Nick gives her the task that has her creative dreams yearning to follow. She is to hunt for a Fabergé egg that might not exist.
This very interesting story smudges the lines between good and evil and keeps you on your toes. I kept looking for a spiritual thread. Since Revell is the publisher, I expected this to be a Christian novel. It is not, but it is a clean read and very enjoyable to see the progression of the characters.
A complimentary copy of this book was provided by Revell through Interviews and Reviews. I was not required to give a favorable review. All opinions are my own.
Reviewer: Mindy Houng
"Those who work with excellence always stand the tallest."
This is my first book by Kelli Stuart, and I am totally blown away. The author's skill in melding history, fiction, and suspense to create a spell-binding dual timeline novel is truly masterful. I felt like I was living with the Fabergé's in Russia during the early 1900s and equally felt like I was on an exhilarating treasure hunt with Ava and Nick during the present time. I learned quite a bit about Russian history through the eyes of Karl Faberge. I loved learning about the man behind the exquisite creations.
The story is plot-driven and moves at a fast clip with plenty of gasp-worthy twists and turns. Karl Faberge and his wife Augusta, and his employee Albert make up the characters in the past. The present time's cast of characters is large; it includes Ava and her mother, Ava's estranged treasure hunter father Nick, Ava's neighbor Zak, and several other minor characters. I felt the greatest affinity for Karl, who had the most prominent and introspective voice. Anyone who enjoys historical fiction and dual timeline fiction would love this incredible journey. This is definitely on my top reads of 2022 list!
I received this book from Revell via Interviews and Reviews and was under no obligation to post a positive comment. All opinions are my own.
Reviewer: Laura J. Davis
The Master Craftsman, by Kelli Stuart, is an Easter egg hunt of epic proportions. The "epic" is a hunt for one of the famous Fabergé eggs. The author takes us back in time and tells us the story behind the Fabergé eggs and the man (Peter Karl Fabergé) who created them. As Russia edges closer to the overthrow of the Imperial Tsar and his family, Fabergé creates an egg that would be dangerous to his family if ever discovered by the new regime. With time running out, he entrusts it to Alma Phil, a master craftsman in his employ.
Fast-forward to the present, and treasure hunter Nick Laine is looking for that egg. The only problem is he is dying and needs the help of his estranged daughter (Ava) and wife to find it. With many clues to go on, Ava and her mother set out to find the missing egg.
I loved the history and the research the author included in this book. I found myself stopping every time she described an egg so I could look it up online to see what it looked like. While much of the story is a fabrication, the facts are not. Alma Phil was a real woman who worked for Fabergé, and she designed some of the most intricate eggs in the collection. Whether or not Fabergé created an egg that was a danger to him and his family is the mystery this book presents.
I loved the National Treasure type of feel this book had. I half expected Nicolas Cage to stroll in with the egg and say, "I found it!"
While the book is rich with history and intrigue, I was surprised that God was never mentioned throughout the entire book. It would have been nice to see how God played into this story with the fictional characters. But such was not the case. Hence the four stars.
If you like adventure, dual-time stories, history, and treasure hunts, you will enjoy The Master Craftsman.
I received this book courtesy of Revell through NetGalley.
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