Ten Thousand Stitches by Olivia Atwater

SPFBO Status: Semifinalist 

Medium: ebook (260 pages in print)

Overview (No Spoilers):

Ten Thousand Stitches has the unique distinction of being the book I was reading when I went into labor with my daughter, Quinn. I read half of this book while in the hospital before I had to eventually (and reluctantly) put it down, as I had to deal with more pressing matters. The fact that I enjoyed Ten Thousand Stitches as much as I did under those circumstances is worth noting.

As the second book in the Regency Faerie Tales series by Olivia Atwater, Ten Thousand Stitches is a quick, incredibly fun read that takes place in England when housemaids, butlers, etc. were status symbols and mainstays in affluent, large manors. This story follows the plight of Euphemia (Effie), a housemaid who exudes the utmost professionalism, however seethes with anger at every slight when no one is looking. She finds solace in stitching and reciting rhymes to sooth her rage. Upon meeting the Lord’s brother, Benedict, Effie feels truly seen and falls head over heels for him as a result. So when the unusual opportunity presents itself to better her station, will Effie risk making a deal she knows is likely fraught with double meaning and danger in order to win the affection of her true love?

I should probably preface this review with the disclaimer that fairytale fantasy unabashedly holds a soft spot in my wide-ranging trove of reading preferences. Ten Thousand Stitches contains many similarities with other reads that adapt a familiar fairytale, such as predictability (and annoyingly) falling desperately in love with someone you just met. That said, Atwater adds enough twists to keep the story fresh, especially with how she resolves the final chapters and includes an extra magical element/talent for Effie that provides delightful chaos into an otherwise orderly household. 

Atwater develops characters in Ten Thousand Stitches that are bright and distinct, often interjecting humor into the story in the most unexpected ways. Despite being mostly contained in the English countryside, Atwater transports the reader into the vibrant world of English balls and the pressures of high society, while also highlighting the patience and suffering of the very servants who maintain the illusions of the rich. Atwater also includes a detailed, magical field trip that enriches the world at large in Ten Thousand Stitches.

Overall, Ten Thousand Stitches is a positively cute read that puts its own unique and entertaining spin on the classic fairy tales, Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty.

Additional Insight (Spoilers Abound)

  • Where did Effie’s magic come from? Is anyone else in her family gifted?
  • I haven’t read Half a Soul yet (it’s on the kindle though!), but how is Lady Hollowvale half faerie and half human? How is she seemingly split between the two worlds? “I gave all my patience to my other half, and she left me with all the violent emotions.”
  • Can Effie only stitch emotions that she has an abundance of? What if she had tried embroidering calming/happy emotions into everyone’s belongings? Would that have helped ease the tensions between the Family and the servants?
  • I enjoyed Atwater’s decision to provide the reasoning behind why Lady Culver was so terrible. She was still awful but at least it made her a bit more human, instead of evil for the sake of it.
  • I was so curious about the Brownies! How did they make their unique materials out of dignity or wishes? I loved that concept and still find myself thinking about the applications of such imbued clothing.
  • How will Lydia’s life change knowing that there actually is magic at large after Effie and Lord Blackthorn leave?
  • Lord Blackthorn’s ‘help’ so often had unexpected consequences that provided humor at the most surprising times. After the first few mishaps I found myself eagerly anticipating how his next assist would go awry. His well-meaning intentions have unexpected consequences (since the powerful won’t learn from their mistakes, but take out their frustrations on the powerless).
  • I loved when the dog proved to be ‘true love’s kiss’ for the Sleeping Beauty. 

Vocabulary Builder: 

Brownie: a legendary good-natured elf that performs helpful services at night

Toff: (chiefly British, disparaging) dandy, swell

Coruscate: to give off or reflect light in bright beams or flashes; sparkle

Quadrille: a four-handed variant of ombre popular especially in the 18th century


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