... that rare, double-headed beast. It is a sequel to the author's first book, The Miniaturist (2014), an acclaimed work of historical fiction which enchanted legions of readers. But it is also a standalone novel that can be enjoyed by those who have not yet immersed themselves in the unique world of that exquisite debut. Burton returns to her main setting and brings back several characters, but the most welcome recurring feature is her skilled storytelling ... Once again, the Dutch setting is masterfully evoked, both indoors and out, and the Brandts and their secrets are shrewdly depicted. If the book lacks the suspense and mystique of its predecessor, it more than compensates with its drama, which includes a twist that destabilizes Thea and throws the unsuspecting reader ... would be an even rarer beast if it were superior to The Miniaturist. It isn't, but rather than a pale imitation of that novel, it is a worthy and frequently captivating companion piece.
The House of Fortune is a worthy sequel, mature and thoughtful...There’s something comforting about its circularity...The plot would function without the reappearance of the miniaturist herself (she takes up scant page space, and we learn nothing new about her), but her little tokens unify the stories of Thea and Nella, invoking the past while hinting at the future...Hidebound Nella needs to break from convention; hotheaded Thea needs a greater sense of continuity: both must look backwards to move forward...There’s a fine line between comfort and stagnation, Burton warns us...As the inscription on Marin’s tomb proclaims, 'Things can change,' and building a new life may include embracing what we always had...We can return home, Burton tells us; whatever our age, we can 'begin again with a seedling.'
That atmosphere of severity and opulence seems to have fed through to Burton’s prose at a formal level. Her writing is both removed and dignified, although this coldness is counteracted by an almost obsessive intimacy with the physical world. Objects illuminate the rooms around them; she is brilliant on the way that dress and decoration speak loudly of the personality and aspirations of those who possess them ... Thea is wilder and more wilful than Nella ever was and, despite the financial troubles that dog her family, this is a book with a warmer heart than the slightly chilly original. The titular Miniaturist of Burton’s debut makes a return here, leaving gifts that point to a supernatural ability to see past facades to deeper truths – a conceit that always seemed to gesture towards the power of the author ... Burton has done that rare thing, following up a successful debut with a novel that is superior in both style and substance. What’s cheering is that, after a host of adventures, Thea and Nella are left staring out on a new world, suggesting there is more to be told of this boldly unconventional Dutch family.