I'm a reviewer for the indie publisher, Curiosity Quills. They periodically send me e-mails offering me ARCs. I have reviewed several titles from this press in various genre categories, and they've all been conceptually unusual. (They were Alice Takes Back Wonderland, This Above All, The Heartless City and The Maid of Heaven) The historical fantasy Kasper Mutzenmacher's Cursed Hat by Keith Fentonmiller is equally unusual. That's why I requested an ARC of this title.
My main association with the name Kasper is a cartoon that aired on television during my childhood called Casper The Friendly Ghost. I had a talking Casper doll who told me reassuringly "I'm a friendly ghost. Don't be afraid of me." (For more information see the Casper The Friendly Ghost Wiki) Fentonmiller's Kasper is neither a ghost nor particularly friendly. He always had to protect the family secret of the cursed hat, and he also lived under Hitler for a period. These circumstances didn't incline him to let very many people into his life. I found Kasper semi-sympathetic. He was capable of learning from his misdeeds. He also did some great things for which he was remembered.
I think that all the characters were fallible human beings who were very believable, but not always likable. The villain, who did really terrible things in Nazi Germany, became more sympathetic when we learned about the background of that character. The villain also attempted to engage in redemptive actions after WWII. In the end, I felt that this character was a tragic figure with some serious psychological problems.
The "cursed" hat was the only fantastical element in the book. Otherwise it was the story of a German family which emigrated to the United States. The hat had an amazing power that could have done a great deal of good in Nazi Germany, but the necessity of keeping it secret limited the amount of good it could do. Nevertheless, it was still very central to the novel. The hat cast a huge shadow over the lives of the major characters.
Kasper's role in the narrative is complete at the end of the book, but this is the first book in the series. The conclusion of the novel made it clear that the next book would continue with the story of Chance, Kasper's grandson. I look forward to finding out how Chance and his descendants will utilize the magical hat's powers.