January 7, 2014
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In 1814, three cousins—Gretchen, Emma, and Penelope—discover their family lineage of witchcraft when a binding spell is broken, allowing their individual magical powers to manifest. Now, beyond the manicured gardens and ballrooms of Regency London, an alluring underworld available only to those with power is revealed to the cousins. By claiming their power, the three cousins have accidentally opened the gates to the underworld. [. . .]By unknowingly unlocking their magical abilities, the girls have not only opened an entire, previously unknown, world, full of magic, spells and creatures, but put themselves in danger as well.
Now they have so much more to worry about than simply navigating parties and society as debutantes. Hiding in the library (Gretchen), looking for the most suitable dance partner (Penelope) and staying out of sight (Emma) isn't going to be the easiest way to get by any more. Not with the bodies of dead girls appearing, ones that Emma keeps finding. And dangerous warlock sisters , thought to be gone, now back and wreaking havoc.
If they can keep themselves safe, if Emma can figure out the forever hot and cold actions of Cormac, then maybe they can figure out their new-found magic . . . and the murders.
The Drake Chronicles series, Stolen Away and Haunting Violet have made it pretty clear that I love Alyxandra Harvey's storytelling but A Breath of Frost was really something else. That same spark, humor and wit that I love from her characters was definitely present once again. While it was Regency London and the plot seemed to hold true (while involving witchcraft), the characters - the female characters, especially - had that little extra something separating them from the status quo.
The girls aren't so different that they seem modern day or out of place, but they also have a bit more audacity, maybe more mettle than one might expect. It makes them and the story superb.
Emma, Penelope and Gretchen are not Lucy and Solange from Harvey's Drake Chronicles series but that strong friendship, that almost sisterly bond that was done so well in that series is present with the cousins here. It's different as they are different characters in a different setting, situation but the love, the fierceness of their will to protect each other is there. It's a bond I hope to see grow over the series.
Much of the novel focuses on Emma and her story - with her mother, with Cormac and with her magic. We learn a lot about her in this first book, some things that are easier to see coming than others. It will definitely be interesting to see how each of the things that happened, that she uncovered affects her, the other characters and the story down the road.
The glimpses we got into the other girls lives very much left me wanting to know more about them - and wondering if we'll find out even a third as many secrets as we did with Emma. (Penelope's character and what we saw with her has me especially intrigued.)
Cormac and his sisters are kind of a fantastic addition to the story. His sisters were not a big part of the story but I loved the little bits that they were in it and hope that was not all we will see of them.
As for the plot, it's kind of really great. With witches, warlocks, society, societies, madcaps, gargoyles, enchantments, and familiars all with family drama, school, possible mean girls and confusing boys, A Breath of Frost has it all. Alyxandra Harvey weaves a brilliant tale, told at a great pace that connects readers with all of the characters and the (slightly modified?) Regency London world they're living in. You'll love not only where things end up but how it got there -- all while eagerly waiting to see where they things go next.
My review is really long already but it needs to end with this: Alyxandra Harvey's books? <3
You may also enjoy: Haunting Violet by Alyxandra Harvey and Blood Magic by Tessa Gratton
digital galley received for review, via NetGalley, thanks to publisher
I think my WOW post for this has it listed as Moonlight and Madness and/or Witching Season: Stormcaster so I'm listing those just for search purposes :)