Thursday, 16 January 2014

A Breath of Frost


A Breath of Frost
Rating: 5/5
Buy or Borrow: Buy or forever regret it
Source: Copy courtesy of Bloomsbury
File Under: Book Hangover books!

The year is 1814, the place is bustling London, teeming with activity and witchcraft. Three cousins, Emma, Gretchen and Penelope, the daughters of the three Lovegrove sisters, are in the midst of their first season, after having been presented to the Queen. The young Lady's are attending another tedious ball, when Emma is jostled and drops her mother's bottle necklace, the only thing she has to remember her mad mother locked in her house in Berkshire. When the bottle breaks...a lot more than Emma's feelings are hurt.

With the breaking of the bottle, gates all over London are open, allowing dark and sinister things through. But it also breaks the binding spell put on the girls by Emma's mother to protect her, allowing their powers to manifest. The girls each have their own unique power and familiar, Emma's becomes apparent when it rains inside a carriage, Penelope touches a ring and spends an uncomfortable few minutes being burned at the stake and Gretchen's head starts buzzing when magic is performed wrong.

With the underside of London suddenly revealed to them, Emma also has to deal with the insufferable Cormac, the boy who kissed her then did a standard guy move and acted like she never existed, who turns out to be one of the Keepers, members of the Order, the police of the magical world. The Keepers are after Emma because of her mother's power and what she did, which means Cormac is showing up all over the place. Did I forget to mention that the Order are also after Emma because a couple of girls who happen to be witches, have all been murdered, their magic stolen, and then covered in ice, and Emma is inexplicably drawn to each murdered girl but a magical wind, and her magical trace is all over them? Yeah. Minor problem that.

Emma and her cousins are sent to a fancy Finishing School, which happens to be a school of magic for ladies, to learn to control their magic. Emma has to dodge ghouls, hellhounds, navigate the Goblin Market, and most terrifyingly....her fellow Debutantes. With Cormac confusing Emma's feelings, Emma and her cousin's have to stop the spirits of the Dark Witches known as the Greymalkin Sisters, and seal the gates once and for all , with the help of a Madcap called Moira and a couple of Gargoyles. Will they succeed? Or will they end up with their magic bound, and going mad?

Oh my God. I just...have so much to say about this book. Everyone knows I love Alyxandra Harvey, The Drake Chronicles are one of my ultimate favourite book series, and I read everything buy her. Not since her Drake Chronicles have I felt this energized about a book. I have what I term as a Book Hangover. Since finishing A Breath of Frost, my Book Hangover means I'm still in the world created in the book, and as soon as I finished, I wanted to start reading it all over again!

Alyxandra Harvey is incredible at world building, and A Breath of Frost is no exception, it's like she cast a magical spell herself to suck you through a portal straight in to the mirky streets of Regency London. I could practically smell the rain, and hear the bustling street sounds. The prose is atmospheric, and as always, cinematic, I mean c'mon people, these books are begging to be made in to a movie! Quit holding out on us all!

Harvey uses a few short, but powerful words to create her descriptions, that are so vivid you can see them clearly in your minds eye. As soon as you start reading, you're hooked from page one, unable to put the book down. You find yourself with it seemingly glued to your hand, your eyes unable to leave the page.

A Breath of Frost has such a wealth of beautiful imagery, yet everything is very concise, from descriptions, to backgrounds to lore. The story is told mostly from Emma's point of view, but also Cormac, Gretchen and Penelope, as well as flashbacks from her mother's point of view. This allowed us to get a deep understanding of the world the story is in, and the characters, quickly and concisely without endless and monotonous text. The flashbacks themselves where handled in a unique way, keeping the reader's interest and being concise and keeping with the flow of the book.

The change from point of view to point of view was seamless and effortless, a true indication of how talented a writer Harvey is. The entire pace of the book was hold-on-to-your-hat fast, with a brisk flow unencumbered with pointless dialogue or text.

Emma is my new favourite heroine, she's just so strong and witty. No matter what's thrown at her, she doesn't run away, she faces it head on and refuses to be bullied or intimidated in to backing down or being obedient. I love her snappy retorts and her refusal to be cowed. The relationship between Emma and her cousin's, Gretchen and Penelope, was truly beautifully written, they may as well have been sisters. They're supportive of each other, and would defend each other until their last breath. All three of them are written so fiery and full of life, you can't help but love and admire them and make a mental note of their retorts. Particularly Penelope's Shakespearean cursing, and Gretchen's snarky one liners. I do love a fellow lover of snark.

Cormac...is just....*sigh* so beautiful and so incredibly adorable. Initially I thought he was a bit of prat with how he was treating Emma, but then you see his point of view (gotta love multi points of view for this understanding) and you see he's in love with Emma, and it gradually comes out that he was being how he was to protect her. There's an un-ending stream of cute moments between them as well as flirty that have you going "aaaawww" and feeling all warm and fuzzy inside, a feeling Harvey is an expert at inspiring in her romances. Their relationship progresses so perfectly, as things slide in to place and they finally admit their feelings. Harvey's romances are always aaww worthy, and inspire a certain jealousy, because no real life bloke will ever match up! Cormac and Emma's relationship was the perfect romance, and perfectly sweet, and I can't wait to see how they progress knowing their feelings.

Now, the plot. The original blurb does not do it justice, and is my custom, I got over excited and fleshed it out way more than was probably necessary, but when I get excited about a book my rambling and need to get everyone else to love it as much as me is unstoppable.

The plot for A Breath of Frost is a web of many different and very unpredictable threads. We have the romance, the main one being Emma and Cormac, but I've already seen another potential one, and then there's the brief glimpses of Emma's mother. But more than that, we have the mystery of who the murderer is, I freely admit to following the train of thought given and being convinced it was Daphne, so when the actual murderer was revealed I was genuinely shocked.

A Breath of Frost has many twists and turns, and all of them are unpredictable, from the mystery of the murderer to the deep, dark family secrets revealed. I was kept guessing the whole way through, which added to the enjoyment for me. The threads of romance, mystery, murder and magic are expertly woven in to a truly  fantastical and greatly enjoyable plot. The lore surrounding witches and magic is truly unique, making the book stand out from all other's in the genre, not to mention the added lore of the Gargoyle's and other creatures. I really loved how Harvey wrote the witches familiars in to the story, it was truly unique and never has been done before.

So much happens in the nearly 500 pages, but you never once find yourself bored, or getting easily distracted, the book is truly a page turner and utterly gripping. We go from a ball to a murder to the strange magical happenings, to finding out about being a witch, to a goblin market, to a ship, to a school of magic, to a period of time at the school, to more murders and a house that is straight out of a gothic horror book. I promise you, there's not a moment when you find yourself bored.

A Breath of Frost takes us on a truly magical journey through the streets of Regency London, filled with incredibly unique mythology and lore concerning magic and gargoyles not to mention the romance, mystery and murder. A Breath of Frost is a true  page turner, giving you the warm and fuzzies one moment, making you all emotional the next, to having you laughing so hard your sides hurt, like me, you won't want this book to end!

Do yourself a favour this cold and rainy January, pick up A Breath of Frost and get drawn straight in to the heart of the story, and surround yourself with magic and a beautiful romance. As for me, I will be nursing my Book Hangover, resisting the urge to start reading it again straight away and starting my one woman campaign to get this made in to a movie! Well...I have to do something to fill the void in my life until the second book!


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