Published: January 2nd 2014 by Bloomsbury Sydney
Format: Paperback, 482 pages
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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.
Now ghouls, hellhounds—and most terrifying of all, the spirits of dark witches known as the Greymalkin Sisters—are hunting and killing young debutante witches for their powers. And, somehow, Emma is connected to the murders…because she keeps finding the bodies.
Can the cousins seal the gates before another witch is killed…or even worse, before their new gifts are stripped away?
A Breath of Frost is a delightful caper through Regency London sprinkled with witchery, magic, friendship and a wonderfully cute romance which I absolutely adored. It’s the story of three best friends, the Lovegrove cousins, who are navigating their first Season amidst mysterious deaths and strange goings-on and find out a dangerous family secret that could change their lives.
Actually it’s not really that dark. A Breath of Frost perfectly balances dark magic and ghosts with balls, afternoon teas and shopping for gowns. I like the atmosphere of the novel – it’s exactly the kind of read I was looking for when I picked it up.
“I wonder if there are any handsome young men willing to dance a waltz?” Penelope added hopefully.
“I wonder if we can hide under the tablecloth,” Emma put in.
I like that the Lovegrove cousins bring a positivity to female relationships that is sometimes lacking in YA literature. Emma, Penelope and Gretchen have a wonderful friendship, they support and love each other even though they have very different natures. Even the ‘evil’ girl turned out to have an interesting back-story and not be so bad after all. This book focuses mostly on Emma, who is capable and smart, wary in crowds but a bright personality none-the-less. She chafes at the limitations the life of a lady puts on her while finding solace and familiarity in them. Her mother is kept away from her, and her father rarely talks to her, so Emma finds comfort and friendship with her cousins. Of the three, I think I like Penelope the best, I can’t wait until her book is released.
The romance between Emma and Cormac is very cute. It’s a forbidden love – her being a witch and him being sworn to protect people from evil witches – but they’re fiercely attracted to each other (even when Emma doesn’t want to be!) I do wonder at what it is, exactly, that binds them together. I mean, Cormac is really cute, considerate, funny, and charming, but it’s hard for me to really understand what they’re seeing in each other. From Emma’s side there’s an attraction to how he looks and smells, but he’s always running around with a girl on his arm and she doesn’t really seem to mind, which was weird to me. I do like that there doesn’t seem to be a love-triangle in sight, and that Cormac is never abusive or a jerk to Emma (except once, but it’s all explained).
I think the world-building is admirable in this book. Although I don’t know much about the period, I think the lifestyles, clothes and houses described are gorgeous. I could imagine everything well, and I think the author did a great job bringing everything to life. I especially loved the gowns the girls wore! I think the magic used in the narrative fits in well with the time period: the imagery of the debutants all in white dying mysteriously is creepy.
Although the plot is fairly dark, with witches and ghosts and all sorts of other horrible things, I never felt like the characters were in danger. It always felt obvious that nothing horrible was going to happen to them or those they cared about – even the girls who were dying weren’t particularly close friends. I think it’s a side-effect of having the three main characters so closely intertwined: everyone else feels less important.
I’ve been pleasantly surprised by A Breath of Frost, and I think it will be enjoyed by readers who like paranormal and historical fiction. The best word to describe is adorable – it’s such a cute, fun book! I’m looking forward to the next book, Whisper the Dead, which will be focussed on Gretchen.