Sunday, April 13, 2014

REVIEW: A Breath of Frost by Alyxandra Harvey

A Breath of Frost (The Lovegrove Legacy, #1)A Breath of Frost by Alyxandra Harvey
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Original Publication Year: 2014
Genre(s): YA, Historical, Paranormal
Series: The Lovegrove Legacy #1
Awards: None
Format: In Print
Narrated By: NA

True Confessions. Alyxandra Harvey is my kryptonite. She writes light YA paranormals that are a little like The Red Shoes. Once I start reading, I can NOT stop. I discovered her last year and within months I’d read everything she had written except a book of poetry. I can’t quite put my finger on what sets her books apart for me though it probably has a lot to do with how she writes characters and their relationships. For me they have universally felt likeable and genuine and when you wrap that in a fast-paced plot it apparently becomes crack for my reading soul (i.e. highly addictive). So, I was VERY excited that she had a new book coming out and that it was the beginning of a new series.

The focus of her new series is on a family of witches in Regency era England. Don’t worry if you think you might struggle with old-timey dialogue and conventions because Harvey doesn’t bother infusing the story with any but the most basic of Regency era trappings. The plot begins as three cousins, Emma, Gretchen and Penelope, discover that after years of being completely ignorant on the subject, that magic and witches do exist in the world and they are, in fact, heirs to the powerful Lovegrove family legacy. They are also debutantes and meant to be learning dancing and how best to attract eligible young men as husbands.

This first book is mostly about Emma whose mother is crazy and whose father is a cold fish who ignores her. As she struggles to come to grips with her new found magical abilities (any strong emotions cause stormy weather) she is also mysteriously being drawn to crime scenes where other young and magical girls have been murdered violently. It makes her look suspicious, especially to the slightly ominous group called The Order who is meant to police the magical community. It doesn’t help that her mother is notorious for doing something powerful and rebellious right before she went crazy. Thankfully, Emma has her cousins and the handsome and slightly roguish Cormac Fairfax to help her in trying to solve the mystery of the deaths and to keep her from being prosecuted by The Order.

There are so many things wrong with this book. The first quarter feels like an editor went through and chopped out random sentences and paragraphs with a purpose of “Who cares about all this set up, get to the good stuff”. At times, people respond to things in both speech and action in illogical or weird ways (i.e. not terribly organically). It zig zags all over the place and has flashbacks and introduces all sorts of characters just for them to disappear for most of the book. The impression is somewhat jerky in many places. Also, the overall premise isn’t terribly original and you could make comparisons with another more famous series about young magical folk in Britain. There is also the aforementioned lack of any adherence to historical accuracy. The young characters talk suspiciously like the young folk of today.

However, all those problems listed above? They didn’t in the end dim my enjoyment of the book. I was perhaps a little distracted at times by the jerkiness but in the two- three days it took me to finish this book I never wanted to put it down. I’d end a chapter and compulsively start the next one even if it was time to work or go to bed. So why did I love it?

Mostly, it just offers some straight up old fashioned adventure storytelling and as I said up front Harvey writes really great characters and relationships. Her characters are all likeable and straight forward but they are not boring. The three cousins are all distinctive and interesting and I love the friendship they have. Her female characters are also always independent and strong – there is a lot of girl power. In the context of this book with the time period it is particularly interesting the ways which women find to assert their strength. They are never too stupid to live or too perfect.

That said Harvey is also really great at creating worthy love interests. Cormac is completely dreamy and the interactions with Emma are awesome. Almost one of the last lines is him saying “I belong to you, Emma” which is nothing special but it struck me because so many romance heroes are Alpha Males who ALWAYS say that phrase the other way around. Her love interests are always very much guys but they are never overbearing or unnaturally possessive. It’s kind of awesome.

Also, if you boil away all the awkwardness of the plots progression, the overall story is really a lot of fun. A bit of a mess but good. The flashbacks that reveal her mother’s story have a fairy tale feel to them and were particularly well done. Each chapter ends exactly when it should and drew me along like a fish on a hook.

Final Verdict: Despite a load of problems, by the end I was in love and am very excited for the future installments in this series that will shift focus to Penelope and Gretchen.

Which authors are your kryptonite?

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