Khanh the Killjoy


A Breath of Frost - Alyxandra Harvey
Her aim was so true that each bolt was hit and turned into a boiled beet that exploded all over the cousins. Red pulp splatted into their faces, hung from their hair, and stained their dresses. The other girls couldn’t help but laugh.
The cousins stood in the middle of the ballroom, dripping vegetable matter and wondering why anyone would want to be a witch in the first place.

My gosh, they don't come much sweeter or cozier than this book. If you like your Regency-era light romance seasoned with a dash of witchcraft and mystery, with a delightful trio of female friendship, this will definitely do the trick.

I know I have a reputation of being a reader who critically eviscerate books, I kick babies and I punt puppies and all, but man, this book turned me into a warm, mushy mess.

IT WAS ADORABLE!!! ADORABLE!!!!! Regency balls and tea parties and witches and shopping and spells and cute footmen and ghosts and a magical boarding school and secret wizarding orders and goblin markets and a dullahan! A DULLAHAN! You don't see that every day. Granted, he only appears a brief moment, but I love the dullahan and so rarely do I see one in literature that I feel the need to squee. I squee'd a lot in this book.

A man cantered down the middle of the street on a giant black horse, holding his own head under his arm. The eyes were staring balefully. His cloak billowed from his shoulders and the stump of a neck shadowed the collar of an old-fashioned frock coat. A whip hung from his belt, knotted and white, and made from a length of human spine. More bones were knotted into the horse’s mane.

Rest assured, I have my criticisms, but there is nothing that I hated about this book

My Main Criticism: The plot & pacing. This book is far, far too long. For the first 30% of the book, I wasn't sure where the plot was headed, because we were in one place, then another, then another. Then there were all the different characters whom I had to learn. I had to keep track of who was Emma, who was Gretchen, who was Penelope. I had to know their lives, I had to learn their personality, it was hard not to get lost. And there were so many additional characters besides the 3 cousins. There's Cormac, Moira, Daphne, Margaret...etc. My head spun with the effort of keeping track of all of them.

The plot is often sprinkled with some very charming segments on attending balls, going shopping, casting some love spells, etc. that unnecessarily elongated the book and didn't add much to the plot at all. But man, overall this book was too adorable for me to complain much about it. The book may be very long and unnecessary in parts, but it was never a pain to read.

If you wanted danger, honestly, there's not a lot to be found here. I said this book is cute, and it truly is, but the point is that everything is so sweet that while there is a lot of action, a lot of excitement, I just couldn't feel any danger in this book. And that's not a bad thing at all, sometimes you just need a light, fresh read, and this book definitely does the trick.

The summary: It is 1814, Regency Britain. Lady Emma is at a ball, along with her cousins, Lady Gretchen, and Penelope. All is well as it can be at a Regency ball, namely saying that Emma is bored out of her mind, until a bloody girl stumbles in from a garden. Sadly, the bloody girl is by no means the strangest thing to happen at that party. There's a fire, there is a torrent of rain that's not so much a gentle sprinkle British downpour as it is someone dumping a massive bucket of water all over them.

The sky opened overhead like a broken water jug. Rain pattered over the roof, soaked their dresses and tangled their hair like seaweed. In moments, the gardens were a maze of ruined silk, mud, and slippery stone. A balding duke slid on his perfectly polished shoes right past them and into a hedge. A dowager who usually limped on a diamond-studded cane gathered up her hem and darted over the lawn, her wrinkled knees bare.

Needless to say, that was a fucking awesome ball, man!

Sadly, that was just the beginning. That dratted perfume bottle actually released the Greymalkin witches---a deadly trio of sisters---into the world. Emma, Penelope, and Gretchen are literally forced down a dark hole in the ground, where they not only get way too close to each other for comfort...

“Ooof,” Emma wheezed. “Someone’s elbow is taking liberties.”
“Sorry, sorry.” Gretchen shifted. “But if Penelope’s left foot gets any closer to my cleavage we’ll have to read the banns.”
Penelope squirmed and spat out what felt like a wad of lace. “I sincerely hope that was someone’s petticoat and not a rat,”

Before they know it, the cousins are plopped into a goblin market, one of them is kidnapped (and forced to walk the plank!). And finally...they end up in the dreaded....finishing school? But not just any finishing school!

“I’m the headmistress here. Welcome to the Rowanstone Academy for Young Ladies.”
Emma set her teacup down with a jostle. Tea sloshed over the rim. “I was kidnapped by a finishing school?”

The cousins learn magic, navigate the treacherous waters of their Season (those pesky boys trying to glare down their gowns are in for a surprise). There are a multitude of problems to be examined and solved, among them...

Four: her father was no help at all.
Five: she’d grown antlers.
Six: the gates between the living and the dead had been opened.
Seven: which was her fault.
Eight: they needed to be located and locked.

Not to mention the mystery of the murdered girls.

This ain't your ordinary Season.

Did I say this book is cute? IT IS CUTE!

The Characters & Their Friendship: So many books these days have female characters who are completely snide and bitchy to others girls. This book is not one of them.

There is a wonderfully sweet friendship between the three cousins. Emma, Gretchen, and Penelope love each other, they get along with each other, however different their personalities.

“I wonder where the library is,” Gretchen said.
“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.

Emma is the main character, the main narrator, and I found her to be a delight. She is not perfectly smart, she loses her focus, she slaps herself when she finds herself thinking of something stupid, and I love her for it. She may be a lady, but she is a strong one; Emma has a considerable amount of inner strength.

“I wonder where the library is,” Gretchen said.
“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.

There is not a lot of complexity to their characters, but they are individually charming. Even the side female characters are not stereotypical snippy bitch tropes, the "mean girls" have a different, caring side to them, too.

The Romance: Blissfully free of insta-love, love triangles, or douchebags. One of the main love interest can be a jerk initially, of the "I WILL HIDE ALL RELEVANT KNOWLEDGE FROM YOU" sort, but he is never, ever abusive. He is never, ever cruel, he never mocks her, and he turns out to be pretty charming and humorous outside of his ironclad visage once we get to know him.

“Shouldn’t you at least be clutching me out of fear?”
She turned to look at him. “Why? I’m not afraid of the dark, Cormac.”
He sighed theatrically. “But girls clutch at me out of fear all the time. Apparently I am a great defender against bees, spiders, moths, and suspicious-looking scones.”

Chaming. Sweet. Adorable. Completely cute and inoffensive in every way. Recommended.