Hello, hello friends! I’m so excited to be back with another #UltimateBlogTour with @TheWriteReads gang for The Miraculous Sweetmakers: The Frost Fair by Natasha Hastings. Don’t forget to check out all the other bloggers participating in this tour: here or click on the banner below! 😍
Special thanks to HarperCollins for providing an ARC via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
The Miraculous Sweetmakers: The Frost Fair
Publication Date: 27 October 2022
Genre: Middle-Grade Historical Fantasy
An amazing and captivating, curl-up-on-the-sofa debut about a magical frost fair and the lasting power of friendship.
It’s a cold winter during the Great Frost of 1683. Thomasina and Anne are the best of friends, one running her father’s sweet shop and the other the apprentice at the family apothecary – together they sell their goods on the frozen River Thames. When a family tragedy turns Thomasina’s world upside down, she is drawn to a mysterious conjuror and the enchanted frost fair.
But soon the world of Father Winter threatens to claim everything she holds dear. Will they be able to solve the magical mysteries that surround them…?
⚠️ CONTENT/TRIGGER WARNINGS
Death, loss of a loved one (on page), grief, illness, depression.
TL;DR: This was a well-written, fast-paced and engaging MG historical fantasy with a unique plot full of ice-cold magical night-time adventures. It tackles some fairly serious themes such as grief/loss and mental health, but also the healing power of friendship and of course, family. This was certainly darker than the cover makes it out to be but I really appreciated the way this book tackled these issues and how the author doesn’t sugarcoat the darker aspects of them, especially during that time period.
My favourite part of this book was how the author made this wintery historical setting come to life. It’s 1683, the Great Frost has hit London, and you can practically feel the biting winter chill in the air as you’re reading this. If you’ve ever experienced a bitterly cold winter season, then I’m sure you can imagine the kind of cold that seeps and settles in your bones. That’s exactly the kind of feeling Hastings evokes in this book! I had no idea that this actually happened in history and that the Thames freezing over was real so I loved learning about it! The Frost Fair and Other Frost Fair were also very vividly depicted and I could picture the hordes of people milling about on the ice while checking out stall after stall of food, drink and goods on offer; although the Other Frost Fair undoubtedly had a creepier and less jolly air to it!
The story starts off with an achingly heartbreaking scene and it was actually horrifying to watch it unfold. I have to admit it wasn’t the best first impression I got about our main character but she’s a child who never meant any harm—plus, she definitely carried the guilt with her for all the years to come. When we reunite with Thomasina and her parents in the present day of the story, we see a broken family who’s torn apart by their loss and who are each lost to their debilitating grief. I found the plot unique in how it utilises grief and sadness as a weapon wielded by the villain of the story. I don’t think I’ve read an MG fantasy where sadness sates evil’s hunger, so that was definitely cool.
I really appreciated how Hastings tackles the way everyone experiences grief differently. From Thomasina who’s plagued by grief and guilt to her parents who’re plagued by grief and depression that manifest in different ways. I felt heartbroken for Thomasina because she had to process so much alone as her parents slowly became unfit to care for even themselves. The author does a great job bringing mental health representation to the forefront in this story and I particularly liked how she shed light on how particularly cruel women and girls were treated for being “overly emotional” during this time period. They were made out to be “crazy” for being depressed and for “having a lack of control over their emotional and mental faculties.” The “doctor” in this book was absolutely despicable and he honestly reminded me of that nasty doctor from Beauty and the Beast—if you think that was scary, this one definitely gives off the same vibes!
While I won’t say that Thomasina was one of my favourite MG characters, I do think she’s realistically flawed and she’s a teenager who has to process her trauma and loss alone while taking care of herself, her parents, and the family business, so maybe it’s okay that she doesn’t always make the best decisions and gets a bit snappish at times. I don’t think I connected with her character, or tbh with any of the other characters, as much as I hoped to but I could still root for her to solve the mystery of the Frost Folk and Father Winter, and to find happiness in whatever form that’d take. She does grow considerably throughout the story and she slowly comes to accept that despite her wish not coming true, there’s a way forward towards healing and letting go of the guilt and grief that the family have been hanging on to.
Overall, this was an engaging MG read that definitely went in a direction I didn’t expect because it was much more serious than I anticipated! Also, if you’re worried about a happy ending, you needn’t be because even though it might not have been the outcome Thomasina wanted at the start, she does make peace with her loss and she gets a different, but no less good, happy ending. This is a great debut that’ll make for the perfect wintertime read for its young audience!
Natasha Hastings started developing The Miraculous Sweetmakers: The Frost Fair while studying history at Cambridge University, where she focused on gender and mental illness. While exploring these topics, she became determined to have the lives of working women, as well as their experiences of mental illness in this period, form the heartbeat of her debut book, The Frost Fair.
Does The Miraculous Sweetmakers: The Frost Fair sound like a book you’d like to read or do you already have it on your TBR?