Tamzin Merchant has succeeded brilliantly in creating a captivating and magical fantasy world in this debut novel. Readers will find themselves transported to an alternative Georgian London where Maker families weave spells to craft items such as hats, cloaks, boots, gloves, and watches for the Royal Family. Cordelia Hatmaker is the youngest of a long line of magical milliners and when her father’s ship is lost at the end of a voyage in search of exotic hat-making ingredients she determines to find him. But her remaining family have no time to help her as they are tasked with making a Peace Hat just as the King is incapacitated by a malign enchantment, Maker family rivalries are re-surfacing and war threatens the realm. Brave, resourceful Cordelia, with allies Goose, of the Bookmaker family, and streetwise thief Sam, combine to rescue the King and Princess, unite the Maker families, and foil a villainous plot to start a war.
This is an exhilarating read, full of fast-paced action and adventure, sparkling magic, witty word- play and humour. The world building is inventive, and the storytelling accomplished. The idea of making hats as though they were cakes, with cleverly named magical ingredients, is enticing and the descriptions are full of literary and historical allusions which add to the sense of immersion in a well thought out fantasy world. The child characters, especially Cordelia, are appealing and resourceful and teach the adults about the importance of cooperation, courage, and kindness. The beautiful cover and illustrations by Paola Escobar enhance the magical atmosphere of this very welcome addition to the fantasy genre. SR