Author: Sarah Addison Allen | Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton
Autumn has finally arrived in the small town of Bascom, North Carolina, heralded by a strange old man appearing with a beaten-up suitcase. He has stories to tell, stories that could change the lives of the Waverley women forever. But the Waverleys have enough trouble on their hands. Quiet Claire Waverley has started a successful new venture, Waverley’s Candies, but it’s nothing like she thought it would be, and it’s slowly taking over her life. Claire’s wild sister Sydney, still trying to leave her past behind, is about to combust with her desire for another new beginning. And Sydney’s fifteen-year-old daughter Bay has given her heart away to the wrong boy and can’t get it back.
I absolutely adored Garden Spells, I must have read it 10 times over the years, but I had no idea until this week that there was a second book about the Waverley family! First Frost arrived this week, and I couldn’t wait to read it.
I love the whole cast of Waverleys. They’re wonderfully complex and likeable, and the sisters in particular have this deeply heartwarming arc in Garden Spells. While there is decidedly less mystery to the character’s development in First Frost, I adored returning to Bascom and hanging out with old friends. I also loved the introduction of a con man as “the baddy”, who isn’t so bad, and the way the characters’ hidden insecurities provided the impetus for the plot.
I found the focus on Bay rather disconcerting. Although she was one of my favourite characters in the first book, I wasn’t keen on the high school drama elements of the story. This is a grown-up book, and I prefer my grown-up books with grown-up protagonists. That being said, she did grow on me, and the perspective shifted around the family which kept things interesting – and kept the book from being a YA.
The worldbuilding in this series has a sweetly seductive, magical quality all of its own. I desperately want to live in Bascom, and I love all the different family archetypes, feuds, and town dynamics. The sense of place is phenomenal. I also love the way magic is ordinary, everyday, and yet still somehow surprising – and a little spooky.
The plot of First Frost is just as engaging, tense, and romantic as Garden Spells. First Frost sucks you in from the very start and I found it impossible to put down. It was almost, very close to being, as good as Garden Spells; though perhaps with a touch less drama and a little less surprise. Still, I thoroughly enjoyed it and it was definitely a worthy sequel to a beloved favourite.
Be warned, it doesn’t really work as a standalone – but I highly recommend you read Garden Spells anyway!