Author and actress Tamzin Merchant’s debut novel, The Hatmakers, hit the shelves this February. The beautiful cover alone had me smashing that preorder button faster than you can say “blithe bonnet.”
I first heard about The Hatmakers from my favorite BookTuber. Though I was prepared for a fantastic romp of an adventure, I was still blown away by the imaginative whimsy of this book.
The Hatmakers follows young Cordelia (Dilly) Hatmaker, the youngest member of the Hatmaker family. In this alternative historical London, there are four Maker families: Hatmakers, Glovemakers, Cloakmakers, and Bootmakers. They are bitter rivals – all but Cordelia and her secret Bootmaker friend, Goose. With an impending meeting with the king of France, who has been sending a series of remarkably rude letters to the British princess, the Maker families have been commissioned to make Peace Clothes in the hopes of avoiding a war. But just before they’re finished, all the Makers awake to find they’ve been burgled and the Peace Clothes are missing. War is now on the horizon, Goose seems to think Cordelia had something to do with the burglary, and her father is missing in action.
From the very first page of this book, I knew I was going to love it. Merchant’s writing style is a pure delight, with her imagination bursting off the page in every sentence. One of my favorite moments was when Cordelia’s father released a jar of Sicilian jumping beans for her to catch using a combination of magic and wit. Another was the face-off between two young men who’d sought hats from Cordelia to ensure they would win a duel. Even the scarier bits are imbued with a dash of humor and absurdity.
Cordelia herself is a classic MG heroine – plucky, chomping at the bit to be given more responsibility than she has, and brimming with creativity. I found her really delightful to read and easy to root for.
The magic of The Hatmakers is something that I appreciated especially – the art of Making things is something that I’ve always felt has an element of magic to it. (If you’ve ever tried to make your own hat, you probably know what I mean.) The clothes, hats, and boots we wear can absolutely have a magic-like effect on the person wearing them, so I loved how Merchant turned this into real magic.
Basically, I can’t recommend this book enough. If you’re looking for a read-alike to something like Jessica Townsend’s Nevermoor or Trenton Lee Stewart’s The Mysterious Benedict Society, you will love The Hatmakers. Run and grab yourself a copy while it’s still out in that gorgeous hardcover!