Hey all, Dani here.
Today I’m happy to share another review of a new book. I received a galley of this book from the publisher via NetGalley. As always I will also state that receiving this book for free in no way altered my thoughts, opinions, or my rating.
Charlie N Holmberg first popped up on my radar several months ago when having an hour long book conversation with a friend of mine. She had read The Paper Magician trilogy and enjoyed them and it sounded like something I would enjoy. (Yeah, I’ve read The Paper Magician so far and I like it…I need to read the other two soon).
So when Magic Bitter, Magic Sweet popped up on NetGalley I read the summary and thought it sounded interesting. This book is published by 47North, and they also publish books like Reliquary by Sarah Fine. I guess when you read and review enough books by a publisher they can list you as being auto-approved for future books, which is what I’m on for 47North. I am happy about that because I have yet to be disappointed by any book published by them.
Maire is a baker with an extraordinary gift: she can infuse her treats with emotions and abilities, which are then passed on to those who eat them. She doesn’t know why she can do this and remembers nothing of who she is or where she came from.
When marauders raid her town, Maire is captured and sold to the eccentric Allemas, who enslaves her and demands that she produce sinister confections, including a witch’s gingerbread cottage, a living cookie boy, and size-altering cakes.
During her captivity, Maire is visited by Fyel, a ghostly being who is reluctant to reveal his connection to her. The more often they meet, the more her memories return, and she begins to piece together who and what she really is—as well as past mistakes that yield cosmic consequences.
From the author of The Paper Magician series comes a haunting and otherworldly tale of folly and consequence, forgiveness and redemption.
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
I really enjoyed this book but it wasn’t blow-me-out-of-the-water-amazing. It was interesting and I liked how there were glimpses of classic fairy tales like Hansel and Gretel, and the gingerbread boy. Of course the book does take place in some fantasy world that we get glimpses of but it is only a surface treatment of world-building. It mostly works since our narrator, Maire, doesn’t remember anything of her life before she arrived in her village just over four years earlier. But I’m at the point right now where I’m craving fantasy worlds with world-building on an epic scale so this did not satisfy that need.
The descriptions of things, particularly Maire’s thoughts and emotional memories as she creates her baked goods, are rather well done. And it didn’t take long before the peaceful village was raided by marauders and the story really started with Maire being captured and sold as a slave. I can say that I enjoyed that she didn’t passively go into captivity. Instead she tries to hide, and then after captured she doesn’t give up and fights back, hoping that even if she doesn’t escape, some of the others will.
But most of this story felt a little slow to me. It took so long to really unravel the mystery of who and what Maire was. So we spend most of the story following her as she makes a massive gingerbread house with biscotti for the chimney, and then she makes a large gingerbread boy. Oh, and I guess she does get random visits from a spectral figure named Fyel, who knows all about her past but only gives her vague non-answers, because apparently if she denies any of the truth then she’ll cease to exist. I admit that was an intriguing consequence. Maire doesn’t fully remember until the last few chapters of the story so it takes quite a while to reach that point.
And Maire’s ability to infuse emotions or ideals into her baking was interesting but I found myself wishing for a bit more reasoning behind it. I mean, after learning the truth of Maire’s identity I understood why she had the ability she did but I still found myself wanting more details. Again, we fall into the category of a thin layer of world-building ideas.
Still, I was able to read this book rather quickly and it held my attention enough that I didn’t stray too much. I do recommend this book, though not on an empty stomach. It will have you craving cookies, cakes, etc.
Where to Buy
There is also currently a giveaway for this book on Goodreads, but hurry because the giveaway ends today (June 28th)