Magic Bitter Magic Sweet - Book Review
Charlie N. Holmberg
Marie 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, Marie 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, Marie 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.
This was a strange yet interesting book. Intrigued by the title, I picked it up on a whim without really knowing much about it.
Marie doesn’t know who she is. Other than her name, her past is a blank slate. Her only comfort comes from baking. Cakes, breads and biscuits, all infused with a pinch of magic that can replenish strength, add cheer or bring luck to all who purchase her confectionaries.
But when marauders invade, Marie is captured and sold as a slave to a strange master—and somehow, he knows all about her magic. Now as Marie fights to complete each impossible task, she takes solace in the company of a winged spirit. One who insist’s her freedom likes in unlocking her memories. But the more Marie remembers, the more she wishes she could forget. Because some crimes are better left buried…
This book was truly charming. The writing flows very well and I was instantly captivated by Marie’s character. Her magical baking aside, she isn't anything special, and I think that was why I liked her as much as I did. She acts in very realistic ways, and always manages to find proper solutions to her problems. No instant fixes, no-overly complicated magic, the author stays true to the rules of the world.
However, while I was intrigued by the beginning, I think around the midway point I got a little bored. Not enough to stop reading the book, but I caught myself on more than one occasion wishing for something else to happen.
There were a few reasons for this. First I felt the action drifted off and Marie became stuck in the same setting. We had to read about her doing the same mundane things. Then in the last third of the book, “the villain” lost all his villainy. While the writing was still pretty, I felt this took away much of the story’s punch. Also the direction of the plot turned predictable, BUT I still liked the happily-ever-after ending.
This story had many fairy-tale like elements - the gingerbread house was particularly amusing - although I was disappointed we didn't get to meet the actual witch. But it was after this point that the story took a strange turn, and the book I thought I was reading turned into something different. Not bad, but definitely different.
Then there was the sprinkle of Romance. I use the word sprinkle because there wasn't much of it - and truly it was based more around friendship and eternal love… and also family. It’s hard to explain. But when the romance came, it left me quite confused for many pages. Partly because I pictured “the guy” as an old man. However the book doesn't give much description, so I’m sure many readers would have created a different image in their heads. Hopefully a much younger one!
What I loved about this book though, was how much it made me want to bake. Since finishing this story I’ve spent many hours in my kitchen cooking all sorts of things. It was one of things that made this book so lovely.
All in all though this is a difficult story to review. I really loved the writing (for that alone, I will definitely be checking out more books by this author) but I didn't like how the plot sizzled out. Yet I really enjoyed the characters… at least until the villain stopped being the villain.
With all those things in mind, I give this book 3 stars. A little bitter, a little sweet, a little magic :)
One nice afternoon read.