I loved the cover for this fantasy offering when I saw it on NetGalley, so jumped at the chance to review it. Would I enjoy it?
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. However, when she is visited by Fyel, a ghostly being, she finds herself beginning to change…
I have drastically shortened and edited the very revealing blurb and recommend you avoid it, as it reveals far too many major plotpoints in the first quarter of the narrative. Fortunately, I have a policy of not reading blurbs so didn’t find my reading experience compromised – which I’m glad about, because it would have been a real shame. Told in first person viewpoint, Maire is an appealing protagonist who enjoys her job of baking positive emotions and feelings into her cakes. The writing is sensuous and effective, giving a real sense of the process of baking and I completely believed in Maire’s pleasure as she cooks magical treats for the people around her.
Once she is overtaken by catastrophe, though, the nagging sense of her lost past turns into a burning issue as it is clear the ghostly winged being, who continues visiting her, is desperate for her to regain her memory. The catch is, although he knows who she is, he is unable to tell her – she has to find out for herself. The premise certainly gripped me, as she also finds herself having to cope with a wilful, obstinate being who demands she perform a number of tasks. Shades of familiar fairy tales pervade this tale of loss and longing, as Maire struggles to discover who she used to be – and how that knowledge can save her.
Holmberg weaves an intricate tale with echoes of Hansel and Gretel, the Gingerbread Boy and Frankenstein providing a rich backdrop to Maire’s struggles to discover who she is. I really loved the atmosphere she creates – a slightly heightened tone to the writing that doesn’t quite tip into Gothic, but certainly reflects the style of Grimm’s tales. The character of Allemas, the main antagonist, is beautifully done and when it becomes clear exactly who he is and his role in Maire’s life, I was left with a lump in my throat.
One one level, this is a pleasing fantasy tale spun from the lingering wisps of familiar childhood stories, on another – the themes of loss, yearning and identity twine throughout this thought-provoking book that has been sliding into my head since I’ve finished reading it. I haven’t read anything else Holmberg has written, but after reading Magic Bitter, Magic Sweet I shall definitely be tracking down her other work. A copy of Magic Bitter, Magic Sweet was provided by the publisher via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
How funny, I just posted my review yesterday! Unfortunately I didn’t feel the same way as you. I was, however, very surprised by the info about Allemas, and that part was interesting. Didn’t see it coming at all. I’m glad this book resonated with you so much 🙂 I’ll be curious to know your thoughts on The Paper Magician if you read that one! (I may or may not be in love with the love interest in Paper Magician lol.)
I’ve read your review and think it’s very fair – you have emphasised that there is nothing inherently wrong with the writing, but it just didn’t chime with you. Whereas I loved it… but then, I tend to avoid stories with lots of romance because I find them boring!
I still want to read this mostly for the “magical baked goods” idea. But based on your review, the story itself sounds like it’s really good. Can’t wait to check it out for myself!
I thought this was lovely. Kristen Burns was a tad underwhelmed at the pace and I think she would also have liked more passion and romance – but the book is about something a lot more interesting, as far as I’m concerned. And there is an amazing twist:)
That certainly is a lovely cover and I probably would have thought about requesting it too! Except of course I missed it. Sounds very interesting.
The cover is definitely eye-catching and the story seems quite interesting and original.