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.
Magic Bitter, Magic Sweet by Charlie N. Holmberg: Review
Note: I received this book as an ARC from 47North through NetGalley in return for an honest review.
This was another book from NetGalley and I was first intrigued by the synopsis and the pretty cover. (I have a habit of being attracted to pretty covers. I’m like a magpie.) However, when I began reading it I still had no idea what to expect despite reading the synopsis. I imagined I was in for a magical book filled with baking and fairytales. It was magical, definitely, but in a way that was dark and sinister with twists that I wasn’t expecting.
The story follows Maire, a baker who – as the blurb states – can infuse emotions and abilities into her confections. For example, she can bake a cake filled with love and care, and the recipient of the cake will feel loved and cared for when eating it. Maire’s peaceful life was suddenly turned upside down by marauders who ransacked the quiet village in scenes that were so dark and shocking that I didn’t expect them to be so sinister. Maire is sold as a slave, and her powers are taken advantage of by Allemas, her eccentric and strange captor.
For the first third of the book I was unsure what to make of it; I liked the premise and the idea that Maire had these abilities, but for some reason that I don’t really know myself I just couldn’t lose myself in the story like I have with past books. However, after the story began to pick up after the first third, I raced through it – I think it just needed a bit of time to set up the story. I’m not used to reading things based in a fantasy setting, so that was possibly why I felt a bit indifferent at the beginning. When the story picked up its pace though I found that I couldn’t put it down until I finished it.
If you’ve read some of my other book reviews you’ll know that I love a story with plot twists, and this was definitely a book for plot twists. Throughout the whole book you’re left in suspense with Maire unable to remember any memories from her life beyond four years ago, and when the mysterious and ghostly Fyel comes to visit, he gives clues and hints as to who she really is. When you discover at the very end of the book who she is and where she really comes from, the twists keep on coming and I was almost staring at the page with wide eyes. The ending was not what I expected at all, and something that I would never have thought of, but I really liked it.
Overall, it did have quite a slow start for me and the fantasy setting did take some getting used to, but when the story progressed I found myself eager to discover the forgotten history of Maire and Fyel and I was racing towards the ending.
About the Author: Born in Salt Lake City, Charlie N. Holmberg was raised a Trekkie alongside three sisters who also have boy names. She graduated from BYU, plays the ukulele, owns too many pairs of glasses, and hopes to one day own a dog.
Magic Bitter, Magic Sweet by Charlie N. Holmberg is out now!