Magic Bitter, Magic Sweet by Charlie N. Holmberg
Published June 28th 2016
Source: Netgalley – in exchange for an honest review
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.
This book is about Maire, a woman that can infuse emotions into baked goods. She has lost her memory of her life and spends the whole book trying to remember. When Carmine is attacked, she’s sold to Allemas, a strange man that seems to know her , even though she has no memory of him. While in his care, a spirit, named Fyel, appears whenever she’s alone. He knows her story but refuses to tell Maire any details because, if he tells her and she doesn’t believe it, he’ll be stuck outside this world, unable to help her.
I have to start the review by saying that the premise of the novel sounds amazing. It shows a different approach to magic that intrigued me and made me want to read this book as soon as I could. Sadly, the book wasn’t able to deliver. It started slow but promising. I kept reading, forcing myself to continue because, surely, something interesting would happen. It did… but only on the last chapter. It felt like the whole story was just to fill the pages between the beginning and the ending.
The book focused a lot on her baking process but its detailed description felt odd and out of place becoming, sometimes, nauseating while reading in the morning.
Also, on the first chapter the author wrote “My mind is like a pan of cake torn apart by eager hands, leaving only the outer crust. It’s strange, this story of mine. A tale that starts somewhere in chapter twenty and ends who knows where.” From this excerpt, the reader gets to know that the main character, Maire, is writing the book and that, in chapter twenty, things will get juicy. Right off the bat, that’s kind of a spoiler because, now, when I reach chapter twenty, I’ll know it’ll get good and that, before that, I won’t get to know much about Maire’s story. I got a bit bothered by that but promptly ignored it and continued reading. Then, I got to chapter twenty. I was already disappointed with the book but I was hoping that this chapter would be good. It wasn’t. It just continued the narrative and sprinkled a bit of information that meant nothing to the reader.
Throughout the book, the author spread bits of fairy tales, like the “drink me” bottle and the gingerbread house. They felt out of place. The story was already weak but, at least, it was original. Those bits took some of its originality and felt out of place.
The thing that saved the book was the ending. Even though most of it was boring and frustrating, the ending was great. It tied everything together and was well-executed. Still, the author should have spread the information differently because, for most of the book, neither the reader nor the main character knew what was going on.
The characters were mediocre. Fyel and Maire appealed to me because of their abilities but, besides them, there wasn’t anybody else standing out.
Even with the good ending, I can’t give this book more than 3 stars. It was hard to read and I had to force myself not to give up.
Rating: 2,5 stars
Don’t forget to check out the book club discussion of this book that I participated in over at https://thatonenerdygirlblog.wordpress.com/2017/09/15/book-club-discussions-magic-bitter-magic-sweet-by-charlie-n-holmberg/
Just keep in mind that it has spoilers! Hope you enjoy~