Author: Charlie N. Holmberg
Release Date: June 28th, 2016
Pages: 296 (Paperback)
Genre: YA | Magic | Fantasy
Read: from August 4 to 13, 2016
Source & Shelf: NetGalley | Kobo
ISBN: 9781503935600 (Paperback)
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.
Disclaimer: Thank you NetGalley and 47North for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
At first glance this is definitely my kind of book – magic, fantasy, ghosts, etc… But when I first started reading this book it turned out to be quite different from what I first thought. It ended up being a little bit more complex than a simple fantasy and magic book and in a way I really enjoyed it. But I think that since I was expecting something different, I ended up not fully appreciating Magic Bitter, Magic Sweet.
This book is about Maire, a young woman who doesn’t remember anything from her past but has a gift: she can infuse her cakes with whatever sort of emotion she wants. One day she’s capture by a band of raiders and sold as a slave to this stranger named Allemas. He wants her for her power, making her cook and selling her talents. At the same time, Maire is being visited by a ghost who might hold the key to her past.
Maire was a character that I really enjoyed. At first the fact that she doesn’t know anything about her past might be a little uncomfortable but you get to know it with her, at the same time as Maire. And she’s a strong character; with Allemas she does through so much but never once falters and keeps going, keeps surviving.
The ghost, Fyel, is an enigma. It’s certain he knows Maire and that he could help her remember. But he can’t tell her everything, always speaking in riddles and never once giving her a straight answer. He can’t, actually. At first you don’t really know what to make of him but as the story unfolds and Maire begins to slowly remember her past, we also begin to understand who Fyel is.
As for Allemas, at the end I wasn’t expecting his true identity, his true propose. During the whole book he is this strange man who seems to be having a battle with himself. Almost like a child in a grown-up man’s body. But the truth is so different from what I could come up with. It explained a few things about him but others I was left a little bit in doubt.
The story on itself was deep and complex, not at all what you first thing when you start reading the book. Magic Bitter, Magic Sweet ends up being a book about something far greater and grander than simple magic. It is magic, but a different kind of magic that goes beyond simple witchcraft.
The writing was easy to follow and it flew after a few chapters. I struggled slightly in the beginning since I wasn’t actually managing to set the story straight. But when I began to understand Maire’s voice, understand the background setting around her and got involved in the story, it was a rather fast and easy reading.
There was a small part of the story that I really like and you can say it’s only details – they don’t actually add nothing to the story only to help Maire’s powers. Twice in the book Allemas tells Maire to use her abilities to other people and it ended up being connected with a few fairytales/classics. I’m not going to tell you because it’s fun to realise it as you read Magic Bitter Magic Sweet. But I can tell you that when I connected the dots, I found it quite intelligent.
Overall, Magic Bitter, Magic Sweet was a good book but the complexity of it made me enjoy it but not love it. It has magic, a really good character and a plot that was definitely not what I first expected but in the end, despite all the qualities of it, it was only a book I enjoyed. And, as I mentioned before, the fact that I was expecting something different and was kind of disappointed (perhaps disappointed is a strong word but the lack of other) with how it turned out to be, I couldn’t rate it more than 3 cups/stars. Still, it was a nice book with a twist in the end I liked and a bit of a lesson in the end.