Friday, March 15, 2019

Book Review: Magic Bitter, Magic Sweet by Charlie N. Holmberg

Goodreads Summary: 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.
Goodreads Rating: 3.4 stars with just over 6,000 ratings
Genre Listing: Fantasy, Magic, Young Adult, Fiction
Goodreads Challenge: 7/50
2019 Reading Challenge: #7 A book that starts with the letter 'M' (Find the full challenge here.)


So, Charlie N. Holmberg's creativity is blowing my mind. I had a love-hate relationship with the Paper Magician series (Paper MagicianGlass Magician, Master Magician). I absolutely adored the spinoff book Paper Magician. So when I saw Magic Bitter, Magic Sweet I knew I had to read it. Lucky for me it worked out perfect for a Book that starts with M.  I'm trying to be a good challenge co-host and fill out level one instead of jumping around everywhere.

My review of Magic Bitter, Magic Sweet is probably going to have spoilers. I generally try to not have them if I can, but I don't feel like I can talk about the book without the spoilers. So, I was instantly drawn into this story. I loved the idea of being able to infuse emotions into food. It was one of the things I loved about the Spellbound series by Anabel Chase ( You can find my series overview here). Anyways, I loved that she put positive influence into her baked goods.

I thought Marie having amnesia was really interesting. I usually really like to read a character's background story, but Marie's background is at the end when she gets all of her memories back. Once she's kidnapped by the Marauders and sold to Allemas, I feel like it was sort of a quest for Marie to find her memories. Her time with Allemas was interesting. Even though he's the apparent antagonist in the story, I found myself feeling sorry for him. Every scene with him just solidified that he's a very broken being and not complete. Of course, at the end of the story, we find out why he's so broken. I thought it tied up the story really well. It made sense and didn't come out of left field. A fun little thing about Magic Bitter, Magic Sweet is that most of the chapters have something above the chapter number. I thought it was just random things at first, but it appears to be Allemas's broken thoughts.

So, here's where I'm going to get a little spoilery. In Magic Bitter, Magic Sweet Marie ends up being responsible for making the concoctions in Alice in Wonderland for shrinking and growing. This inclusion alone would make me ecstatic because ❤ Alice in Wonderland. The literary references do not stop there though. Marie also ends up being responsible for the Gingerbread house in Hansel and Gretel. There's also a nod to the Gingerbread Man as well. These little references were probably my favorite bits of the story. I felt the way it was done was flawless and like Marie really would have been the one to make these concoctions.

I adored Arrice and Franc. I thought they were adorable and sweet. Cleric tuck was a pager filler for me. I didn't really feel like he brought anything to the story. Fyel is an interesting character, but also just kind of there. It wasn't until more towards the end of the book that he became interesting to me. His appearances do help Marie try to regain her memories though, which was basically the whole point of the story. I don't know that he necessarily helped her find her memories, as much as encouraged her and made it possible for her to remember on her own. It gives the story a sort of she saved her self vibe. I wills ay that the epilogue with Fyel and Marie is absolutely adorable.

I love the world that Charlie N. Holmberg created for this story. The concept of Fyel and Marie building worlds as crafters made me think of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (Movie version. I haven't read the book yet. I know bad nerd, bad.) when  Arthur is being shown the Earth as it's being rebuilt. It was just fun little details that made the story enjoyable. I'd love to see more stories from different crafter's points of views, but I don't know that it would have the same effect. Magic Bitter, Magic Sweet is a very well done stand-alone book. 

As you can see, I absolutely adored this book. It's weird, it's quirky, it's right about 300 pages, and there are nods to other literature. There was even a bit of subtle psychology in Magic Bitter, Magic Sweet by Charlie N. Holmberg. I'm not sure if it was intentional or if I'm just reading into it too much, but I felt like there was something to be said about Marie having to force her hate for Allemas down and still be kind to him. I guess I just respected that Marie had to work to stay positive, even in the toughest situations. There's also a slight nod to different aspects of parenting. Arrice and Franc have the loss of a child and still have two children, plus they sort of adopt Marie in a way. Then there's the fact that most of the story is because Marie couldn't have a child, even though she so desperately wanted one and ended up doing the only thing she could do to make it happen. ( Sorry spoiler.)  I'm going to blame my philosophical state on the fact that I am exhausted. Read the book. It's delightful.

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