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Magic Bitter, Magic Sweet has been on my radar for months now. I can’t even tell you how excited I was to see it on Netgalley, and as a Read Now, no less! I’ve been a huge fan of Charlie N. Holmberg ever since I first read The Paper Magician two years ago. The premise for her new book sounded really interesting and different, so I was excited to jump in.

After finishing this book, I can say that different is definitely a word that describes it. I don’t think I’ve read anything like it before. Maire’s talent, the missing background information, and the general sense that something’s off draws you in.

Briefly: The book centers around Maire, a woman with an unusual talent of baking emotions into pastries. She can make a cake that promotes relaxation. Rolls for strength. A tart for love. She has no memory of her past or how she came to be this way – it’s all she’s ever known. One day, her town is raided. Maire is captured and sold as a slave to the very odd Allemas. Allemas demands that she work for his clients making increasingly strange confections, like a house made of gingerbread. Meanwhile, she’s visited by a weirdly familiar apparition named Fyel.

It took me a little while to immerse myself in this world. Like Maire, I was frustrated that Fyel wouldn’t just tell her about her mysterious past. I guessed some of it. Other parts came as a surprise. I thought that the end was unsatisfying – the book definitely loses momentum as it wraps up.

I liked the story, but it’s not on the same level as Holmberg’s previous work. If it were my first book by her, I’m not sure that I’d actively seek out her other books. But since I already know and love The Paper Magician, I’ll be excitedly waiting for whatever she comes up with next.

Final rating: ★★★☆☆

Thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for the free copy!

For my 2016 reading challenge, I’m crossing off #1: a book that’s based on a fairy tale. (Allemas asks Maire to make a gingerbread house for a witch, a living gingerbread cookie boy, and more.)

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