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A Wizard's Guide to Defensive Baking

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Bob is a scene stealer, which is something I never would have guessed I would say about a gloppy bucket of yeast and dough that extends tentacles. One day, while 14-year-old wizard Mona is working in her aunt Tabatha's bakery, she finds a dead girl on the kitchen floor. Before I began this one, I only really knew the title and liked the idea of it, but I didn't know what to really expect. Sometimes you have to rise up to a challenge when those in charge have failed in their responsibilities, and hope that you are not alone.

Mona is a very reluctant hero, wanting “to make really good sourdough and muffins and not get messed up with assassins and politics” — and she would much rather not have to do anything heroic because really, that’s something required of adults. But what makes this unique is the way the universe is created - the talents of the witches and wizards, the way the situations happen that exactly relate how a young girl would react, the fact that she didn’t want to be a hero, but just wanted adults to be more responsible and accountable. I kept waiting for the little gingerbread man to run down the road shouting, "you can't catch me," but that could be because I just read The Big Over Easy. It all starts with a dead body in the bakery — “I haven’t seen a lot of dead bodies in my life—I’m only fourteen, and baking’s not exactly a high-mortality profession” — and from there eventually leads to some life-or-death stakes for the entire city-state. I did like that it explored why the adults not doing their jobs in the damn first place and then relying on a child to save everyone was such an awful thing, because a lot of YA fantasies either don’t have adults at all or the adults are plainly evil instead of merely sleeping on the job, and the implications of making children step up are kinda…skipped over.It’s fun to see Mona bringing a rather stale gingerbread man to life, but to have the gingerbread man unexpectedly develop its own personality is, well, icing on the cake.

But uh, the secondary character I might have developed a really bad crush on was head of the guard Joshua. Following Mona on her journey as she finds out just how much talent and creativity she has for baking bread-like products and making them to fantastical things was so entertaining.This book is not only a Lodestar finalist but, at the time I’m writing this, already an Andre Norton winner! Loved the gingerbread man/familiar, loved Spindle, loved Bob, and especially loved Molly and her undead horse Nags.

It should never have come down to a kid like her having to be the one to make people aware of the dangers against the magicas or be forced to save the day. The situation shouldn’t have been allowed to get so far off the rails that a 14-year-old is not just their best but their only hope. Had Kingfisher been content to keep it a smaller story like in Minor Mage, it would have worked better for me.T. Kingfisher is one of my new favorite author finds this year and so far it doesn't matter if it is Young Adult, Middle-Grade (like this book is) or a PG-13 Fantasy book all of them have been fantastic so far. She is a sensible 14-year-old girl who makes for a great protagonist, not only because she is relatable (as much as a wizard can be, I guess) but because her concerns are so very normal. I was really sad at the end this was a standalone novel since I loved being in this world with a wizard who learned how baking could help to save a kingdom. I had so much fun reading this book, especially because the plot started out as one thing (a murder mystery with magic) and then grew and grew and ended up being rather epic.

But when her life gets knocked off its tracks with her discovery of a dead body in her aunt’s bakery, her path goes straight into the doings of the high and mighty. A] knack for creating colorful, instantly memorable characters, and inhuman creatures capable of inspiring awe and wonder. I loved every moment of this book - it was perfect for a cold winter's weekend snuggled up on the sofa!But I also loved how she realized and discussed with herself that this should have been completely handled by the adults.

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