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Reading Time: 3 minutes -

A Wizard’s Guide to Defensive Baking

by

T. Kingfisher

In case the title doesn’t provide enough of a hint, I want to be clear that this is a funny book. Probably the closest I’ve read to Pratchett without actually reading Pratchett. Yeah, it’s that good – because it’s doing its own thing and not trying to be a Discworld lookalike.

Sure, there are similarities, but such is the nature of storytelling. It doesn’t have to be a copy just because it looks the same at a glance.

So, I’ll leave it at how this is its own story, and avoid comparisons.

Originally, I believe, this was meant to be a children’s story, and it shows in places – not in a bad way, but in how a lot of things just work out in a way they rarely do in stories for adults. Eventually, it ended up as a book for grown ups, but if I remember, I’ll slip my niece a copy once she’s old enough to read in English. She’ll be old enough by then.

There’s definitely darkness hidden away behind the words. Sometimes it comes out and stabs someone, but a lot of the time, it just lurks there. Ominous. Brooding. Serious. The story itself ends well, but the darkness is of the kind that doesn’t go away just because a protagonist lives happily ever after.

It’s not super serious, but it’s the kind that asks questions that make you think, and that stick around after you turn the light off for the night.

I did mention it’s a funny story, right? A cheerful mix of absurdities, murder, and musings on the nature of what it means to be different. There’s also magic and baking: weaponized gingerbread men, a breadcrumb circus, and Eavesdropping For Dummies using scones. Not to mention a sentient carnivorous sour-dough starter.

So, what’s it about?

The story begins when Mona, a fourteen-year-old wizard with a talent for dough, finds a dead body in the bakery one very early morning. Then there are complications, and the story ends in a spectacular display of defensive baking and horses.

What I’ll whine about

The storytelling meanders quite a bit. There are a lot of amusing observations sprinkled across the narrative, and for the most part they made me smile. Once in a while though, I found myself wishing the story would just get on with it and get to the point. Perhaps I have an upper limit for how many humorous anecdotes I can put up with on a page.

Mona, the main character, often reflects on how she’s just fourteen and she shouldn’t be having to deal with this kind of thing. It’s a long time since I was fourteen, but I have no memory of ever thinking like that. Do kids do that?

Then again, I grew up pretty safe and sheltered, and I never really had to worry that someone would kill me because I could make bread walk.

What I’ll gush about

The magic. At first it seems a bit silly and rather limited, but throughout the story, understanding grows, both for Mona and for the reader, and there’s a lot more to it than one might first think. Being a bread wizard is not just a silly gimmick.

The voice. The story’s told by Mona, and it’s always quite clear that she’s addressing the reader while retelling her adventure. It’s charming and reassuring, and it’s probably why the story gets away with the more serious parts of it. There’s never any real doubt that Mona will be okay eventually – but it’s still exciting.

The humor. Sure, it gets a bit much with the anecdotes and asides now and then, but that doesn’t mean they’re not really funny the rest of the time. I had plenty of good chuckles reading this.

Final words

If the title makes you smile in a happy kind of way, you’ll enjoy the rest of the book too.

Find A Wizard’s Guide to Defensive Baking on Goodreads.

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