Posted 20 hours ago

A Wizard's Guide to Defensive Baking

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An assassin is stalking the streets of Mona's city, preying on magic folk, and it appears that Mona is his next target. This is a another great adventure/detective/save the city story with Ursula Vernon's original brand of humour and imagination. What I'd like you to know is that I cherry-picked those lines for their content, not their felicity of construction or their stand-out euphony.

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. 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. Having been a fan of her fairy tale retellings for many years, I am so glad that she is finally getting the acclaim she deserves. From the adorable cover and title (and the fact our main protagonist is fourteen years old), I thought this was an MG story.

I liked that these people (and the other wizard…no, not Elgar) supported Mina and helped her realize her full potential, even though the need for this was literally because of them. While she does grow into her magic, I would hesitate to say she grows significantly into her personhood power. 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.

Mona’s life is upset when she finds the dead body of a young girl in the bakery and is promptly suspected of killing her herself. I should have known from the beginning, when Mina stumbles right into a dead body in the middle of her bakery and freaks out—and also because right after that she’s talking about zombie frogs, which really aren’t as bad as zombie crayfish because those are really awful. But the city government and constables are turning against wizards, even minor ones like Mona, and the assassin seems to have a nose for tracking down and killing anyone with magical powers. It doesn't take long before she learns there is a growing threat that magicas like her are facing in the city-state and while most magical individuals leave (or are killed), Mona soon finds herself in the unenviable position of having to stand-up and fight against the enemy.None of this is terribly useful magic, apparently, though she can convince dough to be better, as in fresher, softer, tastier. I not only laughed out loud at many points, but ended up reading bits to my husband who needed to know what I was cackling about so much. She accidentally made a sourdough starter familiar when she was terrified and now it is sorta alive, burbles at her when she comes to feed it or grab some material off it to make bread and she has named it Bob. 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. Mona’s wry and often disgusted commentary on what’s happening around her and just how far the situation has been left to go awry reads like both Sixteen Ways and the Discworld.

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