Magic Bitter, Magic Sweet, Charlie N. Holmberg – Book Review

Hello humans! It’s been a gradual process but I am working my way through reading pretty much everything Charlie N. Holmberg has written, a while ago her book Magic Bitter, Magic Sweet was in the Kindle sale (which, for the sake of my TBR, I really ought to stop checking) and I snapped it up. Of course, it then sat on my TBR for a long while before our glorious trip to Norway when I finally had time to read it! I’ve had a pretty good experience with most of the books by this author so I was interested to see how this one went.

Magic Bitter Magic Sweet 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.

Find Magic Bitter, Magic Sweet on Goodreads| Amazon UK (Affliate)

I should clarify, the Charlie N. Holmberg books I have read consist of The Paper Magician series (including the latest The Plastic Magician) and The Fifth Doll which I reviewed a while back. This bears more similarity with The Fifth Doll in style. Where The Paper Magician series is quite clear in the plot this book is a little more surreal, it requires a different level of suspension of belief to really grasp what’s going on.

But this story has cake! This is undoubtedly the best aspect of this story, I could maybe have done with one more recognisable example of a storybook cake just to cement that idea? But I thought this was a clever angle to explore, I liked the ‘magic system’ and the way it was explained, though I don’t think I’d be brave enough to eat any of the treats in this book.

But, as the title suggests, all is not sweetness in this book. Some parts of Maire’s captivity are just plain horrific, particularly at the start of the book, and I winced on her behalf on more than one occasion. The captor in this story is cruel, but also incredibly interesting. He isn’t a suave ‘Loki-esque’ villain but there is more to him than meets the eye. I’m always here for a complex villain so this was great.

I’ve read quite a few books that tackle memory loss and having to retrieve oneself and this was an okay example? I think this wasn’t as good as it could have been partly because the reason for the memory loss (don’t worry I won’t spoil it) was such a gargantuan idea to grasp that it ended up being confusing. I think this may have been my inability to dream big enough though, I can’t really fault the book.

A very quick read, a very weird read (in a good way) and certainly not quite what I was expecting. Should you read this? If you’ve got the inclination I would say it’s worth it, but be sure you have cake nearby or you’ll definitely find yourself getting snacky mid-read.

My rating: 3/5 stars

All opinions are my own.

What say you? Do you enjoy slightly surreal fantasy? Let me know in the comments below!


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