MAGIC BITTER, MAGIC SWEET by Charlie M. Holmberg
Verdict: A strange way to bake a cake.
Note: I listened to the audio-book for this one, which was a new experience for me.
Maire is a baker who can infuse her creations with emotions, enriching the eater with love, happiness, luck, strength - anything she puts her mind to. She only has memories of the last four years, and so doesn't know how she acquired this skill, and is happy to work in a small shop, selling her cakes for little or nothing. When marauders raid her village and turn her into a slave, Maire meets Allemus, a strange man who can see the magic in her and wants to use it in bizzare and nefarious ways.
I think chapter one was my favourite. I loved the descriptions of the magical cake baking and the emotions it involved. The idea is simple yet beautiful, and created a world of ideas which I couldn't wait to explore.
Most of the rest of the book I found...odd. There were bits to enjoy here and there, like the Hansel and Gretel references, but these things weren't plot related. In fact, the plot spun in circles for a while, only picking up again at the very end where the learn who Maire truly is and what happened to her.
I struggled to get Allemus. He's a very uncomfortable character to read about, seemingly mentally disabled, but also abusive and inconsistent. Sometimes he acted like he needed Maires approval, and other times he turned vicious. He helped terrible people and did terrible things without a sense of motive, and his personality felt flaky at best. This was only somewhat answered in the end.
What slowed the pace for me was the repetition and use of the amnesia trope. Mare kept asking the same questions, thinking about the same things, saying the same lines over and over. Perhaps it's easier to read over than to listen to, but I found it a little irritating, especially as there are characters who do know what's going on, but decide not to say anything.
So who is Mare? Where did her magic come from? There wasn't a lot to go on at first, but it all came together in the end. Again, I struggled a little because I didn't think she was a very interesting character. She was too nice and simple, and as I didn't understand Allemus, I wanted to know more about him instead.
The ending felt like another weird turn to me. It felt like a different story, but I liked it. It answered the key questions, and made sense of what felt like a mess, although I'm still uncertain about Allemus. There's also a huge jump which I can't help wondering if it would have been better to speed up the first half the book and then show more of the resolution.
So it didn't pan out how I expected, but it was an okay book overall.
Source: Amazon kindle unlimited.