A wizard's guide to defensive baking by T. Kingfisher

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An Andre Norton Nebula Award Nominee for Middle Grade and Young Adult Fiction is always worth pursuing, and this unusual, whimsical story will gain many fans. Mona is a fourteen-year-old baker wizard. Her skills lie in producing excellent sourdough bread, due to her strange sourdough starter named Bob, who lives in the cellar under the bakery. She can make gingerbread men dance for the bakery's customers and has a gingerbread man who perches on her shoulder and obeys her commands. When she finds the body of a young woman on the floor, she is swept into an adventure full of danger. Can she use her magic to find the assassin who is killing off all the wizards in her city and help to save her people from an evil man who wants to take power?

Kingfisher comes up with the most original plots and this book will delight adult readers who wish to read about a character with unique abilities, while middle school readers will enjoy a heroine who doubts that her skills are adequate to the task of defending her city from a siege but is still determined to do her best. Readers will be amazed at what she comes up with – giant golems who provide a barrier to invading mercenaries, sneaky gingerbread men who harass the soldiers and their horses and sourdough missiles that burn their adversaries.

Kingfisher's characters are very engaging. Mona, although she has doubts about being a hero and wishes that the adults in charge had been braver and taken on the task, overcomes her fears and works on her talents. Her off-sider Spindle is street wise and clever, and Knackering Molly and her skeleton horse will bring a tear to the eye. And some of Mona's dough creations are stand out characters in their own right - who could go past a grumpy sourdough maker called Bob and a tiny gingerbread general who could control his group of soldiers?

Fans of Robin McKinley are sure to enjoy the smart dialogue and intelligent heroine and readers who enjoyed this could go on to read Minor Mage by T. Kingfisher.

Themes: Fantasy, Baking, Courage, Heroism.

Pat Pledger