Review of Magic Bitter, Magic Sweet by Charlie N. Holmberg

Magic Bitter, Magic Sweet
By Charlie N. Holmberg

Star Rating: 
Genre: Young Adult Fantasy
Number of Pages: 304

Date Started: June 28, 2016
Date Finished: July 3, 2016

Synopsis: (From Amazon)51odUtgGCTL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_
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.

I was quite happy when this book appeared on my kindle through the power of pre-order.  I’d just finished all of the books that are out in The Ministry of Curiosities book series, and I had previously been hooked on The Paper Magician series (though I didn’t care as much for the last book).  I had also read Followed By Frost, Holmberg’s first YA book.  Unfortunately, this book was a huge let down.

There was quite a bit of originality with Maire’s baking and what Fyel is, and the banter between them was rather enjoyable.  There were some interesting fairy tale tie ins, that didn’t make sense until near to the very end.  Towards the last fourth of the book the novel shifted and the focus of Maire remembering who she is becomes overshadowed by a desire that had briefly been suggested a few times previously, but hadn’t seemed like a large focus of what Maire wanted in her life.  Given the supposed intense desire Maire has, it makes me a bit apprehensive about claiming this is a book specifically geared towards teens.  Since the characters in this book are in their 20s, this should NOT be considered a teen book.

Although Maire has a special baking ability, she lacks personality and deeper characterization, only focusing on three things: remembering her past, escaping her captor, and baking.  The moral of facing up to your actions and having redemption is great, but the novel suffers from too little time focused on what Maire did and more importantly, not enough of Maire exploring why it was wrong.

holmbergAuthor Biography: (From Amazon)
Charlie Nicholes Holmberg was born in Salt Lake City, Utah to two parents who sacrificed a great deal to give their very lazy daughter a good education. As a result, Charlie learned to hate uniforms, memorized all English prepositions in alphabetical order, and t mastered the art of Reed-Kellogg diagramming a sentence at age seven. She entered several writing contests in her elementary years and never placed.

Being a nerd, Charlie started writing fan-fiction as a teenager in between episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation. She became a full-fledged band geek with mediocre talent in high school, where she met her husband Jordan Holmberg. While she strove to win his attention by baking him cookies and throwing ramen noodles at his house, he didn’t actually ask her out until six years later.

Charlie began taking writing seriously during her undergrad at Brigham Young University, where she majored in English and minored in editing. She finally won a few writing contests. She graduated with her BA in 2010 and got hitched three months later. Shortly afterwards, her darling husband dragged her to Moscow, Idaho, where he subsequently impregnated her.

In summer 2013, after collecting many rejection letters and making a quilt out of them, Charlie sold her ninth novel, The Paper Magician, and its sequel to 47North with the help of her wonderful agent, Marlene Stringer. Someday she will own a dog.

(Did she mention her third book, The Master Magician, totally made the WSJ bestseller list? Because it totally made the WSJ bestseller list.)

Charlie is also a board member for the Deep Magic ezine of science fiction and fantasy. Learn more at

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