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.
©2016 Charlie N. Holmberg (P)2016 Brilliance Audio, all rights reserved.
A fairy tale for grown-ups. Magical tale which was unusual and refreshing. It led me to read some of Charlie's other books but this remains my favourite
"Somewhere Between Bitter and Sweet"
I guess it's a testament when you like an author's writing and a narrator's speaking enough to stick with a story that you really lost interest in halfway through. The premise I was intriguing and I love the Paper Magician series, so I thought this take on cooking emotions would be entertaining. A lot of the book was the main character overcoming enslavement and continuously being kept in the dark about her origins. I wish I could give this a better rating, but it just wasn't the story I was looking forward to by the end.
This story was very creative, however, it was also depressing. I almost didn't finish it because it seemed like there was no redeeming quality to it. I think it could have been more magical and less depressing. I would not re on end it.
This is a story about a woman who does not know her past. It is a fantasy set in a world that we do not know but has medieval overtures to it.
Maire is the heroine who has the gift of baking magic into her cakes and sweets. When maurauders attack the town she lives in she is sold to a man who is not quite right. She struggles to understand and to escape.
Kate Rudd is a wonderful voice artist - and gives life to this story.
what I liked: the writing is compelling and I had to read to the very end.
what I didn't like: there were elements that bothered me (this is my opinion only-very subjective others may not agree)- I didn't like what she ended up being- nor the connection to her "captor". this was a bittersweet story. I can't say more unless I give away key points.
I do recommend - especially for the writing. But im curious as to what others may think.
"sensitive and poignant"
a lovely and gripping mystery with a bittersweet ending of love, loss and transformational learning.
charming and careful painted characters, really hard to turn off
kate rudd treats these people with her delicate and careful nuanced performances.
charmed, read this one!
"Not what I expected"
This is an excellent listen, but also depressing. I am torn by this book. It is part fairytale, part fantasy.
I did not guess what was happening until the end. It is a delightful and terrible tale. It is heart wrenching - the desire to have but not to be able to
I had no idea what to expect. This did not disappoint. I am glad i listened.
The best thing I like about the story was the baking and it influencing emotion and thought. We all have foods that we love and hold memories for us. I loved the beginning of the book where she mentions why she bakes the inspirations that she does because she can give hope to an oppressed slave in the form of a petit four! What I really didn't like was the sci-fi that was mixed with fantasy. It just didn't work for me. I have really enjoyed Holmberg's work but I didn't like where she took this one.
It just didn't work for me. I have really enjoyed Holmberg's work but I didn't like where she took this one. She brought in so many elements that were not fleshed out or fully developed and thought through. Crafters, and gods and magic but it was all a tangled mess by the end and bizarre.
Kate Rudd did a fantastic job with the dramatics! Excellent work.
The one thing it did inspire me to do was to want to bake.
"it was ok."
I got a little tired of her being so weak. it pulled itself out of the dustbin in the end. would I listen to it again? meh.
"the premise of this book sounded so good, but I ca"
the premise of this book sounded so good, but I think this is the first book I have ever truly hated. I wanted to like it, I have enjoyed the author's paper magician series, even though I found the writing just ok. The plot of this book is amnesia recovery, the main character is extremely difficult to relate to, and is physically beaten multiple times before the halfway point of the book. it actually made me really uncomfortable to listen to. I have stopped and forced myself to restart this story so many times at this point I'm giving up. I honestly don't care if the character remembers her past or not, I have absolutely no investment in the story. Save your money.
"Great story, but fizzled at the end"
I loved the narrator. Overall, I liked this book. The first half was really good and engaging, but it fizzled out for me a little after about halfway through.
"Brilliantly executed premise, well narrated"
Ms. Holmberg baked into her story intriguing characters, even the least lovable among them evokes some empathy (despite some serious nastiness). Her world is rich with smells, sound and myth come alive. Her story arcs in sometimes surprising ways and enters dark corners but never artificially or without purpose. I devoured this delectable treat in a couple of days and wish to immediately jump back into Raea. I cannot recommend it enough.
Imagine taking a Greek tragedy (and the related pantheon of gods), merge into it the story of the Fall and Original Sin and twirl in a mixture of fairy tales; never mind being able to “bake in inspiration”. That’s Magic Bitter, Magic Sweet. It’s one thing to have a brilliant premise, it’s another to execute that well. Ms. Holmberg delivers in spades. She takes us along Maire’s painful journey of discovery of her own story. It’s a challenging world into which she has fallen, much like medieval Europe, full of might-makes-right and enslavement, as well as love, hope, and friendship. Maire’s “owner” is clearly not quite right. Not only is he devoid of a moral compass, he’s even devoid of common sense. So, he looks to the world around him to give him some clue of how to be in it. Given that sends him mixed messages, he’s not quite sure what that to do. As abusive and disgusting as he can be, he’s also an intriguing character of conflicting and foreign makeup. He is not only not normal, but he is “other”. He is not of this world. So even while you despise him, there is some empathy towards his plight. It’s a little like despising a snake that bites you. He cannot be other than he is. He cannot reflect and grow into something more even as he does learn to “fake it” better. He is limited by his very nature in an even more profound way than humans are.
Maire’s antagonist is also a bit of an entrepreneur; his business deals bring us into the world of fairy tales. Charlie Holmberg weaves these tales within the overall story in clever ways with just enough of a twist to make them new. While this is a fun sideline from the main thrust of the narrative, it’s integrated well and certainly adds to the overall enjoyment of the story. While no individual element of this world is completely new, Charlie Holmberg combines them in intriguing and innovative ways.
The characters are well developed; these are primarily Maire and Allemas, but also Arrice, Franc and Fyel. The relationships are complicated. Arrice and Franc essentially adopt Maire even though she’s appears to be a young woman when they meet her. Fyel is the ultimate tightlipped mystery man who appears to be connected with Maire and on her side, but for some reason doesn’t directly help her. Maire and Allemas have an often bizarre, disturbing and ever-changing relationship. At times, Allemas seems to treat her as property while at others he evinces a more intimate connection.
In terms of her writing style, I love how the dialogue matches the characters so well, especially for Allemas. Even his speech patterns are bizarre. Because Fyel feels he must hold his cards close to the vest, his halting attempts to communicate with Maire are a study in frustration. Arrice’s speech brings forth her loving and nurturing nature as Cleric Tuck’s conveys his competence and care. In other words, there’s a great fit between the manner of communicating and the characters themselves.
Like most journeys, the path on which Magic bitter, Magic Sweet takes you has many unknowns and a number of surprises; the journey takes you along in a different manner than you might think and leaves you at a slightly different place than you anticipated. I think the magic of this story is how she melds these disparate elements of myth, magic, and misdeed. While it’s a time of worn phrase, this is a novel where the whole is greater than its parts. At least for me, this journey is well worth the effort; it is enlightening and full of points that inspire reflection. I highly encourage you to take the journey as well.
Kate Rudd narrates the audiobook. She has fast become one of my favorite narrators and this book is indicative of why. Her flavor for each character is spot on, her pacing beautifully reflects the book and the ability to understand her, even in the midst of emotionally charged sections, is lovely. I think I last heard her in Rysa Walker’s Chronicles File series. It was interesting to note that she definitely has a go-to competent-caring-male voice she used there as well as in this book. Overall, I love her performance which mixes just the right emotional energy while maintaining clear enunciation.
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