YA Weekend Audio: A Wizard’s Guide to Defensive Baking by T. Kingfisher
I received a review copy from the publisher. This does not affect the contents of my review and all opinions are my own.
Mogsy’s Rating (Overall): 4 of 5 stars
Genre: Young Adult, Middle Grade, Fantasy
Series: Stand Alone
Publisher: Tantor Audio (October 12, 2021)
Length: 8 hrs and 30 mins
Narrator: Patricia Santomasso
Magic, gingerbread, warm laughter and feels…this actually turned out to be a perfect holiday read! The protagonist of A Wizard’s Guide to Defensive Baking is Mona, a fourteen-year-old baker’s assistant with a minor gift that only works on bread dough. It’s a humble but comfortable existence working at her Aunt Tabitha’s bakery, and Mona is happy enough just to be able to help out.
But one day, her world is turned upside down when she comes in to find a dead body on the floor. Worse, she becomes the main suspect in the murder case. Of course, it doesn’t help that the city’s authorities aren’t exactly friendly towards wizards, even those who aren’t considered very powerful. This has emboldened a certain assassin, who is stalking the streets preying on magic users. Soon every wizard is fleeing the city, including poor Mona who has been caught up in the chaos.
I make it no secret, I’m a big fan of T. Kingfisher, another name for Ursula Vernon. It’s true that I’ve been more familiar with her adult horror thus far, but it appears I’m gradually developing a taste for her Young Adult/Middle Grade fantasy as well. There’s something about her style that reminds me very much of the work of Francis Hardinge, another children’s author I regard highly for her imaginative world-building, lovable protagonists, and yes, stories with maybe just a hint of darkness.
So needless to say, A Wizard’s Guide to Defensive Baking was full of the wonder and whimsy I was expecting. I also loved, loved, LOVED the focus around magic and baking. I mean, deep down, who wouldn’t want the power to create and animate their own gingerbread man army? And of course, Mona is the perfect heroine to lead the way. In many respects, this was a tale of growing up and self-discovery—granted, not uncommon themes when it comes to books for this age group.
If you would pardon the analogy though, our main character began as raw and unformed as a lump of raw dough, ready however to be shaped with a precise touch. Admittedly she had few ambitions at the start of this story, but then grew into her own by the end, dispelled of her naivete while also being hardened by the harshness of reality. Those who enjoy coming of age plots will eat this one right up, I think, especially the book’s target audience, but in truth, Mona’s journey is one that is universally relatable.
For that matter, this is a book that can be enjoyed by everyone, not just by young adults or middle graders. That’s not to say certain aspects couldn’t have been more fleshed out, especially the details surrounding the unstable political climate of the setting, but I wouldn’t say that’s a deal breaker or even a deterrent. A Wizard’s Guide to Defensive Baking was simply a lot of fun without being too juvenile. Perfect if you want some quick and light entertainment, not matter how old you are, and a feel-good ending just seals the deal.
Audiobook Comments: Nothing pleases me more than fantastically written characters being brought to life by a talented narrator, and Patricia Santomasso delivered a solid performance that made this such a good listen in audio.