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A Wizard's Guide to Defensive Baking by T. Kingfisher

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A Wizard's Guide to Defensive Baking: 10/02/20

A Wizard's Guide to Defensive Baking

A Wizard's Guide to Defensive Baking by T. Kingfisher is another children's fantasy that Ursula Vernon couldn't get published under her actual name because it's so different from her Dragonbreath and Harriet Hamsterbone series. Her other recent children's fantasy is Minor Mage (2019) In this case, the trouble is that it opens with a dead body in a magical bakery, found by the fourteen year old protagonist, Mona.

Mona's age aside, my initial reaction to this opening chapter was to proclaim that T. Kingfisher was writing a cozy. Frankly, she got close to that with Paladin's Grace (2020). Other than this novel being set in a fantasy kingdom (really more of a city-state as Mona explains), where magic is known but not exactly commonplace, this book is no different than the set-up of the Magical Bakery mystery series by Bailey Cates.

The cozy bit of this book is over in about the first fifty pages. Mona is accused for the murder, taken in for trial, and manages to prove her innocence in short order. Getting home takes her more time than the trial. So despite the traditional opening, A Wizard's Guide to Defensive Baking isn't a cozy. Instead, it's best summarized as Malamander by Thomas Taylor (2019) meets The Hobbit (1937). Basically, it's an adventure through the city with some magic and derring-do, followed by an epic battle.

Mona's adventure through the city takes off after she meets Spindle, the brother of the dead girl. He knows the city and how to get places better than anyone. He's a bit like Gaston from Ladyhawke (1985), including knowing how to use the sewers and cesspits as safe ways to travel.

Once Spindle joins Mona in the quest to save the city and the duchess from a coup that has begun with the murdering of wizards, the novel finds its stride on the road narrative spectrum.

The travelers, Mona and Spindle, and later Mona's aunt and uncle collectively are a family (33). Spindle, does eventually become a formal part of Mona's family. Their destination is the city (00), in that they want to protect it from being conquered through an invasion. Their route to victory is the cornfield (FF), or in this case, the wheat field as represented by flour and sourdough starter. All together, A Wizard's Guide to Defensive Baking is about an extended family traveling through the city via the cornfield (or sourdough starter) (3300FF).

Five stars

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