This book, y’all. This book.
The setting is somewhere between Saladin Ahmed’s Dhamsawaat (but much wetter) and Terry Pratchett’s Ank Morpork (but slightly less Ank Morpork) and any one of the adults could easily have been Commander Vimes or Doctor Adoulla…. but they were not.
For the matter, they were exactly the kind of fallible adults that anyone fourteen and up is embarrassed to find out adults are.
But A Wizard’s Guide to Defensive Baking isn’t about the adults, not directly. This book is about a fourteen year old girl named Mona who is good with baking.
REALLY good with baking.
I mean I’ve done my fair share of baking (around Mona’s age) and I never saved a single cookie by asking it not to burn. I never had a gingerbread man get up and dance off the cookie sheet (which was probably good), nor did I have a pet sourdough starter.
Maybe I should say a sourdough starter familiar because Bob’s a bit more than your average Covid-19 “the stores are out of yeast” bakery pet.
It would be difficult to say that Mona would’ve had a boring life, she was already an orphan when the book opened, and all the folks living in the area already knew she was one of the many minor wizards in the city. Still, one presumes that her life would’ve been a big quieter if Mona hadn’t found a dead girl named Tibbie on the floor of the bakery one morning, then been charged with the crime, then been found innocent, then been threatened by a high official then discovered the real murderer was trying to kill her.
Frequently in this book, Mona loses her lunch and I think it’s a very reasonable reaction to what’s going around her. Like many T Kingfisher protagonists, Mona is pragmatic, but in this case she’s only as pragmatic as a fourteen year old can manage, and let’s face it, that’s not very far.
But Mona’s got a sourdough familiar, a gingerbread cookie familiar, dough tricks up her sleeves she doesn’t even know she has, and allies in a ten-year-old thief, a crazy dead-horse witch, a Duchess, and an Aunt I want to grow up to be some day.
And if you’re going to save a whole city, it turns out those are good allies to have.