Book Review: Magic Bitter, Magic Sweet by Charlie N. Holmberg

Maire doesn't remember anything about her life or who she was prior to a few years ago when she was found on the side of the road, but she knows that she has the magical gift to infuse emotions and abilities into the treats she bakes. When marauders raid her town one day and kidnap her, she gets sold to a strange man who somehow knows of her talent and wants to use it to make money. But amidst her captivity, continual visits from Fyel, a ghostly being, have her more determined than ever to figure out her past.

Book Review: Magic Bitter, Magic Sweet by Charlie N. Holmberg | reading, books, book reviews, fantasy, high fantasy
Title: Magic Bitter, Magic Sweet
Pages: 306
My Rating: 2 Stars
More Info: Goodreads, Amazon


*I received a free ecopy of this book via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.*

I’m not really sure how to write this review because while the writing itself was ok, the overall story just didn’t work for me.

The whole thing felt too mild for me. If you know my taste, you know I like books that are more toward the extremes. But this one just didn’t have enough of anything. There was some darkness… but not enough for it to actually be called dark. And there was some quirkiness… but not enough for it to actually be called quirky. Etc., etc. Also, it was kind of light because of the magic, but it was also kind of dark because Maire was being held captive, and then there were a couple scenes that were suddenly violent and moderately graphic. It’s not that I mind graphic scenes, I read far worse on a regular basis, but the way they appeared out of nowhere amidst the calmness was jarring to me. Maybe that was the point, to show the sudden, unsettling nature of violence, but that combined with the other two opposing moods made everything kind of clash for me, and it’s impossible for me to classify the mood of this book.

I also felt the book was slow-moving because the whole thing was just about Maire trying to remember her past with the plot being kind of a backdrop to that. A slow pace is not inherently bad, but in order for me to enjoy it, I have to connect with the characters, and I just didn’t. I loved that Maire was a fighter when it came to her life and helping others, and I didn’t have anything against her, but I didn’t connect and didn’t feel like I knew her, or anyone, that deeply by the end.

Lastly, the thing that possibly bothered me the most was that the entire book seemed to hinge on Fyel being vague. And one of my biggest pet peeves in books is when characters are vague for no reason. I know that a reason was given, but it wasn’t a good enough reason for me as it seemed very arbitrary on the part of the author.

I did, however, think the book at least had an interesting ending. I still feel like it lacked an explanation for certain things (as though they were the way they were simply because the author said so), but I definitely did not see that twist coming. And the epilogue was perfect for the characters.

So overall, I found the book to be slow moving and couldn’t connect with the characters, but anyone who likes more mild, slow-paced, lightly magical books might enjoy it more.

But oh, one more thing, make sure you have some gingerbread cookies on hand before you start reading because this book is gonna make you want them 😉


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Have you read Magic Bitter, Magic Sweet by Charlie N. Holmberg?
If you could have any emotion/ability-infused treat, what would you choose?
(I think I could go for some energy cinnamon rolls right about now!)


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14 thoughts on “Book Review: Magic Bitter, Magic Sweet by Charlie N. Holmberg

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  1. Lola

    That’s too bad this one didn’t work out for you. I was kinda curious about this one from your intro, but that mix of clam and dark sounds very jarring. The emotion infusing gift does sound like a fun touch and I often like baking and food focused books. But the combination with violent and moderately graphic scenes I probably would enjoy less.
    The quirky light aspect of the baking and infusing emotions in the bakings combined with the kidnapping plot line sounds a bit clashing. Or maybe that’s done so it doesn’t get too overwhelmingly dark, who knows?

    And yes for me to enjoy a slow paced book I usually have to connect with the character and there still has to be something going on. I dislike the sitting around doing nothing type of slow paced books, but as long as things are moving forward it’s great. There are some books I read with a well done slow pace, which were great.

    It sounds like there is this big mystery about her past that last the whole book and makes for unnecessary vagueness. Oh and dislike plot lines or explanations that simply are because the author wanted them to without any explanation or making sense. I want things to make sense. That is nice there was an unexpected twist towards the end and the epilogue fit the characters. Great review!

    1. Kristen Burns

      Yeah, the blurb sounded so unique, that was why I read it, but it was too bad that it didn’t work for me. The violent scenes though, it was only maybe two, and they were very short, but as I said the problem was really that they were just so jarring for me when they came out of nowhere in such an otherwise calm book. Then again, The Paper Magician (the first Holmberg book I read) was confusing like that too, kind of quirky and nice but then with some really gruesome moments.

      That was the thing, this one felt like it was kind of a lot of sitting around waiting to remember. The plot just seemed almost unnecessary. But the forced mystery is just one of those things I can’t deal with in books. I just can’t stand it when characters are vague and keep secrets for no reason. I mean, the reason (not a spoiler) was that if he told her about who she was and she denied any of it, then she could never get her memory back. But why? It just felt very “because the author says so.” It was just there to *force* the mystery. And ugh, that’s one of those things that makes me want to rant. But I can see how other people might like the book. Thanks!

  2. Nikki

    Hmmm. I was wondering about reading this one, or the author’s previous trilogy, but I don’t know… The way you say it’s too ‘mild’, that seems like the perfect word for it.

    1. Kristen Burns

      Yes, I think mild really is the best word to describe how it felt to me. If you’re considering The Paper Magician, I have reviews for those on my blog too that you can check out. I enjoyed that significantly more than this book, though I did feel the series went downhill with each book :-/ But I really enjoyed the first Paper Magician book and think it actually makes a great standalone if you wanna give it a shot.

  3. AngelErin

    Sorry this one wasn’t really for you. From the things you described, the vagueness for no reason especially, I think I’ll pass on it. I think that would drive me bonkers. Great review though!

    1. Kristen Burns

      Vagueness without a good reason is one of my absolute biggest pet peeves in books. It does drive me crazy. So that was definitely a huge part of the reason this wasn’t for me. Thanks 🙂

  4. Annika @ Hiding Books

    Mild is a really good word, actually! And vague. I really wanted a lot more from this. So much potential!
    Energy cinnamon rolls please!! Also something that helps me not engage trolls on twitter re: feminism. I suck. haha

    1. Kristen Burns

      Yes, I think you picked out the two most perfect words from my whole review lol. But I just can’t stand when characters are vague for no good reason. Sometimes even when they do have a reason. It’s just one of those things that makes me want to tear my hair out every time I come across it in a book. But ugh yes, let’s go find some energy cinnamon rolls together! And oh my, there must be a story there, haha.

  5. Becky @ A Fool's Ingenuity

    I know exactly what you mean about this book. It’s not bad, per se, it just wasn’t good somehow. I didn’t connect with the characters and although I was intrigued by the story the pacing and lacklustre characters meant I just didn’t care enough about what was happening. I felt like the story had potential, and I loved the bookish references, but it wasn’t enough to make me like the story. It may be to others tastes but unfortunately not mine.

    Great review, it perfectly explains my feelings about the book.

    1. Kristen Burns

      Oh do you have a review posted? I’d love to see your thoughts too 🙂 But yeah, I also felt like the story had potential because the idea was so unique with the baked goods, and the little references were fun, but I didn’t connect to the characters and felt like there wasn’t much of a plot to speak of, so it really didn’t work for me. Thanks!

      1. Becky @ A Fool's Ingenuity

        I’ve got a reviewing coming up for it actually. I wrote it ages ago but it’s part of a batch of reviews I have to go up. It’s due to go up next week.

        And I suppose that’s true. I liked the whole idea of creators and gods but it did feel like it lacked direction a lot of the time like the story had just stopped before it got picked up again and began moving a bit.

  6. Vlora

    I’m sorry to hear you didn’t love this, because I just downloaded it from netgalley (because MAGIC and BAKING). 😀 I could definitely use some energy related goodies right now too!

    1. Kristen Burns

      Yeah, the premise sounded so unique, but it just didn’t live up to it for me :-/ Maybe you’ll enjoy it more than I did. But it seems like everyone could go for some energy goodies lol.