When life gives your lemons, make lemonade. So when life gives you a magical ability that only works on bread, get baking! Need dancing gingerbread men? Easy. Stop that loaf of bread from going stale? Check. Turn a sourdough starter into a vicious, rat-eating horror that lurks in the basement? Er… sure. In this world of magic, most wizards are treated with suspicion and wariness. Mostly. Depends on the kingdom. In Mona’s slice of the world, they’re generally free to do their own thing… until they start to show up dead.
Mona is a fourteen-year-old bakery assistant in her aunt’s bakery. She’s hard-working and uses her magical ability to soften bread, stop cookies from burning, and make gingerbread men dance for the customers. Magic is mostly a good thing, except for when the churches flush too much holy water and create zombie frogs and the like.
But someone has it out for the wizards. Mona finds this out the hard way when she discovers one lying dead in her bakery. When the constables turn up along with an inquisitor from the castle, things get even worse. Mona, it seems, is being framed.
Told from Mona’s perspective, the story is charming and witty, yet serious and dark when it needs to be. Unlike many young fictional heroes, Mona can understand that perhaps she’s not the best person suited for the role, and perhaps some grownups would be better. But it’s hard to know who to trust, and she reluctantly gets pulled into helping save the city.
With the Duchess of the land at her side, a street urchin named Spindle on her other and a generous helping of some freshly-baked, 14-foot gingerbread war golems at her back, surely they will win the day. And don’t forget about Bob… the carnivorous sourdough starter from the basement.
Narration and production were top-notch. Patricia Santomasso I think did a good job. Her somewhat breathy delivery didn’t really say “fourteen-year-old” to me, but being told in the past tense, it’s easy to reconcile as someone telling the story later in life. Patricia did a great job nailing Mona’s comedic timing and dry wit. Pacing was a little slow for my liking, so I knocked up the playback speed a few notches.
I have to say I was hooked immediately by the cover. A gingerbread man packing a blade and a scowl? Heck yeah, I’m checking that out! It is categorised as a children’s book, but it’s a little too dark for my kids. Maybe in a few years, once they’re as old as the protagonist. If you’re an adult, though, don’t let that put you off! It’s a highly enjoyable tale.