Book Reviews

A Wizard’s Guide to Defensive Baking by T Kingfisher

I picked up this book a while ago and read it, but never got to writing my review. Honestly, I hadn’t paid attention as I should have because I thought this was a cookbook at first. Imagine my surprise when I found out it wasn’t. That being said, I consider it a stroke of luck.

A Wizard’s Guide to Defensive Baking follows the story of Mona, an orphaned girl working in her aunt’s bakery. Mona doesn’t think much of her magical abilities because she can’t call lightning or speak to water. Her familiar is a sourdough starter, and she makes magic with her baking. Mona gets thrust into the thick of intrigue and assassinations when she finds a body on the bakery floor one morning.


I loved Mona as a character. She’s a pacifist in a world where that’s not the best thing to be, but she’s also determined and intelligent and a leader. She has her flaws as well, such as being a little too rigid occasionally, which gets her into trouble. But I loved her as the protagonist in this book.

I also loved that Kingfisher turned expectations sideways by having a series of “small” and “safe” magics be what changes the fortunes of several key events. It’s things like Mona’s baking magic. I don’t want to spoil it for anyone, but man, what Mona does at the end of the book is so cool for a “minor” mage.

Finally, I loved how the relationships grew in the book. They felt realistic and organic to me in the way middle grade relationships grow. Lots of black and white, misunderstandings, and eventually the ability to make up only as tweens and younger teens do.

A bonus call-out—I absolutely loved Bob, the sourdough bread starter. For a character who has absolutely no dialogue—because Bob has no mouth—he certainly has a lot to say and does well communicating it.


I think the only thing that I didn’t like about the book is that there were a few places where things felt a little heavy-handed with the tween/teen angst. Now, take that with a grain of salt because this is a middle grade book and I’m looking at this from an adult point of view. Kids may not see it quite the same way. And, really, this was quite minor for me. The rest of the book more than made up for this.


I loved this book. It is one of the happier accidents I’ve had in a while buying books. To me, it is a refreshing twist on the teenage hero type books. Mona isn’t a great power. She’s not really even mediocre. But that’s okay because it’s not about power, it’s about choices we make. Please, go out and get this book. Buy it, borrow it from a library, beg it off a friend, whatever. But get it and read it. You won’t regret it.

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