Jospehine DeLune is 12 years old and comes from a long family of powerful magical women, each of which baked their might conjure into their creations
Except for Josephine who has no magic and cannot cook… but she has to learn as she has drawn the attention of both a sinister figure, Shaula and, even worse, the dangerous gaze of the Ravenous One.
She now has to learn if she wants to avoid being devoured
I like this book it was fun and had a very fun concept – I love the idea of magic, and conjure, being so mixed with cooking. The whole way they use magic is excellently well written – putting together recipes with magical components and mundane baking. I do love the world building of it, it’s fun, and while it’s not entirely original it is certainly one of the best examples I’ve seen depicted. Just the mix of flour and sugar and Full Moon butter and any of the other mundane and strange ingredients added to make everything from curses to love potions all through food – from pickles to pies to cakes, the food is full of magic
And that even leads to zombies that crave cake – and it works with the story
With such a setting it would be very easy to make a story that was, perhaps, a little silly or too childish especially with a 12 year old protagonist. But it not only worked as a story but there were some nice deeper elements addressed as well – there’s some definite reflections on race (especially since this book is set in 1955) though some of them are confused with prejudice against her magical family, including Authelia a friend who drops Josephine when she wants to be popular and realises she can’t be while being friends with a Black girl. Or Quentin’s parents who are leery of him getting too close
It has to be noted that these prejudices are often conflated or linked to the hostility towards her as a witch. And, if anything, her difficulties seem under-presented considering this book is set in 1950s Missouri
In turn we also have some nice examinations of class and work – Josephine and her mother, Clara are concerned because they do not make much money and her magical bakery is threatened by corporate competition – especially when it comes with the money and power to demonise home baking in the press. Even aside from work, we see a number of people regard Clara with contempt and even pity because she works in the family business and because her parents aren’t wealthy – yet at the same time these people are happy to avail themselves of Clara‘s magical baking. Even her own coven, seemingly largely white women without a large amount of magical talent, are quick to take advantage of Clara‘s labour to present it as their own.