• The Good: Cute, cozy, and wholesome
  • The Bad: Simple characters; lacking tension
  • The Literary: Middle-grade award winner

Fourteen-year-old Mona is a minor wizard, but she can’t control lightening or speak to water; instead, she works with bread. She works in her aunt’s bakery and her familiar is a sourdough starter.  Early one morning, she unlocks the bakery and finds a dead body in the middle of the floor. And now Mona is the city inquisitor’s prime suspect.

This cozy magical middle grade fantasy received the Locus Award for Best Young Adult book, and I can see why. Kingfisher captures the essence of the cozy fantasy genre. It’s a genre for readers who are burnt out and barely making ends meet, where the real fantasy is people helping and accepting one another for who they are. One of the pitfalls of this genre is the lack of stakes, but Kingfisher manages adventure and action that keep the story exciting.

In this case, while Mona seeks to find the real killer, political tensions in the city are also rising. Wizards are being rounded up, forced to register, and labeled as dangerous. But she has a lot of help from a few charming key characters. Bob the belching sourdough starter, the tiny gingerbread, and the Molly, who rides her reanimated dead horse around the city, each steal every scene.

Mona is a reluctant protagonist but rises to the challenge because the adults who should be making the good decisions let everyone down. That being said, Mona is a simple character who succeeds more through luck than skill. The story itself is repetitive, with some inconsistencies and contradictions that may annoy an adult reader.

Recommended for middle grade readers and fans of fantasy looking for a taste of something sweet!