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A Wizard’s Guide to Defensive Baking

4.09  ·  Rating details ·  5,756 ratings  ·  637 reviews
Fourteen-year-old Mona isn’t like the wizards charged with defending the city. She can’t control lightning or speak to water. Her familiar is a sourdough starter and her magic only works on bread. She has a comfortable life in her aunt’s bakery making gingerbread men dance.

But Mona’s life is turned upside down when she finds a dead body on the bakery floor. An assassin is
Paperback, 318 pages
Published July 21st 2020 by Argyll Productions
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George Corinne is perfectly right about the facts. Me, I don't think that 6th-grade readers are too young to cope with that sort of thing,

But you--and anybod…more
Corinne is perfectly right about the facts. Me, I don't think that 6th-grade readers are too young to cope with that sort of thing,

But you--and anybody else later reading this question--know your young readers a lot better than anybody here does.(less)
Robert It would hard to say if these stories share the same world: they are set in different places and there are no common geographical references I can spo…moreIt would hard to say if these stories share the same world: they are set in different places and there are no common geographical references I can spot. The magical systems appear similar enough that they might be. The attitude of the people toward mages (or even the terms they use for them) are quite different, but that could be an artifact of setting.

But these works are clearly unified in feeling, that "dark children's story" sensibility with occasional laugh-out-loud humor. If you liked one, it's a good bet you'll like the other.(less)

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Tadiana ✩Night Owl☽
4.5 stars! Review first posted on

A dead body is an awful thing to find on the floor of a bakery, especially when you’re a fourteen-year-old baker’s assistant with just a minor talent in magic, enough to make gingerbread men dance and biscuit dough turn fluffy on command. It’s worse when the city inquisitor decides to accuse you of the murder, for no particularly good reason. It’s even worse when you realize that there’s a mysterious assassin on the loose, targeting people
Jul 27, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Kingfisher fans
Really, how can any baker resist a title like that, along with the lure of an enthusiastic but somewhat unreliable sourdough starter named Bob? But what at first seems to be a murder mystery when a young baker named Mona finds a body in the bakery morphs fairly quickly into a coming-of-age story, in the setting of a politically unstable landscape. 

"You’re making their lives better, just a little tiny bit. It is nearly impossible to be sad when eating a blueberry muffin. I’m pretty sure that’s a
Sep 22, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 5000-2020
Pure unadulterated fun seemingly aimed at middle school aged children who like some darkness in their reading or adults who still enjoy some magic in their lives.

The magic in A Wizard’s Guide to Defensive Baking is delightful. Just take a look at the cover with that aggressive little gingerbread man waving a knife. And he is the least thing our fourteen year old magician dreams up when asked to defend her whole town from flesh eating savages. Her magic lies in baking so her defenses range from a
K.J. Charles
A pure delight. Mona is 14 and has a magical gift for baking, which she has to repurpose into self defence and then defence of the city in the face of danger. It's beautifully developed, absorbing, with a spectacular and moving ending. T Kingfisher really does make everything better. ...more
Jul 26, 2020 rated it really liked it
4.5 stars - this is a very funny, but also sometimes sad and slightly dark fantasy tale about a baker's assistant who discovers a dead body one morning as she enters the bakery. She's also a wizard whose magic works only on dough and various forms of bread. She has a lump of sourdough and a gingerbread man as funny sidekicks, and also makes friends with a street kid who teaches her how to survive when things suck.

The story is about a murder mystery, there are dark echoes of totalitarianism and
MB (What she read)
Super! I loved it--that perfect mix of whimsy and wisdom.

P.S. As per author's note at the back on publication issues, IMO editors strongly underestimate children's taste. If they think this book is too harsh (or whatever) to be published for children, then how the heck would Roald Dahl. et al ever get published now?!? Kids love this kind of thing. And it's good for growing minds to realize real life is full of challenges. It certainly doesn't hurt anyone to be told fictionally that evil should n
Jul 25, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Originally published at Reading Reality

I fully admit that I bought this one for the title. Not that the stabbity-stabbity gingerbread man on the cover isn’t adorable, but it was definitely the title that got me. And I’m so very glad that it did. I also wondered whether this was really YA or whether it was one of those cases where something got called YA because it was fantasy. That doesn’t happen as much as it used to, but it definitely does still happen.

I was very pleasantly surprised to discov
Kristin B. Bodreau
*Edit: read for the second time and it is just as relevant and delightful and so very human as the first time.*

Honestly, I’m not sure why I’m not just reading T. Kingfisher all the time. She has a way of making her stories so much fun, while still being fascinating, insightful, bittersweet and intelligent. It grabs you from the very beginning with the line There was a dead girl in my aunt’s bakery.

This is a story about Mona, a girl with a magical talent for dough who just wants to work in her a
Jul 25, 2020 marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
Prior to reading this I will need to stock up on some cake.
Jul 29, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fantasy-and-sf
This is supposed to be a children's fantasy novel that is apparently too dark for kids?! Corpses and assassins are no doubt old hat to kids these days. Personally I found Bob, the carnivorous semi-intelligent sour bread starter dough, hilarious and the Nag, the horse skeleton, rather cute. And that one Ginger Bread Cookie has more personality than most authors give to their main characters. The protagonist is a 14 year old girl who is a wizard with bread (just bread!!), who manages to still be a ...more
Jul 27, 2020 rated it really liked it
4.5 stars

Matthew Galloway
Jul 25, 2020 rated it it was amazing
As always, I am amazed at how clever and relatable Kingfisher’s (Vernon’s) stories are and how they can feel cozy and fun at one moment, heart wrenching and dark in the next. The central concept is so fun — a girl has magic centered around baking — but there’s also a serial killer who may be the least of her problems.
Jul 26, 2020 rated it it was amazing
A funny, deeply relatable story about a fourteen-year old baker who somehow finds herself deep in some terrible politics that is also a book about war, about the wages of it and the wretched effects it has on the survivors. A Wizard's Guide to Defensive Baking is, most of all, uncomfortably timely in its depiction of how people in power can quietly vanish away the marginalized. ...more
Mona is used to opening her aunt’s baker at 4:30 AM. What she is not used to is finding a body on the floor (especially not the body of a girl around her own age). Or being accused of murder, and hauled before the Duchess. Also new is an official campaign against magic users, of which Mona is one. (Although who can object to someone who can make perfect sourdough, convince bread to stay fresh, and bring gingerbread figures to brief but dancing life?) As Mona’s life gets more and more co
The Captain
Oct 28, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fantasy
Ahoy there me mateys!  Yesterday I gushed about castle hangnail and then immediately after finishing it, me hold for this book came in.  Glee!  Another book by an author I am adoring.  The author's T. Kingfisher work is said to be for adults but much like minor mage, this would definitely work for the younger set.

I think the reason this book is said to be for adults is because of it's quirky nature and themes about grown-ups not doing their jobs and how being a hero isn't something anyone should
Dec 24, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-in-2020, ebook
Ursula Vernon (aka T. Kingfisher) has done it again. A Wizard's Guide to Defensive Baking is another whimsical middle grade story about Mona, a minor mage, who has to save her city with magical baking. Like any good tale it tackles a couple deeper themes and gets pretty dark now and then. Life can't be all dancing gingerbread men and malevolent sourdough starters!

14-year-old Mona is not having a good day. It all starts when Mona discovers a dead body in her aunt's bakery as she prepares for a da
Aug 05, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: indie, read-me-next
Once again, T. Kingfisher writes such good magic systems. In a world where you can have magic, but only in one thing (the lady down the street has magic and what she can do is make dead horses walk), our main character has magic in baked goods. So she can make gingerbread men dance and she has a sourdough starter familiar named Bob.

This is, structurally, an interesting book. It's mostly Middle Grade, like Minor Mage was, but as with that one there is a REALLY high body count for a MG book. Ther
Jul 21, 2020 rated it it was amazing
The second of Ursula Vernon's "dark children's books" about kids who can do a little magic and are asked to save the world. Mona is a baker who finds a dead body and gets swept up in a bit of political intrigue and murder.

As always, Vernon is hilarious, and no matter the genre her books always have the lightness of humor sprinkled throughout. I am also partial to books where (magical) bakers who feel unsuited to being tasked with Large Things are nonetheless forced by circumstance into reckoning
Jul 22, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The story is the ever popular “ordinary people rise up to save their city when the powers that be screw the pooch,” with a twist or two. What puts it over the top for me are the supporting characters—most notably Bob the sourdough starter and the bad gingerbread men. There are some good lines too, such as:

It is nearly impossible to be sad when eating a blueberry muffin.

“Don’t usually get a crowd like this unless there’s a hanging.” “Don’t help, Spindle.”


You haven’t lived until you’ve seen a
Sep 10, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
You’ve got to read this

The title was fun. And that is just to entice you in. I loved how this book pulled you in and wouldn’t let go. Who would gave thought that a kitchen witch, so to speak, would be helpful for anything but baking?

Full of humor and yet thoughtful at the same time. Social justice and excitement too.
katayoun Masoodi
Aug 05, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fantasy, ya, ebook, favorites
lovely main character, great story. as usual kingfisher, does an amazing job, entertains beautifully. definitely recommend it to friends.
Jul 24, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This was an amazing read! Highly recommmend!

Funny, dark, thoughtful --- and yes you will need Kleenex at the end. I didn't just tear up -- some escaped -- while I was sneak reading this at work!

Why is it, that the best middle grade stories are always the ones that make you want to cry?
Kate Ramsey
Oct 12, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I want to be inside the brain that can successfully create a tense, slightly dark, high-stakes scene that involves a cookie doing the can-can. Seriously, hats off to T. Kingfisher. I picked up this book without knowing anything about it because the title was so charming, and it was just as delightful as I was expecting it to be. The fact that it was darker than I expected only made it that much better. This book is hilarious, insightful, and somehow not at all cheesy. I feel like this premise co ...more
The Flooze
Aug 16, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I love this book.

As Ursula Vernon (T. Kingfisher is a pen name) mentions in her acknowledgements, it's a funny old world when a book twelve years in the making turns out to be a bit of a balm to the soul for the here and now.

It's whimsical but dark, hilarious yet oh so sad. It shows us the beauty of individual determination while still pointing out that heroes are called forth when those in *power* have failed us.

It's a lot to unpack for a fourteen-year-old baker, her sourdough familiar, and o
A delightful confection. In a land of magic, Kingfisher plays with a novel idea. In most fantasy novels, magic is the forte of great magicians with wide-ranging spells of awesome affect. What if instead magic were more narrowly defined, wielded by the great and the small, each capable of only a single spell or affect. The great might be capable of calling lightening, but only lightening, the small limited to mending glass, straightening wood, or animating dough.

In A Wizard's Guide..." we meet Mo
Jul 22, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Really great fun plus got nuances to it. The people are real - some of them have bits you don't expect - thinking of the Duchess in particular. When you think about it, there are quite a lot of secondary characters - all of them come across as believable but they don't clutter up the story so you forget where you've got to.
Just because the protagonist is a 14 year old girl, doesn't necessarily make this a childrens book. There seems to be a "thing" these days that if the protagonist is a kid, it
This book was absolutely charming. If the title made you smile, you'll love the rest of the book. I had read Swordheart by T. Kingfisher, and loved it, prior to picking up this novel so I had an inkling I'd be a fan. This book veers more YA than Swordheart which is not my usual preference but I really enjoyed this book anyhow. Solid 4.5 stars, nearly 5 from me.

It's a pretty straightforward story, but one with lots of imagination and humor to it. Mona, our 14 year old protagonist works in a baker
Jadey (the Bookish)
This was funny with really imaginative plot points and characters (especially Bob the carnivorous sourdough starter and Knackering Molly the horse witch). 3.5/5

A couple of criticisms I have is that the protagonist, Mona, read a bit older than 14 for me, and I found the plot to drag a bit in the middle. How old Mona felt didn't really bother me too much though because I kinda just went with her being actually being a bit older in my head and that made the reading smooth and still worked well. The
Jan 14, 2021 rated it really liked it
This book was GREAT

I was totally in the mood for something like this and so fell totally in love with it. It was such an interesting idea magic with baking! I loved Mona so much she was such a sweet, sassy, stubborn and oh so brave child. I kept wanting to give her a hug and keep her safe. I loved her little gingerbread familiar he was so hilarious. And Bob the sour dough started. This book was just fantastic I couldn't stop smiling
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T. Kingfisher is the vaguely absurd pen-name of Ursula Vernon. In another life, she writes children's books and weird comics, and has won the Hugo, Sequoyah, and Ursa Major awards, as well as a half-dozen Junior Library Guild selections.

This is the name she uses when writing things for grown-ups.

When she is not writing, she is probably out in the garden, trying to make eye contact with butterflies

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