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A Wizard's Guide to Defensive Baking

4.16  ·  Rating details ·  8,563 ratings  ·  1,127 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
Kindle Edition, 289 pages
Published July 21st 2020 by Red Wombat Studio
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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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Average rating 4.16  · 
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Melissa ♥ Dog/Wolf Lover ♥ Martin
Buddy Read With My MacHalo’s! Although I finished first as I don’t have a life, mostly 🤨

These characters were so wonderful!! Well, not the twats...

*Bob, who is not your ordinary dough boy or otherwise

In the darkest, warmest corner of the basement, a bucket bubbled slowly. Every now and then bubbles would, pop and exhale a damp, yeasty aroma.

"C’mon, Bob..." I said, using sugary tones you’d use to approach an unpredictable animal. "C'mon. I’ve got some nice flour for you..."

Bob popped several
Jul 27, 2020 rated it liked it
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
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
“Death by sourdough starter. Not a good way to go.”
Disclaimer: I don’t bake (unless burning something to a crisp can be considered baking), and apparently neither does T. Kingfisher — but she “bought a Kitchenaid mixer and began grimly following recipes” for the research purpose — and that’s some respectable admiration-worthy dedication. All to write a kids book about a young wizard who can magic bread — featuring carnivorous sourdough starter and feisty militarized gingerbread man cookie.

Sep 22, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
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 26, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: ya
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
Jul 25, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Allison Hurd
Extremely sweet. I'd likely have been more impressed if I hadn't read Minor Mage first, but if you liked that, this is a similar concept and I think often funnier.

CONTENT WARNING: (view spoiler)

I think this book is meant for kids, but kids who are totally down with the original Grimm's fairytales. Bad things happen here, but there are also great and relatable lessons. The characters are enjoyable,
✘✘ Sarah ✘✘ (former Nefarious Breeder of Murderous Crustaceans)
Mona and her buddy Bob the Murderous Sourdough Starter are Nebula Awards finalists! Woohoo and stuff!

🍪 Warmongering Cookies For The Win Buddy Read (WCFTWBR™) with the MacHalos and stuff 🍪

No, my account hasn't been hacked (I think). Yes, this is really my little nefarious self reading (and slightly enjoying) a not-so despicable piece of not-so revolting YA.

Yeah yeah, I know. Now get over it, will you? Thank thee kindly.

Oh, and, for the record, I don't actually hate YA as a whole that much. (Okay
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
Jul 26, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Kristin B. Bodreau
Jul 28, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: alphabet
*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
Maraya21 (The Reading Dragon)
Jul 15, 2020 is currently reading it
Shelves: _added-in-2020
🍪 "Killer Gingerbread Men" BR with the MacHalo Asylum 🍪

Udy Kumra
Feb 26, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2021-fiction, 7-stars
6/8/21: 7 stars. Raising this up because it deserves it.

2/26/21: 5 stars. I am in awe, you guys. This little book about a girl who can only use baking magic who has to solve a murder mystery and save her city turned out be as awesome as its title. I was immediately charmed by Mona and her low-key (but unsubtle) deadpan humor. Her voice, and the way it guided us through this surprisingly complex plot and world, was what really stuck the landing for me in this book.

One thing I really appreciated w
Jul 29, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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  ·  review of another edition
4.5 stars

The Captain
Oct 28, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Matthew Galloway
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.
Karen  ⚜Mess⚜
MacHalo Buddy Read

What a fantastic imagination T. Kingfisher has. I had so much fun reading this book. It's labeled a middle school book, but don't let that discourage you (if you're old like me).

If you're in the mood for a light, fun read I would highly recommend this one.

Dec 24, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: ebook, read-in-2020
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
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
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
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
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.
Jan 29, 2021 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
RTC (or not)

In the meantime I'll just say that DC should give Ursula Vernon a G'nort series.
Beth Cato
Jan 21, 2021 rated it it was amazing
What an absolutely charming middle grade book! It combines many of my favorite things: baking cookies, magic, and literary violence. Mona is just your average 14-year-old girl with a family bakery to mind and a carnivorous sourdough starter in the basement. That is, until she finds a dead body in the shop one morning. When she's blamed for the crime, beyond all logic, it's clear that something terrible is happening to the wizards in town--and the cause may lie in the palace itself.

The book is d
DNF at 34%. I normally like Kingfisher, but this isn’t holding my attention at all. Meh. Read for SFF book club (January 2021).
So fun and creative!

Evil gingerbread men, 14- year old heroine wizard and doughy protectors.

Read in one sitting, easy and enjoyable read.
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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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