Hello bookish peoples! I’m here today with TWO reviews. I stumbled upon Sugar Spells (The Spellwork Syndicate #2) on NetGalley the other month and once I got approved to read it I immediately went and bought a copy of the first book, Deadly Sweet, on Amazon. I’ve recently found that I have a sweet spot for magical murder mysteries that involve food magic. So let’s dive into this scrumptious story…
Deadly Sweet (The Spellwork Syndicate #1)
Author: Lola Dodge
Release Date: January 16, 2018
Genre: Urban Fantasy (YA/NA)
Rating: 2.5 Stars
Goodreads Synopsis: Anise Wise loves three things: baking, potion making, and reading her spell books in blissful silence. She might not be the most powerful witch, but enchantment is a rare skill, and her ability to bake with magic is even rarer. Too bad no one wants witchcraft on their campus. Anise’s dream of attending pastry school crumbles with rejection letter after rejection letter.
Desperate to escape her dead-end future, Anise contacts the long-lost relative she’s not supposed to know about. Great Aunt Agatha owns the only magic bakery in the US, and she suddenly needs a new apprentice. Anise is so excited she books it to New Mexico without thinking to ask what happened to the last girl.
The Spellwork Syndicate rules the local witches in Taos, but as “accidents” turn into full-out attacks on Anise’s life, their promises to keep her safe are less and less reassuring. Her cranky bodyguard is doing his best, but it’s hard to fight back when she has no idea who’s the enemy. Or why she became their target.
If Anise can’t find and stop whoever wants her dead, she’ll be more toasted than a crème brûlée.
Who knew baking cakes could be so life or death?
Deadly Sweet is fun, if sometimes slightly aggravating, YA urban fantasy that involves two of my new favorite things: magic and baking. Anise Wise is our plucky main character who leaves her sheltered life behind after unfortunate incident and goes to live with her Great Aunt Agatha in the witch friendly town of Taos. Once Anise gets to Taos she finds it is not exactly what she expected. Not only is she sent to beginner baking classes to improve her skills but she is saddled with an extremely rude bodyguard with no real explanation as to why. After a near death experience, Anise decides to try and find out what happened to Agatha’s previous apprentice.
In general, I liked this book. It was a fun, quick read with a unique setting and magic system. The problem was I wanted to learn more about the magic system. I felt like we just got the bare bones of witches could do in this world. I liked that witchcraft was known to the world at large and that there were specific cities where witches basically ruled.
There were a lot of characters but I only want to focus on Anise and Wynn, the bodyguard. One thing I like about Anise is she is not some all powerful witch. She is average, she is a young adult who has young adult thoughts and attitudes, and she struggles like so many young adults do. However, she can be very fickle in her thoughts and sometimes make really, really poor choices. And then there is Wynn. Look, I like a grumpy love interest as much as the next book nerd, but Wynn is just an asshole. And not for any good reason. This guy…I just want to punch him. ALL THE TIME. His interactions with Anise are pretty degrading. I get that he is a bodyguard and his duty is to protect Anise, but all this guy does is sleep and act like a misogynistic prick. And Anise’s reactions to him are aggravating to say the very least. There is no communication at all. Like, Anise should have called out his attitude to her aunt and then they all could have had a nice little chat to get any bad feelings out in the open and the move the heck on. But, the antagonism between Anise and Wynn serves to create conflict that leads to the action at the end so I guess there is that…
All in all, this a decent paranormal YA/NA book. It did feel like it was lacking a little bit of magic, but I generally enjoyed reading it. Read this book if you love baking and/or need a quick and fun read.
FYI: There are spoilers for Deadly Sweet below.
Sugar Spells (The Spellwork Syndicate #2)
Author: Lola Dodge
Release Date: October 30, 2018
Genre: Urban Fantasy (YA/NA)
Rating: 2.5 Stars
Goodreads Synopsis: After her run-in with a jealous warlock, apprentice baker Anise Wise can’t wait to get back the kitchen where she belongs. But thanks to her brush with death, the land of the living isn’t all cupcakes and marshmallows.
Anise’s magical mojo is way out of whack and her evolving powers are stirring up trouble. As the town buzzes with news that Anise can bake deathly spells, unsavory characters start lining up for a taste. They’ll stop at nothing for the chance to use Anise and her witchcraft to further their own plots.
She plans to hole up researching magic recipes until the attention dies down, but then she discovers the horrifying terms of her bodyguard’s contract. Wynn has saved her life so many times, she can’t leave him trapped. But doing the right thing will mean risking death or worse—being cast out of her dream job.
For this witch, justice might not be as sweet as advertised.
Sugar Spells was provided to me by NetGalley and the publisher at my request. All thoughts and opinions expressed in this review are strictly my own and are not influenced in any way.
I’m going to start this off by saying the first book in this series should have been called Sugar Spells, and this book should have been called Deadly Sweet. I mean, the whole book is about death magic…okay, now that that is out of the way (seriously, it’s been bugging me for weeks), let’s get to the actual review.
Also, since this is the second book in the series there will be some spoilers for the first book, Deadly Sweet.
Sugar Spells jumps straight into Anise Wise’s next set of woes in her life: after her near death experience with the villain in Deadly Sweet, her magic has become tainted with death magic. All her bakes are self destructing and she is banished from Great Aunt Agatha’s bakery incase her death magic messes with the aura of the bakery. On top of that, Anise learns the terms of Wynn’s shield contract and decides to help him buy out the contract so he can go live his life. Both these issues lead us to the creepiest character, Girrar. He is a vampire, which also inhabit the witch friendly town of Taos, and is the ultimate creeper. He wants Anise’s death magic baked goods and is willing to pay a lot for them. I won’t go into too much more, but we all know nothing good can from all of this.
Wynn and Anise were a little less antagonistic in this one. Wynn, getting his tragic backstory finally told, is a little more relaxed in this. But honestly, it doesn’t make up for how much of an ass he was in the first book. I see where things seem to be heading with Anise and Wynn, and while I’m not 100% on board with it, I can handle it. I think my main problem is I don’t really care for either Anise or Wynn. I don’t hate them, but I haven’t found myself rooting for them either.
Again, this was a quick, fun read, but it felt like it was lacking a layer of the story. The villain situation was weird in this one and while I won’t go into details for spoiler reasons I can say that the big bad they have to face is forgettable. Like, I don’t remember anything about it. I don’t want to use the term “fluffy read” because it’s not a fluffy book, but it is lacking a bit of depth. Still, I enjoyed myself while reading it and I am looking forward to the third book.
While I enjoyed these two books for the most part, there was just something missing. It was like one of those cute, delicious looking cakes you see in a shop window but when you actually get to eat it you find out it is mostly over sugared frosting and very little cake. And as much as I like frosting, you need a solid cake to make things really good.