When I saw this book on NetGalley, I didn't have to think twice about requesting it. Baking and magic...I was born to read this!
Bee (short for Beatrix) is an orphan wandering the kingdom of Aradyn. Being on the brink of starvation, she steals a bun from a bakery. Instead of hauling her off to jail, the baker, Master Bouts, offers her a place to stay at his shop, where she can work in order to pay back for the stolen bun.
While learning to bake, she discovers she's a natural at it. She also discovers she has a magical power: she can bake emotions into her cakes!
Imagine you're baking something and getting frustrated because it's not going as smoothly as you hoped it would (I get this a lot). Now if someone were to eat the thing you baked while being so frustrated, he/she will get just as frustrated, for no apparent reason. This seems like minor magic, but imagine what you could do with it! Or just read this book, of course, and you'll find out as well.
When Bee has to deliver some sweet treats to the royal castle, she meets Anika, the 16-year-old princess of Aradyn. Her father, the king, died in a shipwreck twelve years ago. Ever since, Anika has been fostered by her guardian, Master Joris, the Kingdom's mage. He turns out to be pretty evil and cares for nothing but his tulips. When it turns out Aradyn is slowly being destroyed by Master Joris' selfishness, Bee sets out on a quest to save the country.
The characters are all lovely:
- Bee's a tomboy with a brave, strong will (and magical powers!)- Princess Anika is very princess-like, but also brave and not afraid to stain her dress
- There's Master Bouts, the typical hard working, good natured fatherly type
- Willem, the blacksmith's son/apprentice, who becomes Bee's best friend
- Master Joris, the evil mage, who turned out to be even eviler than I expected!
- Captain Zafira Zay, one bad-ass female captain of a pirate ship
Then there are hedge wizards, more pirates, ancient mages, a pet hedgehog(I LOVE hedgehogs, too bad my dog tends to see them as a late night snack), moss maidens, and TARTS! Need I say more?
It's a middle-grade novel, so lovely for children ages 8-12, but I think it's also very suitable for children who are a bit older than that (the lower end of the YA spectrum basically). I fall into neither one of those categories and also loved it, so let's just say that if you're into Fantasy and cool children's novels, you're good with this one.
While reading, I soon noticed there were some Dutch names (starting with a town called Zeewal) in the book but had no idea if this was intentional. After reading that Master Bouts' wife was called Janneke and the cat's name is Kaatje, I knew this couldn't be a coincidence anymore. So I googled if Diane Zahler was secretly Dutch as well. Which wasn't the case! She was just inspired by countries she visited while writing her books. Seeing as it wasn't just the names (Aradyn is a tulip country, threatened to be swallowed by the sea if there aren't enough reinforcements to prevent that from happening; Zeewal literally means sea shore in Dutch), I'm pretty sure she was inspired by The Netherlands in this one...
The love for baking truly shines through the entire book: cookies, tarts, custard, cakes, you name it! The King of bakery treats, however, in this book, has to be the Bouts Bun: a special bun recipe made by Master Bouts himself. Everyone who tastes one is completely smitten with it instantly. The stolen bun which started the story also happens to be a Bouts Bun, so you really can't blame Bee for stealing one.
If this review didn't come with a recipe, something would be very wrong here... One of the amazing things about this book is that at the very end, you can find the one and only, original recipe of the Bouts Bun!
After having a bit of parley with Master Bouts and Diane Zahler, I was given permission by both of them to share this recipe
with you guys. I had a lot of fun while making them, but even more while tasting them: they are delicious!An ARC of this book was provided by the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.