Published by Daw Books on November 7th, 2017
Genres: Adult, Urban Fantasy
Sexual Content: References to sex
Reviewed by: James
Daphne "Daffy" Rose Wallace Deschants has an ideal suburban life--three wonderful and talented children; a coffee shop and bakery, owned and run with her best friend; a nearly perfect husband, Gabriel, or "G" to his friends and family. Life could hardly be better.
But G's perfection hides dangerous secrets. When Daffy uncovers evidence of his infidelity, her perfect life seems to be in ruins. On their wedding anniversary, Daffy prepares to confront him, only to be stopped in her tracks when he foils a mugging attempt using wizard-level magic.
Suddenly, Daphne is part of a world she never imagined--where her husband is not a traveling troubleshooter for a software company, but the sheriff of the International Guild of Wizards, and her brilliant children are also budding magicians. Even she herself is not just a great baker and barista--she's actually a kitchen witch. And her discovery of her powers is only just beginnning.
But even the midst of her chaotic new life, another problem is brewing. G's ex-wife, a dangerous witch, has escaped from her magical prison. Revenge-bent and blind, she needs the eyes of her son to restore her sight--the son Daffy has raised as her own since he was a year old. Now Daphne must find a way to harness her new powers and protect her family--or risk losing everything she holds dear.
I hate writing one bat reviews, especially on a book I wanted to like so much, but A SPOONFUL OF MAGIC fell completely flat for me.
What made me pick up the book was the promising of cooking and magic. I’m a baker and I love cooking so that was right up my alley, and it’s different from the usual wand waving magic. I did find the magic system intriguing, everyone has their own specialty and slightly unique way of casting magic. One of the kids is effectively a computer mage, which is a concept I loved. But there is still a lot of wand waving, and while it’s structured like a hard magic system, it really wasn't when the plot needed the characters to be able to do something different.
My main complaint about the magic system deserves a whole paragraph on it’s own. A SPOONFUL OF MAGIC opens with Daphne breaking up with her husband because he’s cheated on her. He waves the cheating away by saying that using magic boosts your sex drive so if he’s away on business he just has to sleep with someone if he expended to much magic. However, Radford waves away that requirement whenever it gets in the way. The biggest time she does that is when she explains that the teenage kids won’t have those urges because … reasons. Seriously? I agree it wouldn’t fit in with the story, part of why I don’t like this aspect of the magic system. But you’re trying to tell me that teens, whose hormones are already off the charts, aren’t going to be affected by magic that boosts your sex drive? I found that hard to believe. If you're going to create a rule for your magic system stick with it or toss it out.
The worst part of the book was the plotting and structure. It took me until about the midpoint to figure out what type of a story A SPOONFUL OF MAGIC is. It’s a coming of age story. Sure, Daphne is married and has kids, but she’s really only just starting to grow up. In fact, Daphne even says at the end of the book that she’s still growing up. Now there’s nothing wrong with coming of age stories. Some of my favorite books are coming of age stories. The problem was that A SPOONFUL OF MAGIC wasn’t structured like a coming of age story. The focus of the plot was on her husband’s ex-wife trying to steal their son’s eyes. For me that plotline didn’t fit with the rest of the story. It felt like Radford thought she needed an action plot to sell A SPOONFUL OF MAGIC as urban fantasy, so she threw in this side plot and made it the main plot. Daphne and her kids would be going about their regular life, then the 1st plot point would show up out of nowhere with her husband and this side plot. Then he’d vanish with the plot until the midpoint. Once again gone until the 2nd plot point. Then even after the 2nd plot point and heading towards the climax, this side plot disappeared, until the actual climactic moment. That's not even touch the huge plot holes in A SPOONFUL OF MAGIC.
I loved the idea of mixing cooking and magic. A SPOONFUL OF MAGIC wasn’t at all the book I was hoping for though. If Daphne had actually kicked her husband to the curb instead of keeping him around, and if the “main” plot about her husband’s crazy ex-wife had been left out there would’ve been an amazing coming of age story here. Instead of all that I was left with a mix of bad plotting, bad story structure, with a fun cast of characters (minus the ex-husband.)