My rating: 4 of 5 stars
**Thank you to 47North for providing me a digital ARC of this novel via NetGalley for the purposes of review**
Did you ever read a book, where you’re not entirely sure where it’s going, but it’s so hypnotically intriguing that you keep reading anyway? Did you ever read a book that, upon reaching its haunting, and emotional conclusion, you put it down and just let out a breath, unsure of how exactly to articulate what you were feeling in that moment?
That was me and this book.
But if I can say anything for certain, it’s that I’m now 100% a fan of Charlie N. Holmberg. I adored her Paper Magician trilogy when I picked up its first instalment on a whim from Amazon First — it was downright charming, with pleasant, likeable characters, and an interesting magic system. But Magic Bitter, Magic Sweet is absolutely nothing like Paper Magician. It’s dark and twisted, a little bit on the side of creepy, eerie and otherworldly, and absolutely beautiful. Holmberg really has crafted something different — equal parts fairytale and mythology — and it shows the breadth of her storytelling ability, especially given that the story is, ultimately, quite simple. And yet, sometimes, the simplest of stories are not only the most difficult to tell, but the most moving and gripping.
What stands out for me above any of the usual things I look at in a novel — characters, writing, narrative, plot — is how I felt when I finished this novel. I felt like someone had gripped my heart in their hand and started squeezing; even now, almost 24-hours later, I still feel that same sensation when thinking about this book’s climax and denouement. And that tells me Holmberg did something incredible, even if I can’t properly explain what it was.
This is a magical book, bittersweet and beautiful, and I definitely recommend it.