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Literature / A Wizard's Guide to Defensive Baking

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A Wizard's Guide to Defensive Baking is a novel by T. Kingfisher. It won the 2021 Andre Norton Nebula Award for Middle Grade and Young Adult Fiction, as well as the Lodestar Award.

Mona was happy to be an apprentice baker, using her otherwise almost-useless powers to make bread rise and cookies dance. But when an unknown figure starts killing minor magic-workers, Mona is forced to use all her skill to save herself, and her city.


Contains examples of:

  • Adults Are Useless: Played with. The Duchess is aware that things are going badly in her city, but the politics are such that she is scared to try to fix it. Mona eventually decides that the Duchess is probably just not very suited to ruling, since she only got the position by having the right parents. Lord Ethan, meanwhile, is only useless because he's already got his hands full trying to hold off the impending invasion.
  • Big Damn Heroes: When the dough golems begin to flag, Knackering Molly summons every single dead horse in the entire city to drive back the invaders. Even the ones that are just bones. Even the ones that are just dust.
  • Blob Monster: Mona once accidentally brought some sourdough starter to life. "Bob" now lives in a bucket in the bakery's basement eating the occasional rat. Mona eventually unleashes it on the invading army.
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  • Cast from Hit Points: Magickers fuel their workings with their own energy. For something small, like a skeletal steed or some gingerbread men, they barely notice it. For something big, it starts as immense physical strain and then slides into this territory. Knackering Molly fuels her army of undead horses with her life-force, making a Heroic Sacrifice so that Mona won't have to do the same thing with her bread golems.
  • Lethal Harmless Powers: Mona starts the novel able to keep pastry from sticking together. By the end, she's defending her city with golems built out of bread dough. Knackering Molly, similarly, can only reanimate dead horses. But there are a lot of dead horses. And the skeleton kicking you to death doesn't care if you hit it with a sword.
  • Mundane Utility: Mona uses her magic for baking. Knackering Molly uses hers to take dead horses away to the knackery (hence the name).
  • Shellshocked Veteran: Knackering Molly was once an army wizard. She won't discuss what happened, but it's the reason she isn't quite right in the head and doesn't trust the government.