Book Review: Deadly Sweet (The Spellwork Syndicate #1) by Lola Dodge

Rating: 5 Stars

Expected publication: January 16th 2018 by Ink Monster, LLC
Summary: Anise Wise loves three things: baking, potion making, and reading her spell books in blissful silence. She might not be the most powerful witch in the suburbs, but enchantment is a rare skill, and her ability to bake with magic is even rarer. Unfortunately, witches have a bad rep, and Anise’s dream of attending pastry school crumbles with each rejection letter.

Then her great aunt Agatha pops out of the woodwork with a sweet offer. If she signs on as Agatha’s apprentice, Anise can have all the training and ingredients she’s ever imagined, and she’ll inherit the family bakery.

The catch? Studying with Agatha means moving to Sedona—a dangerous otherworldly power center where her aunt is a key player in the magical community’s shady dealings. And the last apprentice? Assassinated.

Now Anise is next on the hit list. If she can’t find and stop whoever wants her dead, she’ll be more toasted than a crème brulee.

Who knew baking cakes could be so life or death?
(from Goodreads)

Review: I have a really hard time rating anything that makes me immediately go looking for the next book (and yelling “NOOOOO!” like I just found out Darth Vader is my dad when I find out it doesn’t come out for almost a year) as anything less than 5 stars. So BAM! 5 stars!

I really enjoyed Deadly Sweet. There is an element of romance but I have a hard time calling it a YA Romance. There’s an element of fantasy (witches and magic and familiars) but I have a hard time calling it YA Fantasy. Actually, the main character (Anise Wise) is early college age, so I have a hard time calling it YA (but I don’t think it’s NA because that seems to be YA with sex scenes…) The only thing I don’t have a hard time calling this book is AWESOME.

The Goodreads blurb on this book is horrible. Anise is a witch with a talent for baking enchantments in a world where witches exist but aren’t terribly common or accepted. I kept thinking of witches kind of like cosplayers while reading this book. If you see someone in full cosplay randomly in public (in your school, working at the bakery at your local grocery store) they’re super out of place and they definitely get the side eye. But there are places (ok, conventions mostly, but humor me) where there are LOTS of cosplayers gathered together, and then it’s just par for the course. Non-cosplayers still tend to gawk a bit, take photos and things, but there is a community of like-minded people there and you’re way less likely to have some jerkwad come up and start harassing you for the way you’re dressed.

Except cosplayers are witches and can do magic, which may or may not be scary to people, especially when Anise feels cornered and threatened and burns down her county fair.

Basically Anise and her mom move a lot, while Anise pretends to be “normal” and tries to hide that she’s a witch, and when people do find out they move to another town, and Anise starts over at the bottom of the totem pole decorating cakes at the local Grocery-Mart bakery. Oh, and gets repeatedly rejected from community college baking programs because they don’t accept witches.

The blurb says Anise loves baking and potion making, but what she actually loves is baking enchantments into her pastries. (There aren’t really any potions involved… but there is magic infused vanilla!) It’s cute how she adds a pinch of anise to her bakes as her sort of signature. Anyway, after she accidentally burns down the county fair, Anise’s great aunt Agatha finally answers an email Anise wrote her a year ago begging for an apprenticeship in her magical bakeshop (creatively called “Agatha’s Bakeshop”). Little does Anise know, Agatha’s Bakeshop in Taos is located on what is known as a vortex, a super magically charged area around which whole communities of witches spring up.

Suddenly Anise goes from having to hide what she is and fly under the radar as much as possible, to living in a community full of other witches. She starts making some of her first ever real friends, meets people who have known her family for generations, and learns there are all sorts of things about the witchy world she had no clue about. Including the mystery of what happened to Agatha’s last apprentice, Hayley. (Seriously, they need to rewrite this blurb. She moved to Taos, not Sedona; Agatha is part of the Spellwork Syndicate, 13 matriarchs who keep the town safe and are not shady at all; Agatha’s last apprentice is missing, not assassinated…)

I enjoyed the world building in this series, and appreciate how witches have particular areas of magic in which they excel, like Anise is good with kitchen witchery, Blair’s family runs towards necromancy, Paula has a healing/cleansing magic that is apparently very herbal based, etc. I love Agatha’s familiar, Fondant, and need to know more about her. I love Anise’s Shield, Wynn, and need to know so many things about him, like where is he from? what does his contract involve? why does he sleep so much? The budding friendship between Anise and the daughters of her mom’s old friends is great. OH! I need to know all the things about Anise’s mom’s past! What happened there? I’m really hoping these answers will be in the next book.


This book does NOT end on a cliff hanger, and could be read as a stand alone, but it definitely left me wanting more and I can’t wait to see what develops for Anise in the second book, Sugar Spells.

*I received a free copy of this book from NetGalley and the publisher in exchange for my honest review.

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