4 out of 4 stars
Share This Review
Cresella is a most unusual witch. Her skin is a very human shade of pink, not the beautiful green of a typical witch. Her nose has no hook or warts, and her hands are quite smooth and unknarled. This is somewhat embarrassing at the bi-annual Witch’s Assemblies. She also has a most annoying (to the other witches) tendency to be… shudder… kind. Badgered and baited by the other witches for her entire life, when she falls in love with Walter (a human), they are determined to sabotage the relationship in any way they can. When Astrid, Cresella’s life-long frenemy, starts stirring the pot and brings in Cresella’s satyr ex-boyfriend, things really start to get interesting. (Satyr – noun - one of a class of lustful, drunken woodland gods – Mirriam Webster online dictionary). In Helios’ case, the emphasis is on lustful.
Gingerbread Men and Toad’s Wart, by Daniel Kamin, is relatively short, weighing in at only sixty-two pages. Within this brief narrative, Kamin introduces us to the world of the Thicket Beyond – beyond the human world that is. It’s not far. All you need to do is step through the shimmer of the veil, endure a (blessedly) short G-force experience, and you’re there! It is a world of magic, but not quite as we’re used to seeing it. There are witches (for hire – providing guaranteed scares for your heart-stopping pleasure), gingerbread men who really do run away and taunt their pursuers to catch them (very popular at Christmas parties), and rather insolent fairies, among other mythical and supernatural creatures.
Given that the book is not a long one, character development and world-building are somewhat limited. However, the author has ensured that the characters’ personalities are such that they wend their way into the reader’s heart. Of necessity, only the two main characters and one side character (Cresella’s ex-boyfriend) are given backstories. Of the three, we see growth and maturation primarily in Cresella’s case (as the main protagonist). In the course of the book, we watch her go from doubting her very worth as a person to an assured young woman with the means and determination to achieve her dreams and goals. Not bad for only sixty-two pages!
World-building could better be described as scene-building in this book. We are treated to tantalizing glimpses of the whole of the Thicket Beyond, but the areas best illuminated are scenes where the most action takes place. Walter’s home, where Cresella feels the first butterflies of burgeoning love for him, is a good example of this. Even then, details are largely left to the reader’s imagination guided by clues in the narrative.
Racial discrimination is the central theme of this book, though it has been woven into the narrative in such a way that it seamlessly blends with the story. The denizens of the Thicket Beyond, especially Cresella’s fellow witches, find a witch/human relationship highly undesirable and destined to fail. At first, even Cresella does not believe it could possibly work. Walter’s human friends also look askance at their relationship. It is a bias that must be overcome, at least between the two of them, if their bond with each other is to grow.
It is rare for me to award full stars to a book, but Gingerbread Men and Toad’s Wart has easily achieved it. There is not a single thing I disliked about this book. It was written with an eye towards relatable main characters and eliciting emotion for them from the reader (of course, depending on the character, that may involve admiration, fondness, exasperation, disdain, or even disgust ). Engagement with the characters is one of my favorite things to discover in the books I read. The book has been expertly edited. Stunningly, I found only a single error in its pages. Therefore, I happily award Gingerbread Men and Toad’s Wart 4 out of 4 stars. Should you have the pleasure of visiting the Thicket Beyond, I should warn you to be careful of the abominable snowmen. They can be quite aggressive.
Gingerbread Men and Toad's Wart
View: on Bookshelves | on Amazon