A Thousand Recipes for Revenge by Beth Cato fantasy book reviewsA Thousand Recipes for Revenge by Beth Cato

A Thousand Recipes for Revenge by Beth Cato fantasy book reviewsSet in a solidly defined second world, Beth Cato’s A Thousand Recipes For Revenge (2023) gives us political intrigue, rising stakes and a bubbling action adventure steeped in a new, culinary magical system.

Adamantine Garland, who goes by Ada, is—or was—a chef, a magical adept who was part of the army of Verdania. When the king of Verdania betrayed her (and others) and disavowed her marriage, Ada deserted, holding a secret close to her heart. Now, after nearly eighteen years of aliases and job-changes, Ada discovers she and her grandmother have been targeted, not only by the king’s men, but by assassins. Ada is forced to go to someone she cannot trust—her mother, who only wants to use Ada’s rare abilities as an “empathic chef” for her own profit.

Meanwhile, at the palace, Princess Solenn, royal daughter of the nation of Braiz, prepares for her arranged marriage to the prince of Verdania. Verdania and another nation, Albion, are itching for war, and Braiz is placed between them. Her small nation must ally with someone if it is to survive, but Solenn already chafes under the sexism of Verdanian customs. At a gala and banquet, Solenn is ambushed—not by assassins or spies, but by her own senses, as her sense of smell and taste sharpen suddenly. This abrupt new skill lets her save Prince Roland from an attempted poisoning, but it fills her with doubt. It means she’s a chef, but no one in the Braiz royal family is one. What does this reveal about her?

Beth Cato

Beth Cato

Cato’s culinary magic is wonderful and the true secret of it, while not exactly a surprise, is well developed. The fixation on tongues could be strange, except this is a story about culinary magic, so it makes perfect sense. A chef can taste or smell “epicuria” or the magical ingredient immediately; one with Ada’s ability of empathy can sense the epicuria another person has ingested, and how it is affecting them. The backstory of fellow soldier who committed a grisly form of cannibalism to enhance his physical prowess is expertly laced into Ada’s current dilemma.

Cato gives the nation of Verdania a French flavor (yes, I did that on purpose), and has some fun along the way, especially with clothing. Men wear skirts on some occasions, and pantsuits are acceptable for women in all kinds of circumstances, as long as they are richly decorated enough.

My favorite part of the book was the description of the five gods, each in charge of a different domain of food. Like the source of epicuria, the genesis of the gods isn’t what it seems at the beginning of the book.

Cato has created a complex story that will clearly range over more than one book. In some places, the story slows down as information is planted for future plot developments, and the resolution to this story—or at least Solenn’s decision—comes up pretty quickly. Even when the story wasn’t moving forward, I was so interested in the magic—and the cooking!—that I wasn’t dissatisfied. The book introduces a wonderful world and an interesting adventure, and rounded characters carry us along.

Published in 2023. A world on the brink of war and a mother and daughter on the run, in a thrilling novel of swashbuckling adventure, culinary magic, and just desserts. Adamantine “Ada” Garland has an empathic connection to food and wine, a magical perception of aromas, flavors, and ingredients. Invaluable property of the royal court, Ada was in service to the Five Gods and to the Gods-ordained rulers of Verdania—until she had enough of injustice and bloodshed and deserted, seeking to chart her own destiny. When mysterious assassins ferret her out after sixteen years in hiding, Ada, now a rogue Chef, and her beloved Grand-mère run for their lives, only to find themselves on a path toward an unexpected ally. A foreign princess in a strange court, Solenn unknowingly shares more with Ada than an epicurean gift. They share blood. With her newfound magical perception, she becomes aware of a plot to kill her fiancé, the prince. It’s part of a ploy by adversarial forces in the rival country of Albion to sow conflict, and Solenn is set up to take the blame. As Ada’s and Solenn’s paths converge, a mother and her long-lost daughter reunite toward a common goal, and against a shadowy enemy from Ada’s past who is out for revenge. But what sacrifices must be made? What hope is there when powerful Gods pick sides in a war simmering to eruption?


  • Marion Deeds

    Marion Deeds, with us since March, 2011, is the author of the fantasy novella ALUMINUM LEAVES. Her short fiction has appeared in the anthologies BEYOND THE STARS, THE WAND THAT ROCKS THE CRADLE, STRANGE CALIFORNIA, and in Podcastle, The Noyo River Review, Daily Science Fiction and Flash Fiction Online. She’s retired from 35 years in county government, and spends some of her free time volunteering at a second-hand bookstore in her home town.

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