A Witch's Kitchen

by Dianna Sanchez

Reviewed by Scott T. Barnes

Fantasy has a fine tradition of humorous literature. Among the giants of the field, Robert Aspirin, Terry Pratchet and Craig Shaw Gardner come immediately to mind. There is something about the fantasy genre that lends itself to farce, satire, parody, joke-telling, in fact, all types and blends of humor--perhaps because of the stereotypical characters, perhaps the black-and-white of many of the plots, perhaps the fact that anything at all is possible. 

A Witch's Kitchen by Dianna Sanchez is a worthy addition to the cannon. I would like to note, with more than a touch of pride, that you all know Dianna Sanchez by the name of Jenise Aminoff, as she is a past editor of New Myths. (See Issue 29.) 

The plot revolves around Ludmilla's (Millie's) attempts to find herself. Poor Millie just isn't cutting it as a witch. While her cooking is to die for, her potions might actually get someone killed. Her mother, witch-extraordinaire Bogdana, has does her best to guide her in the right direction, but Millie's imagination keeps zinging back to food and her concoctions go awry. (A terrible curse turning into delicious chocolate, for example.) She hasn't even earned her witch's hat.

Everyone has given up hope on Millie, everyone from her mother to Millie herself. 

Cooking is the one thing I'm good at, Millie pines to herself. Why can't I just do that?

But lo, in a meeting with the powerful Baba Luci, the Baba offers to send Millie as the witch's representative to the Enchanted Forest School as a sort of goodwill gesture to the Enchanted Forest Council. To the skepticism of most and the derision of a few, Millie accepts the assignment.

Enchanted Forest School (EFS) has denizens from virtually all the forest people—goblins, pixies, fairies, gnomes, imps… It's basically the fantasy version of the Chalmun's Cantina from Star Wars.

While we have seen the hodgepodge of otherworldly creature settings plenty of times before, Enchanted Forest School offers up some deliciously funny surprises. For example, the School itself is a sentient tree. 

The first couple of chapters in EFS recall a humorous version of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, though I'm not sure whether this borrows from that or much older literature. Youths going to school to learn to use magic has a long tradition, it's just that Harry Potter made readers more universally aware of the tradition nowadays. So the basic premise won't win points for originality, but the strength here is on the author's interpretation of the trope. I for one was very fond of it.

A Witch's Kitchen chronicles Millie's adventures trying to discover who she really is and what her various skills can add up to. Along the way we get lots of humor, some adventure, some danger, and a nice peek into ourselves and what we may be missing that is right under our noses.

It's hard to review a humorous book in a basically humorless review, but take my word for it, this will give you plenty of laughs and some intellectual manna to chew on as well. I for one really enjoyed A Witch's Kitchen and I think you will too.