One spunky heroine. A dash of romance. A sprinkle of magic. And one horde of cake-craving zombies. Those are the winning ingredients to K.L. Kincy’s charming and delightful new middle grade novel, Deadly Delicious.
Twelve-year-old Josephine DeLune can’t take the heat this sweltering summer of 1955, and she was out of the kitchen long ago.
An awful cook, she ruins recipes left and right, and she certainly can’t compete with her family’s reputation for extraordinary food. Her daddy’s parents ran one of the best restaurants in all of Paris, but Josephine lives in Paris, Missouri. On her mama’s side, she’s up against a long tradition of sinfully delicious soul food. Rumor has it, her Creole ancestors cooked up some voodoo to make tasty even tastier. Josephine knows the secret ingredient: she comes from a long line of conjure witches with spellbinding culinary skills.
Disenchanted, Josephine works as a carhop at Carl and Earl’s Drive-In. Just plain old hamburgers, hot dogs, and curly fries, nothing magical about them. She’s got bigger fish to fry, though, when a grease fire erupts into a devilish creature who hisses her name with desire. Turns out he’s the Ravenous One, the granddaddy of all voodoo spirits, and he’s hungry for her soul. Josephine thinks he’s got the wrong girl—she’s no witch—but a gorgeous, dangerous night-skinned lady named Shaula sets her straight. Josephine is one of the most powerful witches alive, so overflowing with conjure that her out-of-control cooking simply catches fire.
Josephine would love to laugh this off, but Shaula warns her that she must learn to master her magic before the Ravenous One devours her soul. Spurred into action, Josephine breaks out her grandma’s old conjure cookbook and starts cooking. Nothing grand, just the usual recipes for undying friendship and revenge. But soon Josephine can’t escape the consequences of her conjure. When the people of Paris start turning into zombies with a strange fondness for cake, Josephine looks pretty responsible for their undead reawakening…
I was charmed right away by Kincy’s voice in Deadly Delicious — with a slow drawl inside my head as I read the narrative of young Josephine. I was transported to the South — hearing the cadence and rhythm of people’s speech, feeling the clammy heat, and soaking up the atmosphere. Every time I picked up this book to continue reading, I found myself happily whisked away to Josephine’s world.
The whimsical storyline is also equally enchanting, and it’s fun to see how Kincy has crafted this particular brand of magic — using recipes to conjure spells. A colorful cast of supporting characters add to the magic of Deadly Delicious, and really bring Josephine’s story to life.
At first, I wasn’t 100% sure the romance was necessary to the story — and it certainly takes a backseat to the main plot, and Josephine’s growth as a character. But the blossoms of first love, as Kincy has so lovingly captured them here, add a nice finishing touch — like the frosting to the cake that is the rest of the story. And while younger readers may not connect to this aspect of the story, there’s nothing that will stop them from enjoying Deadly Delicious on the whole.
Deadly Delicious is available now.
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