In a world where fantasy, technology, and high-stakes cooking collide, a young chef fights to keep her restaurant afloat while struggling to preserve her freedom.
Unlike her nemesis at Chef’s Academy, Gregorian “Greg” LaSilvian, 13-year-old Lailu Loganberry did not grow up in a privileged household. Through sheer hard work and determination, Lailu graduates at the top of her class with the special skills to hunt down dangerous, mystical beasts and cook them. Instead of working for a household—the usual route for academy graduates—Lailu chooses to open a restaurant with her mentor, Sullivan Slipshod, serving dishes like kraken hot pot, batyrdactyl meat pie, and basilisk fish with mandrake herb sauce. On opening day, Mr. Boss, a ruthless loan shark, pays her a visit and reveals that Master Slipshod has borrowed money from him. If they can’t pay him back within a year, they’re doomed to work for him forever. As Lailu devises a plan to come up with the money, she finds herself embroiled in a web of intrigue involving the king’s executioner, the elf Mafia, and Mr. Boss and his lackeys. Lang and Bartkowski create an enjoyably fizzy fantasy world, peopling it with diverse humans as well as magical species. Lailu appears to be Asian, while Greg seems to be white. The plot rockets along, the third-person narration peppered by agreeably colloquial dialogue.
Mix a dash of humor with some action and adventure, throw in a couple of cute boys plus a gutsy heroine—this novel is a recipe for success—perfect for Top Chef fans with a penchant for the fantastical. (Fantasy. 9-12)