|Cooking with Ergot
I think I’ve figured out why I love Prieto’s stories so much. It’s because she convinces me so easily that she understands what evil is. Real evil, not just monsters, although sometimes her characters wear that guise. She presents to her readers the kind of evil that ruins everything it touches and most often tries to cloak itself in justifications and lies, and yet, somehow, her protagonists prove over and over again that it doesn’t take superhuman powers to triumph over evil. She makes me believe in love.
Cooking With Ergot is a more humorous story than the After books, but it still holds all the things I love most about Prieto’s writing.
Dominic is a kitchen witch. I really liked the fact that Prieto gave him a style of witchcraft that one might expect to see in a Disney film and then gave him a career on the “Cooking Network” instead. I also liked the fact that he has a great sense of humor, he’s as practical as he is romantic, he’s brave but not stupid, and he doesn’t wait for the Prince to rescue him when he sees the opportunity to rescue himself. And he’s cute. I want to sigh dreamily and stare at him with heart-shaped eyes.
I also liked Carter. Despite the fact that he grew up in what’s obviously a family of utter whackjobs, he still managed to come out of it with only a dark edge to his sense of humor and no burning desire to murder his fellow men. He’s rational and sceptical and grounded in reality, but his mind is open enough to accept it when he’s proven wrong about witchcraft. Oh, and this really showcases Prieto’s deft touch – I never once frowned and thought to myself, “Well, that doesn’t sound right, he shouldn’t react like that.” Despite the fact that Carter is getting his ideas about reality knocked down left, right, and center, his characterization never breaks. His reactions are always perfectly true – not true for almost anyone else, maybe, but true to Carter, which is all that counts.
No wonder Dominic loves him. I would, too. Prieto’s pairings always make so much sense to me.
The villain is Simon, Carter’s cousin. The man’s a lunatic, pure evil. He believes that what he’s doing is right, good, for the benefit of humanity, and all that other crap that true evil likes to tell itself. It doesn’t matter that he’s murdering people, because the people he murders don’t deserve to live. He wants to save the innocent, so he leaves a swathe of destruction in his wake. There’s a certain irony in Simon. He’s almost desperate to force Carter to understand him instead of condemning him, and yet that’s exactly what Simon’s doing to the people he murders – condemning them, not bothering to understand what he’s trying to destroy.
It doesn’t really matter that Dominic is a witch, or that Carter has a deeply-buried ability for witchcraft himself, or that together they have True Love. It doesn’t matter that Simon wouldn’t be able to do what he does if he wasn’t a fictional character. Those things are just spices in the cake. Prieto has a knack for presenting evil as a fact of existence, and love as a goal instead of an unattainable ideal, and she does it all with grace, humor, and a stuffed tiger that has impeccable manners and a British accent. Good God, what’s not to love about this author?
Top said it all, really. We are die-hard fans of Prieto because she has yet to disappoint.
More importantly, Dominic, the witch, has a stuffed tiger with a Peter Cushing accent for a familiar. Did we mention that already? If that didn’t make you want to read the book, there is no hope for you. I’m sorry.
Prieto has such a wonderful writing style: easy but complex, witty yet can get darkly serious incredibly quickly. The darkness is always just around the corner. She always has me on my toes because I’m never sure what comes next. Formulaic writing is not really in her repertoire, even in this short story.
In Cooking with Ergot, Prieto shows off more of her funny side. The recipes included in the book were cute and used really well. The two men in the story are easy-to-like guys who make me smile and want to squish them. Much like the tiger. This isn’t just for the fluffers, though. It’s not a sickening sweetness, but a nice bowl of fruit after dinner.
The only minuses this book has are a few flubs in the editing department; a few missed words or a couple doubled words. Not enough to detract at all from the story, but for once I caught them instead of CW, so I’m going to say it and be smug to her.
In short, fun story to read! I would recommend this book to anyone in need of a light story with a bit of a bite for an undertone. Heck, it was good enough to get us to come out of our cave, wasn’t it? ‘Nuff said.