The Book of Perilous Dishes by Doina Ruști

Our story begins at the crack of dawn with fourteen-year-old Pâtca, who is herself descended from an ancient magical order.

“But what matters is not what you see but what is in your mind.”

I believe all books harbor magic in their pages—some perhaps more than others. In Doina Ruști’s The Book of Perilous Dishes, I can guarantee you there is enough magic to sate the bellies of a dozen ravenous Phanariots.

Here, the whimsical meets the gastronomic as readers are transported into the colorful yet dangerous world of late-eighteenth-century Bucharest.

Our story begins at the crack of dawn with fourteen-year-old Pâtca, who is herself descended from an ancient magical order. She becomes ensnared in a carefully plotted scheme that will leave a trail of dead bodies, including that of her uncle.

When her family’s recipe book falls into the hands of the princely cook Silica, it sets her on a breathtaking adventure across Romania, France, and Germany.

Good food has always been nothing short of magic to me.

You can imagine how pleased I was to pick up a book about, well…magical food. No less than twenty-one recipes are laid down throughout the story—from potent elixirs that make you vomit out the truth to sweet cakes that can provoke bouts of uncontrollable laughter.

As someone who grew up sniffing my grandmother’s spice collection like a hound in a hunt, I could relate to Pâtca’s attachment to Maxima and the urgency with which she regarded her mission. The same urgency is reflected in the lines that swerved too fast; I was often left trudging behind the smoke of names and long-buried Latin phrases.

The story can sometimes feel too overcrowded, introducing you to words and titles that challenge the curve of sound on your tongue.

The novel was originally written in Romanian and brought into the English by James Christian Brown. With translated works, you never know what you have lost in the transfer of language.

However, they say it is the mark of a good storyteller to take you out of your reality.

And many times throughout the story, it felt as if I had landed smack dab in the congested alleys of Doina Ruști’s Lipscani square. Overall, The Book of Perilous Dishes is well-written and engaging. The narrative voice flows naturally with a seasoned writer’s confidence and skill.

Ruști’s The Book of Perilous Dishes is a delightful blend of history and fantasy that will enthrall readers of all ages. I thoroughly enjoyed my first foray into Romanian lore and am grateful to Neem Tree Press and NetGalley for the early copy.

Briefly Noted

The Book of Perilous Dishes by Doina Ruști

Science Fiction/Fantasy

272 pages

Our story begins at the crack of dawn with fourteen-year-old Pâtca, who is herself descended from an ancient magical order.

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