I liked Baker Thief a lot more than I expected – I struggled to get into it for the first 25%, and I was then surprised by how much I liked the rest.
The beginning wasn’t my favorite. Not only it was slow, which can happen and usually doesn’t bother me, I also really didn’t like the writing. It didn’t flow well, at least at first, and it employed a lot of telling instead of showing, which isn’t my favorite style: it keeps me at arm’s length from the characters.
I don’t know what happened later – if the writing got better or if I just got used to it – but in the second half I didn’t have any problems with it.
The worldbuilding was really interesting, and I would love to know more about it. Baker Thief is set in what I think is a Canada-inspired fantasy city, and the main characters’ language is French. There were a lot of French words, and as someone whose first language is not English, I always love when writers incorporate other languages into the story in a way that isn’t awkward (monolingual English writers are usually really bad at it). Also, so many plot-relevant croissant puns, I loved them.
Baker Thief is set in a queer-normative society, has a mostly queer (if not all-queer) cast, and it’s trans-, ace- and aro-inclusive, which is rare (so many queer books have no trans, aro and ace characters in the main cast, which… wasted potential). Also, there are characters who casually switch pronouns, use neopronouns or singular they, which is really nice to see.
But let’s talk about the reason I read this book in the first place, which is the allosexual aromantic representation (the one thing I always look for in books and only found one other time).
The main characters of this book are Claire/Claude, a genderfluid aromantic baker who is a thief by night, and Adèle, a demisexual woman who is a police officer. Adèle has a crush on Claude-the-baker and is trying to catch Claire-the-thief, which would be the perfect set up for a hate-to-love romance – except this isn’t going to be a romance.
Baker Thief reframes common romance tropes for aromantic characters and non-romantic relationships. It shows how non-romantic bonds and non-romantic love can be just as compelling if one takes the time to develop them. There’s a focus on family and siblings as well, but what makes this book is Adèle’s and Claire’s story – it’s exactly the kind of trope subversion I was here for. I liked how their relationship was developed and I liked them as characters, just as I really liked the portrayal of aromanticism in this story. The part in which Claire mentions how it felt to be in a romantic relationship when you do not feel romantic love, how it almost feels like a lie, like everyone is feeling in a way you never will? Never saw it in a book before.
While I did end up liking the protagonists after the beginning, the characterization of everyone else was lacking, and the main source of conflict – witch discrimination and literal witch hunts – wasn’t always that interesting.
(The cats, however, were great. I ask for more cat scenes.)
But I have to say that this is not exactly my kind of fantasy either, I always prefer morally gray/dark stories to lighter fantasy. If you’re looking for a mostly light fantasy read with no romance and great queer rep, Baker Thief is perfect for you.
My rating: ★★★¾