A Sprinkle of Spirits (Love Sugar Magic #2) by Anna Meriano.
Walden Pond Press, HarperCollins, New York, 2019.
MG fantasy, 314 pages.
Lexile: 820L .
AR Level: 5.2 (worth 9.0 points) .
NOTE: This review will contain spoilers for the previous book.
Leo is very excited to learn more about magic, especially her special talent, but she doesn’t want to leave her friends behind. When a magical mystery occurs, of course everyone assumes Leo’s experimenting again – but if she didn’t do this, when who did?
The first book in this series takes place around Dia de los Muertos, and this second one is set around Dia de los Reyes. Both Latinx holidays that involve baking, and are important not only for Leo’s family, but also to the social lives of their small Texas town. I wonder when the next book will be set!
Dia de los Muertos is one of the most well-known Latinx holidays in the USA. White authors have done that holiday before (usually problematically such as Telgemeier’s Ghost) but most don’t step into less-pintrestable holidays. So this series is a great, visible example of why #ownvoices authors matter.
The magic system continues to be complicated compared to some other series but we get to learn a lot more about it this time, and it continues to be internally consistent, which is the first rule of good magic worldbuilding. An 11-year-old puzzling things out on her own with a book in a language she doesn’t know, compared to a young bruja apprenticing in her generational magic family, have very different levels of information access.
Mainly, Leo can ask questions now. She doesn’t always, or sometimes the grown-ups are busy, and at a few points even they don’t know what is going on, but there’s a big difference between being an outsider like she was for most of the last book, and surrounded by family support. However, this marks a big change in her relationship with Catherine. Leo’s best friend has a small family, especially since her mother died of cancer, and views Leo’s large and loving family as a surrogate. While the Logronos happily include her in everything else, she’s not part of the magical training.
Where this gets tricky is the friendships Leo’s been developing with Catherine and other peers. Who can she tell about her magic? Which friends can be trusted when something goes magically awry? And are friends always less important than family? Leo looks critically at all the older examples around her and sees something concerning – they don’t have close friends outside the family. Each person tells her what to do or not do, but she ultimately has to navigate these choices for herself.
Leo develops as a character too. She’s a little more thoughtful, sometimes downright bossy, and Meriano relies heavily on a plotline where one adult is convinces Leo’s a born leader. I still found her annoying, but it continues to be a familiar behavior pattern. Because she was so troublesome in the first book, she’s able to show significant growth in this one, which I expect will continue.
Religion is touched on, although very nominally – mention of attending church services and one of the side characters saying she doesn’t think her mother would want her to do witchcraft. Different characters respond differently, but an appropriate resolution is quickly found. Meriano doesn’t resolve any internal dilemma Leo might have about being a bruja and also Christian, but this could be laying the seeds for more characterization later on.
I’m not sure if this will be a trilogy, quartet, or longer series. One more book is already out. The middle book is always difficult – the setting is laid, but the action can’t quite conclude. By making this more about friendship, personal development, and exploration of the magic system, Meriano covers a lot while still not building to the main action.
On the other hand, the events of this book tie up nicely by the final chapter. Meriano gets around this with a teaser/epilogue peek into the third book. I’m just hoping that she doesn’t include a prophecy or something. Leo’s already special enough to be interesting and normal enough to be relatable.
As an adult and avid fantasy reader, I made guesses that younger readers might not, and Leo did still annoy me at times in this solidly MG series. But an exceptional title for the intended audience. Not many second books are this well done, and the realistic family dynamics and friendships push this book into highly recommended status for me.