A Mixture of Mischief (Love Sugar Magic #3) by Anna Meriano.
Walden Pond Press, HarperCollins, New York, 2020.
MG fantasy, 292 pages.
Lexile: not yet leveled
AR Level: 5.4 (worth 8.0 points) .
NOTE: This review will contain spoilers for the previous books.
A mysterious new shop is opening that copies the menu as Leo’s family bakery, her friends are all gaga over her slightly older cousin, and her estranged paternal grandfather is trying to contact her. Meanwhile Leo is desperate to prove herself as both a baker and a bruja who can stand on equal ground with her older sisters. Can she figure out her birth order magic and master recipes for sugar and magic without whipping up a bunch of new troubles? Only with a heap of love from her family and friends, of course!
I wish this had been a quartet. While I enjoyed this final installment in the Love Sugar Magic trilogy, there were a few differences. The first two books didn’t exactly center on holidays but each included a specific celebration: Dia de los Muertos and Dia de los Reyes. This one encompassed Easter, but the celebrations around it were barely touched on.
The other, more critical concern was that there was simply too much plot crammed into the story. There is the storyline with Leo’s cousin and her friends, the new pastry shop threatening to take over Amor y Azucar’s business, Leo trying to figure out her birth order power, and the reappearance of her mysterious paternal grandfather. Those are just the major ones, as we also have several smaller stories with various minor characters.
I had read other reviews stating that the first few books moved too slowly (which didn’t bother me) and wonder if that’s why Meriano changed it up so much for this story. It was odd writing about how this should have been two books, and then noticing that it was shorter than the previous books. The book wasn’t overwritten, it just seemed like the plot was too much – Leo barely got a moment to breathe!
We do have some development with Leo’s oldest sisters that I’d hoped Meriano was building towards since the first book. I greatly appreciated throughout this series how all the girls are developed as their own people and the balance between family and personal needs is carefully maintained. Often this can tip into either individualism or collective good swallowing the needs of one family member, which has been explored in some YA fiction, but for middle grade readers I think more healthy examples are needed.
At points her parents also make mistakes and admit that, a crucial bit of modeling for young readers. Her mother, having spent her life in secrecy about her magic, is starting to be more forthcoming with the rest of the family. Her father makes an unintentionally sexist assumption and is beautifully called out and acknowledges the impact of his statement.
The book is worth reading for those alone, but there’s also some great magical developments. We finally get a fuller understanding of Leo’s magic, and something else hinted at but never fully explored in previous books is discussed. New-to-Leo forms of magic become a major part of the plot, and there’s one in particular I wish had been explored further, although I understand why it was kept brief.
This reached a reasonable stopping point, and I think most young readers will be so thrilled with Leo’s new adventures that they won’t be upset about the faster pace (although they might wish for more books in the series). Trilogies are popular and I can see that the adventures were reaching a natural conclusion. Although I think this story would have worked better spread out across two volumes, I’d still recommend this series. In particular, these are a great next step for kids moving on from the Dragons in a Bag series.