Spells and Savories—The Magic of 'The Book of Perilous Dishes'

Published 03 Jul 2024
by Anca Antoci

Title: The Book of Perilous Dishes
Author: Doina Rusti
Released: 01.02.2017
Buy from Amazon
3.85 (read)
Our review:
4.50 (read)

The Book of Perilous Dishes by Doina Ruşti was a wonderful surprise and I’ll admit I joined the book tour even before I knew what the book was about, simply because the author is Romanian as am I. I’ll confess, my opinion is biased, but I really loved this book. So I thank the author, Neem Tree Press and The Write Reads for the opportunity to read this gem.

What I loved about it

Setting and World-Building

The vivid descriptions of 18th-century Bucharest transported me back in time. Living in modern Bucharest, I found it fascinating to read about the same city in a completely different era. The author’s detailed portrayal of the streets, markets, and daily life made the setting come alive, filling my senses with the sounds, smells, and sights of the past.

Character Development

The protagonist, Pâtca, is a strong, independent 14-year-old girl whose quest to recover the stolen magical cookbook drives the narrative. Her journey is compelling and full of adventure, as she travels from Romania to France and Germany, uncovering her family’s secrets along the way. Pâtca’s determination and resilience made her a character I could easily root for.

Plot and Themes

The story’s plot is rich with magical elements, historical context, and culinary delights. The stolen cookbook and the charming teenage witch who rightfully owns it create a fantastical yet believable storyline. The book’s exploration of family history, personal growth, and the power of food to bring people together added depth and warmth to the narrative.

Enter a world of princes, sorcerers, merchants, and spirits, yearning for mouth-watering dishes along the way. As you may know, I love food. I share recipes on Medium, featuring delicious dishes, and occasionally brag on Social Media. So don’t be surprised when my favorite quote is about food:

“The life of a cook was his road to happiness. For a dish is not just the nutrients that make the flesh grow, but a mixture of actions and aromas, a totality of time, teaming with life, with all the meetings, passions, and aspirations of a large number of people.”

The imaginative storytelling and world-building paint a vivid image of the adventure, making for a very immersive experience.

What Didn’t Resonate with Me

While I thoroughly enjoyed “The Book of Perilous Dishes,” there were a few elements that didn’t resonate with me as strongly.

Non-Linear Narrative

The story is divided into big chapters with short tales that bounce around a 30-year timeline. Although this approach added a layer of complexity and intrigue, it occasionally disrupted the flow of the narrative. The shifts in perspective and storyline were sometimes jarring, making it harder to stay fully immersed in the plot.


The beginning was a bit slow, but once I got into it, I couldn’t put it down. The recipes in the story made it even better. Overall, I thought this was a fantastic read, perfect for those who enjoy historical fantasy.

Themes and Tropes

Historical Fantasy

The book seamlessly blends history with fantasy, creating a rich tapestry of mythological and historical elements. This genre blend is perfect if you enjoy immersive storytelling set in a different era.

Culinary Magic 

Recipes that can induce sincerity, memory loss, the ability to predict the future, or fits of laughter. The magical cookbook and the detailed descriptions of food and cooking play a central role in the story. Food lovers and those who enjoy culinary adventures in literature will find this aspect particularly appealing.

Family and Self-Discovery

Pâtca’s journey is not only about retrieving a magical book, but also about uncovering her family’s past and understanding her own identity. The narrative seamlessly integrates themes of family, heritage, and personal growth.


“The Book of Perilous Dishes” by Doina Ruști is a captivating read that combines historical fantasy, magical realism, and culinary delights. The book’s rich world-building, compelling characters, and enchanting plot make it a must-read for fans of the genre. The intertwining of mythology, history, and fiction creates a unique and immersive experience that is both entertaining and thought-provoking.

If you enjoy historical fantasy novels with a strong female lead, magical elements, and mouth-watering descriptions of food, I highly recommend “The Book of Perilous Dishes.” It’s a journey through time and across Europe that will leave you craving more.

Our final verdict: