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Hagen's Curse Review

Hagen's Curse by James Emmi

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

The Heckler family has had a monopoly on the baking of pastries in Hagen for generations. Hans Heckler is content with traditional recipes and feels no need to work on inventing new ones. So when a beekeeper named Anika Everhart creates a pastry to rival the Heckler legacy, Hans must figure out how to destroy her plans or see himself lost to progress.


Historical fiction


In the medieval town of Hagen, there stands the most famous bakery in all of Germany: Heckler Delights. When the reclusive beekeeper Anika Everhart becomes the first person ever to challenge the bakery, shocking the town with an extraordinary new recipe, she is arrested for suspicions of witchcraft. Hans Heckler, the wicked heir to Heckler Delights, has claimed that Anika is a servant of the devil. If she cannot overcome his scheme and prove her innocence, she will lose more than a mere recipe. She will lose her life.


Hagen’s Curse is a historical fiction about the power tradition and legacy holds over us, to the detriment of new ideas. The town is so caught up in the idea of the Heckler line that it is viewed as preposterous for anyone else to be able to bake. Hans is protected by his blood status, and if Anika proves that anyone can hide incredible talent, his control over the town will be taken away.

Hagen has been frozen in the same routine for years due to its unwillingness to change. It’s a relevant parable for groups too wedged in tradition to accept change and progress. This is a quick read which I finished in two sittings. The suspense over whether Hans would succeed kept me coming back to it. I don’t often read historical fiction, but when I do I very often enjoy it. This is one of those cases. I loved the themes. Especially with the ending, it sounded almost like a fairy tale or fable, which fit perfectly. Especially in the latter half, the tension kept ramping up, and I had no idea what the ending would be.

There was one major problem that marred my enjoyment. One of the main characters is named Jonathan and is married to Sara. He is unhappy in his marriage and Sara is a villain of the story. This is all fine, but there’s one part where it says his wife begrudgingly “submits” to having sex with him all the time. He briefly considers giving her “relief” for one night and then decides against it. Jonathan is actually shocked when his wife moans in pleasure.

Nothing in the narrative gives any indication that pressuring a reluctant person into sex is wrong to do. If anything, we are supposed to sympathize with Jonathan for having a bad sex life. I would sympathize with Jonathan if he wasn’t constantly pressuring his wife into having sex, and if the text hadn’t explicitly referred to the relief she would feel if he didn’t pressure her. That was very gross and uncomfortable to read. It was only a small part and could easily be removed. Had it been removed I would not have felt so uncomfortable with the character of Jonathan.

A complex parable with an interesting exploration of the dangers of blind tradition, marred by an uncomfortable passage on reluctant sex.

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