Today we’ll discuss The Combat Baker and Automaton Waitress volume 1. Lots of spoilers in this post!
This was a story that turned out quite different from what I originally expected. The fun title and bright cover made me think it would be a comedy slice-of-life of sorts, but it ended up being a much more serious fantasy thriller. It reminded me a lot of Valkyria Chronicles actually. That was also set in a World War-era fantasy Europe, dealt with bigotry, had lots of bread-baking, featured an ancient legend that proved significant to the lead heroine, and involved a magical ore with a similar-sounding name (rezanite in Combat Baker, ragnite in Valkyria Chronicles).
I had mixed feelings for Combat Baker while reading it. Starting with the good–the best thing going for the story I felt were its lead characters, Lud and Sven, both of whom I found interesting and sympathetic. Easy to root for, as I like to say. I enjoyed most of the scenes where they interacted with each other. They are cute.
There were also aspects of the story itself I quite liked–particularly the reveal at the end regarding Daian, the head of the secret weapons division. His big plot essentially hinges on the Sven and Lud romance working out, which is a clever twist on things. I like the concept of dramatic (and presumably negative) repercussions ensuing on a continent-wide scale should the two leads actually become a couple.
Unfortunately I did not care much for other aspects of the story. Subplots with secondary characters felt very by-the-numbers, backstories were mostly told blandly rather than shown, and there were a number of plot holes that bothered me. For a quick example, there’s the scene at the mine I liked for the conflict it created between the two leads in the form of Lud harshly disagreeing with how Sven handled things and then the two each feeling bad about it all. At the same time though, I was perplexed by why Lud never for a moment thought to ask about how in the world Sven was able to effortlessly win an arm wrestling match against the bulky muscled miner. For a while I assumed this meant Lud secretly suspected Sven was special in some way (i.e. a robot), but no, it appears he’s still unaware of this even at the end of the volume.
The novel as a whole was also in need of a lot of editing, I felt. I’m sure it’s partly because editing was my focus in college, but I really wanted to revise quite a bit of the prose in this one. All the grammar, spelling, and punctuation errors gave me the impression it wasn’t properly proofread, which is a shame. The fact this is a digital-only title means it should be possible for the issues to be fixed, so hopefully this will become less of a problem over time. And hopefully subsequent volumes will fare better, because I do want to find out what happens next for Sven and Lud.
Now it’s time for all of you to share your thoughts! Be the first to leave a comment, and I will cry tears of joy, just as Lud did for his first customer.