Hello again. I am currently struggling through the last stretch of finals week, but I’m excited to kick off this year’s Taiwanese American Heritage Week, where I celebrate authors of Taiwanese heritage on my blog, with my review for A Magic Steeped in Poison, written by a Taiwanese Canadian author. Thanks to Colored Pages for hosting the blog tour. You can find the rest of the tour stops on their tour launch page.
Title: A Magic Steeped in Poison
Author: Judy I. Lin
Series: The Book of Tea
Publisher: Feiwel and Friends
Publication Date: March 29th, 2022
Genres: Young Adult, fantasy
I used to look at my hands with pride. Now all I can think is, “These are the hands that buried my mother.”
For Ning, the only thing worse than losing her mother is knowing that it’s her own fault. She was the one who unknowingly brewed the poison tea that killed her—the poison tea that now threatens to also take her sister, Shu.
When Ning hears of a competition to find the kingdom’s greatest shénnóng-shī—masters of the ancient and magical art of tea-making—she travels to the imperial city to compete. The winner will receive a favor from the princess, which may be Ning’s only chance to save her sister’s life.
But between the backstabbing competitors, bloody court politics, and a mysterious (and handsome) boy with a shocking secret, Ning might actually be the one in more danger.
A Magic Steeped in Poison was one of my most anticipated releases of 2022, and it definitely delivered everything I wanted and more.
This book was really a treat for me as someone who grew up with Chinese dramas. It was atmospheric and trope-y in all the best ways while also delivering a fresh story with an innovative magic system, written in lush prose that stimulates all the senses.
Ning, the protagonist of A Magic Steeped in Poison, is the kind of person you can’t help but root for. Her family is the center of her world, she’s competent but humble and kind, and she’s always just Trying Her Best. Even as the story is an epic fantasy with a broad political landscape, it’s also a deeply personal coming-of-age story for Ning. Having grown up in a far-flung rural village in the empire of Dàxī, leaving her family behind and traveling to the capital city for the shénnóng-shī competition dumps her into a world much bigger than what she’s used to. There’s the culture shock of moving to a big city but also the stark class disparities between herself and most of her fellow competitors. Her interpersonal interactions in the capital are intertwined with higher political stakes, and she has to decide who to trust, what she values, and where her loyalties lie.
Chief among the people who test her ability to judge others’ character is Kang, a mysterious, handsome, and brooding boy full of secrets. They meet seemingly by chance and then establish a magical bond through a shared brew of tea that brings them into a surprisingly intimate closeness while also giving them reason to question whether the other person is everything they seem to be. There is sweetness and angst, disclosure and mistrust, and the tension between them extends throughout the story.
Another key player in the story who is full of mystery is the regent, Princess Zhen, who is the host of the shénnóng-shī competition. Ning doesn’t know what to make of her but is pulled into her orbit when she gets entangled in the royal court’s lethal power plays. I may have a soft spot for Zhen because of her romance with her bodyguard, Ruyi, but having a sapphic romance among the major supporting characters was a nice surprise. I can’t say too much about the princess without spoiling the story, but I definitely grew more attached to her as the story progressed.
A Magic Steeped in Poison is the first in a duology, and the setup for the second book is definitely there. When I finished the last page I was beside myself clamoring for the sequel and even though the wait is much shorter than usual because book 2 comes out in August of this year, I am cursing the publishing gods for not dropping it into my lap now.
In the second half of my tour stop, I have a book playlist, so stay tuned for that. 🙂
About the Author
Judy Lin was born in Taiwan and moved to Canada when she was eight years old. She grew up with her nose in a book and loved to escape to imaginary worlds. She now divides her time between working as an occupational therapist and creating imaginary worlds of her own. She lives on the Canadian prairies with her husband and daughter.
- Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/19661255.Judy_I_Lin
- Website: http://judyilin.com/
- Instagram: http://www.instagram.com/judyilinauthor