A Magic Steeped in Poison by Judy Lin had been one of my most anticipated releases for this year. Partly because of the gorgeous cover, partly because it’s basically a magical competition but mostly because of the tea. As a tea-lover, I was absolutely delighted to hear of a book with magic being carried out using tea and establishing connections with others like wow, what an idea!
And I’m glad to say that the book did not disappoint.
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 shennong-shi—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.
4 Reasons to Read A Magic Steeped in Poison
THE TEA-LICIOUS MAGIC SYSTEM
Hehe, see what I did there? The idea of a magic system being carried out through the medium of tea is absolutely fascinating to me. The art of shennong is carried out by shennong-shis and shennong-tus as they make different kinds of tea to connect with others in order to heal them, grant them different abilities, alter reality, and so on. You name it and it can be done. I just found the whole art of tea-making and the descriptions so fascinating! Different ingredients and different combinations led to different results. And the idea of connecting with other people at a soul level and being able to work magic there was so beautiful and very well executed by the author.
THE LYRICAL AND BREATHTAKING DESCRIPTIONS
I’m not usually one for flowery language but A Magic Steeped in Poison did it so well. Mind you, not everything is written lyrically but the descriptions of the palace, the cities and the teas and especially the art of tea-making simply took my breath away. It was prose that I was ready to get lost in, barring for when I reached out for a cup of tea myself. Everything feels enchanting and intriguing and overall the author does a great job of luring the reader into the world.
OUR FEISTY AND BRAVE MC NING
I thoroughly enjoyed reading everything from Ning’s perspective and just seeing her transform from a deer caught in headlights to someone who began to believe in herself and was brave enough to stand up for what she believed in. I could truly understand where Ning came from – her passions and motivations and hence I was rooting for her throughout. The friendships and bonds she formed were well developed as well and I would go ahead and say most of the cast for this book really stole my heart. A special shoutout to the princess’s character which really had me going back and forth (no spoilers, hehe).
THE SHENNONG CONTEST AND A TWISTY PLOT
I’m just a sucker for contests, okay? This one was really engaging and had some usual twists and turns that I anticipated but coupled with the fantasy elements of magic and tea it made for a really entertaining plot. And apart from the contest the rest of the plot was well-paced with some twists and tricks. Nothing that really blew me out of the park but good enough to keep me hooked. I think the author does a great job of creating enough intrigue without leaving the readers confused. Also, I really liked how open the ending was and while it was no cliffhanger I’m eagerly waiting for the next book while sipping on my tea.
Now if you’ve read enough of these sort of review posts that I write you’ll know that I usually stop there but I’ve recently found an urge to also talk about what aspects of a book didn’t work for me. So here’s a brief summary of what I wasn’t a fan of in A Magic Steeped in Poison.
Actually, it’s just one main thing: the insta-love. I won’t say that Ning and Kang’s relationship was forced but they just fell in love kind of within an hour of their first meeting. They shared such intimate moments so quickly and I just couldn’t come to terms with that. Other than that I wish we had a physical description for Ning and Shu so that I could clearly picture them in my head. And I would have loved if we could have focused on a little more of Ning’s life back at home and her relations with her family in the current scenario before shipping her off to Jia. Other than that I greatly enjoyed the book and am so glad that I don’t have to wait for years to read the sequel!
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.
Have you read A Magic Steeped in Poison yet? If yes, what are your thoughts on it?
What are some fantasy books that you love to recommend?
Do you like reading duologies? They are my new favourite and I love that this series is a duology as well!