Published by Feiwel and Friends on March 29, 2022
Genres: Fantasy & Magic, Young Adult
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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.
I have to admit that I bought A Magic Steeped in Poison for its beautiful cover but its synopsis also had me thoroughly intrigued. I ended up pre-ordering it and got a bunch of beautiful pre-order goodies from the author.
A Magic Steeped in Poison is for all of the tea drinkers out there. It’s a book based on Chinese mythology and the traditional art of tea-making, and beautifully weaves in magical elements for a spellbinding story. The novel follows main character, Ning, the daughter of a Shennong-shi (master of the magical art of tea-making), who is seeking to find an antidote to save her sister who has been poisoned by tea that has already killed their mother. In order to find a cure for her sister, Ning travels to the palace to enter a competition searching for the next royal shennong-shi… where she learns that things aren’t really what they seem.
I absolutely loved the concept of this novel and the magic and craft behind brewing tea. The author really brought to life the concept with her beautiful and lyrical prose. I found myself really immersed in all of the magical abilities that different tea leaves and ingredients held and what all of the shennong-tus (apprentices) could do. I almost wished that there was a little bit more of the magic system explored in this novel, but I’m very keen to see what the second book in this duology brings in terms of expanding the world and magic system.
I also absolutely loved the political intrigue in this novel. It’s been a little while since I’ve read YA fantasy and it just brought me back to the feelings I had while reading The Winners Trilogy. I loved the complex interplay between the different characters and I love that we’re still only starting to find out where everyone’s loyalty and intentions lie. I think that there were a few small plot holes in the novel that had me scratching my head slightly, so I wish that the book had been slightly longer so that some of these plot points could be fleshed out further. But I’m really excited to get my hands on the next book, which seems to be releasing in a few months!!
The romance in the book piqued my interest and I’m sure that it’ll be explored further in the next book. But what stood out to me were the female friendships and relationships, and how strong they were. From Ning’s bond with her late mother and dying sister, to Princess Zhen’s relationship and bond with her bodyguard Ruyi, I was invested in all of these relationships.
I’m so extremely excited about this fantasy duology that is steeped in Chinese mythology and history. I devoured the novel in one day and I’m extremely excited to get my hands on the second part of this duology to read more about the tea-based magic system.
Rating: 4 out of 5
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