A Magic Steeped in Poison by Judy I. Lin is the first book in a new YA fantasy duology set to be published March 29, 2022. The atmosphere in this book lived up to the beautiful cover and despite a somewhat rushed plot, I gave it 4 stars.
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.
This book totally hooked me from the beginning. The magic and the world building is beautiful and vibrant. The history and magic of the tea is so creative and well done. I loved this world and seeing how the magic unfolded.
The plot was interesting and mostly held my attention. I would have preferred more of the competition and a little less on the court politics though. It felt like this book was trying to fit too much in and some of it got rushed. The competition was a great way to explore the bounds of the magic system and it seemed like an afterthought rather than the focus of the book. In the end, I did get more invested in the political piece of the story and do plan to continue to the next book but the middle was just a little rushed.
The characters were ok but this is definitely not a character-driven story. There’s a lot of characters thrown in but most of them are not really explored beyond the surface. Ning was an ok main character but I never felt like I got to know her or saw much character growth. With a dew exceptions, everyone else is really just a name and they fill their piece of the plot but they don’t have much depth.
Overall, I had a lot of fun with this one and it’s atmosphere is amazing. If you’re looking for a plot-driven story with a beautiful magical setting, give this one a try.
*I received an ARC of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.