A Magic Steeped in Poison by Judy I. Lin
Series: The Book of Tea #1
Expected publication: March 29th 2022 by Feiwel and Friends
Age Range: Young Adult
Representation: Chinese cast
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.
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Thank you to TBR and Beyond Tour for choosing me as one of the participants in the #AMagicSteepedinPoison tour. I received an ARC in exchange for an honest review. If you’re interested in the other tour stops, check out the schedule!
The world of shénnóng is filled with elegance and danger. Fundamentally, a shénnóng-shī is proficient in making and presenting the tea. Top shénnóng-shī would be able to brew tea that affects emotions and divine the future.
Before traversing to the palace, Ning was a physician apprentice to her father while her sister trained to be a shénnóng-shī like their mother. After drinking poisoned tea, Ning’s mother passed away while Shu is on the verge of passing. Ning traveled to answer the Imperial Decree by Princess Li Ying-Zhen under the guise that she’s an actual shénnóng-tú.
“Life has a way of taking the wind out of our dreams sometimes.”
Ning’s sole purpose in joining this competition is to find a cure to the poisoning of the tea that is slowly killing her sister. A simple girl embroiled in court politics and schemings is just not for her. However, Ning showed that she has magical abilities when it comes to shénnóng. The knowledge that she gained from her mother came into use.
Most of A Magic Steeped in Poison is in the palace where the competition takes place. Judy I. Lin wonderfully captured the dangers hidden underneath the facade of the gilded palace. There was always someone trying to stir things up. The author infused Asian mythology, adding another layer of magic and charm. Moreover, the use of tea leaves and their properties were incredibly fascinating. Tea and its art have a role in Asian history that isn’t extremely explored in books, as far as I know. A Magic Steeped in Poison provided freshness and classiness.
Although the situation in the palace becomes increasingly threatening, Ning befriended good people such as Lian, a fellow competitor, and the kitchen staff. They brought a sense of normalcy in Ning’s life while trying her best to not fall into the traps of court politics. During her stay at the palace, Ning also met a boy named Bo. His background is mysterious and complex, but Ning’s heart was shaken by the boy.
“I was just a boy who met a girl in the market one spring afternoon and wanted to spend time with her.”
Without hesitation, A Magic Steeped in Poison was an incredible debut. Ning was a capable young woman who just want to save her sister from the poison that took away their mother. The magic of the tea itself felt original. Adding in the dangerous atmosphere of the palace and the scheming that comes with it, there was no knowing what might happen to Ning.
I’m excited for A Venom Dark and Sweet. It’s a blessing that we are getting the conclusion within the same year.
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