by Judy I. Lin
Publication: August 23, 2022
Series: The Book of Tea #2
The enthralling conclusion to Judy I. Lin’s Book of Tea duology—A Magic Steeped in Poison and A Venom Dark and Sweet—is sure to enchant fans of Adrienne Young and Leigh Bardugo.
A great evil has come to the kingdom of Dàxi. The Banished Prince has returned to seize power, his rise to the dragon throne aided by the mass poisonings that have kept the people bound in fear and distrust.
Ning, a young but powerful shénnóng-shi—a wielder of magic using the ancient and delicate art of tea-making—has escorted Princess Zhen into exile. Joining them is the princess’ loyal bodyguard, Ruyi, and Ning’s newly healed sister, Shu. Together the four young women travel throughout the kingdom in search of allies to help oust the invaders and take back Zhen’s rightful throne.
But the golden serpent still haunts Ning’s nightmares with visions of war and bloodshed. An evil far more ancient than the petty conflicts of men has awoken, and all the magic in the land may not be enough to stop it from consuming the world…
Content Warning: violence, fight scenes, witnessed torture, death, disturbing events (mutilation, body horror, forced suicide, possession, and fire).
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Judy I. Lin was born in Taiwan and immigrated to Canada with her family at a young age. She grew up with her nose in a book and loved to escape to imaginary worlds. She now works as an occupational therapist, and still spends her nights dreaming up imaginary worlds of her own. She lives on the Canadian prairies with her husband and daughter. A Magic Steeped in Poison is her debut novel.
A Magic Steeped in Poison establishes the magic of teamaking while A Venom Dark and Sweet shifts the focus to the larger story of saving the kingdom. Lin managed to immediately grab my attention and kept me engaged throughout the entire duology. (Yes, I binge-read them and it was worth the wait since the first ends on a cliffhanger.)
If you’re a tea lover, it’s not hard to believe in the magic of tea. Lin creates a world where tea makers wield magic and the future of a kingdom depends on a gifted tea maker. Ning begins the duology as an untrained competitor in a contest to find the empress’s next shennong-shi. She enters the competition under false pretenses to save her sister but uncovers there is more to her sister’s illness than just poisoned bricks of tea. Ning’s belief in herself steadily grows throughout the duology. As someone who always enjoys seeing my characters grow in self-esteem, I was very happy.
The highlight of the duology is Lin’s worldbuilding. I easily immersed myself into this kingdom. While the first book stayed mainly within the palace walls, Ning’s journey in A Venom Dark and Sweet took me to so many places from temples to forests–the bamboo forests were probably my favorite. I loved the histories and folklore of these places that were revealed when Ning found herself in them. It contributed to such a rich world, and I wouldn’t mind returning to it.
While I immensely enjoyed the duology, there lacked a real sense of danger. I was never afraid for the lives of the characters even when faced with life-threatening situations. This might have been due to minimal descriptions in this area. The teas had these wonderful descriptions that allowed me to taste them or drift away. Similarly, I was often able to lose myself in landscapes, but anxiety and fear were never instilled in me even as Ning’s life or the lives of those she cared about hung in the balance. These feelings were not as deftly described.
Overall, this is a duology that I can see myself rereading. I also wouldn’t mind returning to this rich world with a different set of characters.
**Thank you to TBR and Beyond tours for allowing me to be part of the tour. Remember to check out the schedule and visit more posts. Also, thank you to the publisher and author for providing an eARC.**