Bitter Medicine (2023)

by Mia Tsai
ASIN/ISBN: 9781616963842
Publication: March 14, 2023

**I received a copy of the book through NetGalley. I voluntarily read and reviewed it. All opinions are my own.**

Elle is a Chinese immortal disguised as just another glyph maker while Luc is an elf with secrets of his own. After one of Elle’s glyphs saves him, Luc commissions another from her. As their feelings for each other turn them into more than friends, family loyalty and workplace demands threaten their growing relationship.

What is bitter medicine but something tough to swallow? In much the same way, this is how I felt about the book. I was expecting a contemporary fantasy and looked forward to the conflict that would arise with Luc’s next job being apprehending Elle’s brother. Unfortunately, the quick resolution did not equate to the build-up it received.  Additionally, there was a greater focus on Luc and Elle’s relationship. While I enjoy romantasy, I did not expect the romance to make up a significant part of the book. Ultimately, I was left disappointed. 

Contributing to my disappointment was that the writing lacked a sense of place. I could not fully immerse myself in the world because I was unsure of what I was supposed to “see.” The difficulty in visualizing the many places that appear in the book forced me to consciously resort to my recollections of visiting such places as a Chinese medicine shop rather than being able to make the shift without thinking about it.

Although there were none of the sweeping descriptions I usually enjoy, the overall story (once I got past my disappointment) and the world were both compelling. The gods and myths of different cultures coexisted within the same world. I thought this was particularly clever, and what I liked best about the novel. There is potential for more diverse stories set within this world.

There are nuances to the dialogue that Tsai explains in her Afterword that made me appreciate the writing more. The thoughtfulness about code-switching and having it be reflected was one I appreciated. While I felt disconnected from Elle, I enjoyed her sense of humor and the play on words.

Despite being disappointed, this is a book I liked enough that I will likely give it another reading. With a different set of expectations–concentrating more on Luc and Elle’s relationship and loyalties rather than what I hoped would be the major plotline–I am hopeful that I will discover different things I missed, things that might make me appreciate the book more. I certainly think about it enough to at least give it a second chance.

One response to “Bitter Medicine (2023)”

  1. Oh wow. That’s too bad you didn’t like it as much as you hoped.


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