You may remember that back in December, I wrote two posts containing my most anticipated books for early in 2022. One of the books on the fantasy list was A Magic Steeped in Poison. It’s a book with a stunning cover, and the US release of the sequel is released in August. So there won’t be a very long wait. Back then, I also said I didn’t know if this book would have a UK release date, and I can now confirm it has. It’ll be released in paperback in the UK in September! So that means that more of you will be able to enjoy this book this year.
I was lucky enough to receive an e-arc of this through NetGalley. I’m so glad that I’ve had the chance to read this because now I can wax lyrical about this story in the hopes you’ll go out and buy the book! Okay, maybe not all that lyrical, but this was a book that I am very excited about.
A Magic Steeped in Poison follows Ning. Ever since her mother died and her sister got sick due to a poison in the tea that Ning served them, she’s hated her hands. Yet her hands are the very thing that could save her sister. When they receive a letter inviting their mother’s apprentice to enter a competition to become the court Shennong-shi — a magic practitioner whose spells are enacted through tea — Ning knows she has to enter and win in the hope of winning a wish from the princess. With that wish, she could get the medical help that her sister needs. Within the walls of the court, Ning winds up tangled up within magic and intrigue both, and her attraction to a boy she meets at the market may cause her more trouble than she’d have ever expected.
This book was so much fun. At the time of reading this book, I wasn’t really in the mood for fantasy or sci-fi. I’d put a few books down as I just wanted to read some chick-lit or romance. No matter what I was in the mood for, I knew I had to read this first, and I was worried that it would tarnish my reading experience of this book. That I wouldn’t like it as much as the right book, wrong time. Fortunately, that was not the case. My lack of focus didn’t come into play, and I easily read this in two days. Considering every other fantasy book I’d read recently I’d dragged out…this was pretty amazing.
I liked Ning as the main character. She was kind, and she was determined. When it came to dangerous situations like chasing the feared Shadow, she was okay with throwing herself at them to stop them. On multiple occasions. She wasn’t a quiet wallflower, even if that was what was expected of her. That said, she wasn’t too brash either. Within the tea ceremonies and the intrigue she’s pulled into, you see that she’s thoughtful and does want to listen to her heart. She just knows it’s not always the best choice and tries to remind herself of that. Her heart being so big did lead to her getting hurt, but I’m curious to see where that will take the second book.
The magic system in this book was one that I found fascinating. I hadn’t really heard of the idea of tea magic. Though thinking about it, I feel like it’s something that witches use. Just perhaps not in the same way. I don’t know much about Chinese or Taiwanese mythology, so I don’t know how much is prevalent in the book. Though I did read that Shennong was a Chinese emperor who wound up being referred to as the Medicine King, due to the fact he introduced a lot of herbal medicine. I like the way that Lin transformed that in her fantasy world.
If you hate cliffhangers, then be warned this book has one. I’m so glad that the sequel comes out so soon, as, after that ending, I don’t want to wait to see what happens. Poor Ning. The cliffhanger did work well though. So much of this book focuses on Ning wanting to help her sister, and what happens at the ending could lead to several possible endings for that arc. I’m curious as to where Lin has taken it, and I can’t wait to read more.
There are a few things I want to warn you about though. Nothing particularly major, but I know some things could upset people. There is a scene where a man grabs Ning when she’s dressed as a servant, and it’s suggested that he could possibly rape her. But nothing explicit happens or is said. There is also a challenge that focuses on animal harm. They have to try to poison then heal a bird. There is no animal death, but I know it’s something that upset me a little and could upset others.
Overall though, it was a great book. A fresh fantasy tale that I hope all will enjoy as much as I did.
Title: A Magic Steeped In Poison
Author: Judy I. Lin
Age Range: Young Adult
Publisher: Feiwel and Friends (US) | Titan Books (UK)
Release Date: 29/3/22 (US) | 6/9/22 (UK)