A Magic Steeped in Poison and A Venom Dark and Sweet by Judy I. Lin, Can be read in a few days depending on your speed, Young Adult Fantasy
I know they say you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, but I’d be lying if I said that wasn’t the sole reason why I bought the first book in this duology. It was just so darn pretty! Lucky for me, it also turned out to be a really interesting duology!
Set in a world where tea brews magic, we meet Ning. Poisoned bricks of tea are making their way through the country and, unfortunately, some of that tea killed her mother and is threatening to kill her sister. Left with little choice, Ning takes her sister’s place in the kingdom’s shennong-shi (tea masters) competition. She hopes that by winning the competition, she can ask the Princess for help in finding the cure in time to save her sister and, maybe, save the kingdom, too. Before she knows it, Ning is drawn into a world of political intrigue, family fights, and long-lost secrets.
The Book of Tea duology is a beautifully written two-book series. Lin does an amazing job describing how the teas are brewed, what the brew does, and how the tea master manipulates the magic to meet their needs/ends. It was a world I could not only imagine, but really wanted to be a part of! As a tea lover, the idea of tea being used to fight battles, heal illnesses, distract enemies, and a slew of other feats was so fascinating and I’m a little jealous we can’t use tea like that in our world.
The political intrigue and family drama meshed well with Ning’s personal story and helped raise the stakes of the plot. I was really drawn into how the history of the shennong-shi and kingdom as a whole impacted the present day issues and impacted Ning’s own journey. There is also a lot of fantastic women supporting women moments that really added to our understanding of the characters.
I’m a little sad it’s only a two-book series, but I also found the ending really satisfying. And hopefully you will, too.