[Review] A Magic Steeped in Poison by Judy I Lin

3 Things About This Book
| Rich Depictions of Chinese Culture | Tea Magic | Beautiful Imagery |

A Magic Steeped in Poison by Judy I Lin
Series: The Book of Tea, #1
Published: 2022 by Feiwel and Friends
Genre(s): Young Adult, Fantasy
Book Depository

Filled with beautiful imagery and rich depictions of Chinese culture, A Magic Steeped in Poison is the first book in a duology featuring a girl named Ning who can perform magical feats using tea, desperately trying to save her dying sister whom she accidentally poisoned along with their mother. In an attempt to achieve this goal, Ning heads over to the imperial palace to compete in a competition where the winner is allowed one favour from the princess. However, things don’t go smoothly for her because of saboteurs and issues brought forth by her lack of awareness, knowledge and social status.

Despite all the aforementioned problems normally being what I enjoy reading about, I found myself feeling very lukewarm toward the book. Although reading A Magic Steeped in Poison was a practice in holding back my hunger and refraining from being tempted by the many delicious descriptions of tea and food, it also was boring because it took a long time for the interesting and crucial parts to develop. The pacing was really off because on one hand, we have a dying sister but then on the other, there’s this competition that’s taking weeks to progress and a lot of other events taking the tension and anxiety away from that sister’s impending death. Honestly, it felt like the story kicked off at the first page but only truly continued in the last few chapters. Everything else in between had filler vibes.

The romance also felt out of place as I thought it was too much for Ning to fall in insta-love with a stranger (attributing their strong attraction to the powers of the magical tea they drank together is questionable too) while her sister is dying. Like, girl, did you not run away from home just so you can try your best to win a favour from a princess to save your sister who’s on her deathbed and only able to hang on because of the experimental antidotes she ingests? FOCUS, please!

Other than that, I’m disappointed by the flat characters. There’s been a lot of care placed on the tea, the food and the culture but not enough of the same care was given to developing the characters into more complex ones. Sure, there were some internal struggles Ning had but they were too little and came too late. Nevertheless, I’m optimistic that it’ll get better in the sequel as there won’t be a competition limiting anything.

All in all, A Magic Steeped in Poison wasn’t a bad read, but it wasn’t entirely good either. I look forward to how everything develops further in the second book, though I’m not going to have high hopes—just in case.



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