Feiwel & Friends | 29 March 2022 | 384 pgs
Source: Purchased 

A Magic Steeped in Poison is Judy I. Lin's debut and the first in a duology featuring a fantastical world of shennong-shi (Master of Shennong magic) and the art of tea brewing and magic set in the imperial city of Dàxī. 

Ning has been living in guilt since the death of her mother and her younger sister seriously sick with poison. It isn't her fault actually; who'd have known that the tea bricks are laced with poison? Nonetheless Ning blames herself for her negligence for not detecting it earlier. To save her sister, Shu, from following their mother's fate, Ning leaves her hometown in Su to the imperial city of Dàxī for a competition that would allow her to receive a favor from the princess should she be the winner. 

On her way to the palace, she meets a boy who intrigue and capture her attention at the same time. Little does she know that she'd soon cross path with him again and learn his true identity once she's in the palace. Though winning the competition is Ning's goal, she soon finds herself embroiled in the politics and conspiracies within the palace and all the more with the rise of a revolt led by the General of Kăiláng, who's being exiled and better known as the Banished Prince. Is there a hope for saving her sister now that the kingdom is threatened by the rebellion? 

Ah. I loved this fantasy a lot. I'm a big tea drinker so when I read the blurb and learned that teas play a major part in this story, I knew I've to read it. And I enjoyed the story, too. Ning was a likeable character who's courageous and determined and I loved her fighting spirit and her devotion towards her sister. The tea brewing and the tea concoctions (sounds a little like Traditional Chinese Medicine), together with the various magic cast by the shennong-shi are fun to read, though some of the tasks required for the competition made it so hard to read. But, there's also some heartwarming moments as well, e.g. the friendship between Ning and Lian (fellow participant), and the palace kitchen staff's loyalty and helpfulness when Ning was in danger. 

All in all, I enjoyed this book immensely and I'm glad my book buddy, Lark, shared this reading journey with me (visit Lark's blog for her review). 

Finally, here's my answers to Lark's questions:

1. What are your favorite tea ingredients, and if they had magical properties, what would they be?
One of my favorite tea ingredients would be chrysanthemum flowers and goji berries (with a few rock sugar). They make a refreshing drink and I read that this concoction is a powerful boost to improve our eyes' health and cool our body heat. If they had magical properties, I wish they could eliminate all the cancerous cells in our bodies. 

2. What characters do you hope to see more of in the next book? And which character surprised you most in this book? 
I've a few characters in mind, but the one who stands out amongst the rest is the General of Kăiláng. Considering his exile and the uproar of the rebellion towards the end, there's so little information about him and his appearance was minimal (perhaps in the next book, A Venom Dark and Sweet?) 

As for the character who surprised me most, she's none other than the princess, Ying-Zhen. She gave me the impression that she's a person who guard her feelings well so it's hard to decipher what kind of a person she is. I suppose it's necessary considering her role as a princess and she couldn't wear her heart on her sleeve. 
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6 Responses
  1. Lark Says:

    Great review, Melody! This was a very fun fantasy. And the princess was the character who surprised me the most, too. I'm looking forward to reading the second book with you next month. :D

  2. Melody Says:

    Lark - Thanks, Lark! This was such a fun read and I'm glad we read together. Can't wait for the next book! :D

  3. Greg Says:

    This sounds wonderful, and I love the idea of tea being magical (more than it already is!).

  4. Melody Says:

    Greg - It was a fun and delightful read. I hope you'll give this book a try one day.

  5. Iliana Says:

    Oh Melody I love your answers to Lark's questions! I've gotten a bit more into drinking tea lately. This sounds like a really fun read.

  6. Melody Says:

    Iliana - Thanks, Iliana! This book was so much fun to read; and all the more reading it with Lark. :)

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