Audiobook Review: A Magic Steeped in Poison (The Book of Tea #1)

Published March 29th 2022

Author: Judy I. Lin

Narrator: Carolyn Kang

Audiobook Length: 11 hours 11 minutes

I used to look at my hands with pride. Now all I can think is, “These are the hands that buried my mother.”

For Ning, the only thing worse than losing her mother is knowing that it’s her own fault. She was the one who unknowingly brewed the poison tea that killed her—the poison tea that now threatens to also take her sister, Shu.

When Ning hears of a competition to find the kingdom’s greatest shennong-shi—masters of the ancient and magical art of tea-making—she travels to the imperial city to compete. The winner will receive a favor from the princess, which may be Ning’s only chance to save her sister’s life.

But between the backstabbing competitors, bloody court politics, and a mysterious (and handsome) boy with a shocking secret, Ning might actually be the one in more danger. 

A Magic Steeped in Poison (#1)
A Venom Dark and Sweet (#2)

A Magic Steeped in Poison is a nice case of the cover made me want to read it. While the subject and genre fall within my preferences, it was the cover that really placed it on my TBR. The idea behind The Book of Tea duology’s magic system is unique as it centers around the art of tea. The story follows Ning, a tea maker and commoner from the Su province, whose mother died from poisonous tea and her sister is suffering from the same fate. To save her sister, Ning enters a royal competition in the imperial city of Jia where the prize is a royal favor.

The setting in weaved in with Chinese history with elements of realism in this fantasy world. Along with the mysteries surrounding the poisoned tea, there is a rising rebellion led by a banished prince. As a character Ning was likable, but there was something about her that just made her feel a little unfinished. During Ning’s time in Jia, she meets Kang. The two of them begin to form a romantic connection. I loved the two characters together, but their story does border on insta-love. They connect quickly and there are some moments where it became a bit much and a distraction. Luckily, this did simmer out a little where the rest of the story could come back to the foreground. Once it balanced out, the different elements went together nicely.

While reading this duology, I am also completing the Blood of Stars duology. These two novels are similar in tone regarding the competitions where the stakes do not seem as dire, but they are still meaningful. The pacing is slower with a build-up to a cliffhanger type ending, so it follows the usual duology style. While this one was a little slower than the usual, it was still enjoyable. Ning makes some interesting connections with multiple characters throughout and I cannot wait to see some of them more fleshed out in the sequel. Kang is mysterious with his own motivations, so it will be interesting to see how everything comes together with his story and the main plot next. Overall, there are many elements to enjoy about this story even though all of it was not perfect for me. I look forward to reading the sequel soon!

4 thoughts on “Audiobook Review: A Magic Steeped in Poison (The Book of Tea #1)

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