Review of A Magic Steeped in Poison by Judy I. Lin

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.

Firstly i was totally drawn in by the cover of this book, such beautiful colours and it totally makes it stand out in the crowd! A Magic Steeped in Poison is such a wonderful book, with so much going on, i do enjoy a competition in books and pretty much all of the trials that Ning undertakes are beset with either danger or fiendish complexity, not to mention a heavy dose of sabotage. 

I adored the magic system and the way the wielding of tea was visualised, different teas displaying different traits and weaving a subtle and wonderful thread through the story. The tea trials may sound like they might not be very exciting but the way that they are incorporated in such an all encompassing way is fantastic, i especially enjoyed how Ning’s magic allowed her to transcend to a different level as she combined both her mother and father’s skills.

The underlying pace is subtly relentless with not only the race against time for Ning to save her sister but also to complete the trials before the all the pieces come together and there are many things that are all at play at the same time. One of my favourite things though was the sense of camaraderie and companionship, and how Ning learns more of her history as she talks to those in the palace and explores the grounds and the city beyond. Her uncanny ability to turn around being in the wrong place in the wrong time to her unwitting favour is fantastic and leads her down some very interesting paths.

If you love unique magic systems with a dash of historical fantasy and that keeps you on your toes then you will adore this book!

Thank you to Titan Books for sending me a copy to review

Review of a Taste of Gold and Iron by Alexandra Rowland

A Taste of Gold and Iron is a very introspective book, we follow prince Kadou as he seems to almost bumble at times though his life and duty, we discover very early on that he suffers greatly with anxiety and I thought that was written in a sensitive way and as an anxiety sufferer myself I had a lot of understanding in the situations he was in. When I first picked it up i was flying through the pages convinced that this was going be a five star read but whilst i liked that we spent a lot of time with Kadou initially, by about half way through i was starting to get tired by the lack of plot progression, by that point i realised that this was more of a character piece than a plot driven one and when I readjusted my expectations from the story i was able to get back into the flow. 

A Taste of Gold and Iron is at its heart a romance book and palace life is secondary to that, so do keep that in mind if you, like me , were expecting an epic fantasy. The burgeoning relations between Kadou and Evemer are sensitively written given its shaky start and Evemers preconceptions about Kadou. The story does start in tragedy worn by a relationship that should not have become as close as it had and even if i felt it could have been condensed, its only right that Evemer took as long as he did to reach that point. We have tropes for days, with miscommunication, enemies to lovers, forbidden romance, one bed, honestly if you’re a romance fan there is a whole lot for you to love in these pages. 

When the action gets going it is fast paced and the time spent getting to know the characters really gripped you in their sense of peril, one of my absolute favourite scenes is with Kadou and Evemer who have to think quickly to create a ruse, it is just wonderfully done and its continued effect on the rest of the story really helped pull it back round for me, how two pins of metal could make my heart burst as much as it did is quite the achievement. The worldbuilding when you get it is wonderful, a really rich environment is woven in the pages. The description of the palace and the clothing really pulled me and I could picture it all perfectly.

In the end, i did really enjoy this book, even though it wasn’t quite what i was expecting it to be, I really bonded with the characters and liked the way it played out, if the romance had been more balanced with the political plot it would easily have been a 5 star read for me.

Review of Lightfall by MA Phipps and Rebecca Jaycox

Lightfall is a YA paranormal romance, with a hint of dark academia and a bit of mystery. Now I usually shy away from romance and paranormal romance particularly as there is usually lots of “claiming” going on, but actually the romance element of Lightfall is pretty low down on it’s list of priorities.

The story is told in alternating chapters between naive Light, Luna, as she takes her first wobbly steps in the Alexandria Academy and bad boy Dark, Caleb, attending the Academy on an exchange programme. Caleb has an agenda, and when Luna’s powers are not quite what they seem the two team up to reach a common goal. The Academy is elitist and it’s easy to understand how lost Luna feels especially when her first ally, Alaric, leaves on other business, she doesn’t get support from either students or staff, leaving her open to suggestion from a mysterious voice. I really did feel for Luna, as she has become broken by the mortal world and then she is just dropped into the thick of it being told she is nephilim and that actually there’s a whole other world hidden away that she’s part of. Caleb doesn’t fall into the trope that he could have become, actually standing out as by far the most reasonable person there. I found that he handled the conflict between his agenda and wanting to be there for Luna really well, they have the perfect burgeoning relationship which is being solidly built on honesty, and communication plays a vital part in getting them over any hurdles they reach. Normalising healthy and positive relationships is one of my number one priorities when it comes to romance in YA and I am so happy that this is the route taken in Lightfall.

I really enjoyed the discovery element of this story, the mystery surrounding Caleb’s task and the voice that Luna hears is really well done and exciting to read, it was easy to fly through the pages to find out what came next and it certainly left me ready to read more. I also do enjoy a creative spin on “releasing a breath they didn’t know they were holding”!

On the flip side, for me it took a few chapters to settle into its stride, maybe it was a case of just wanting to get from A to B quickly to move the story to where it needed to be but it didn’t immediately pull me in which was a shame as once I was in sync with it I couldn’t put it down. The story did feel a little flowery at times and some unusual word choices did pull me out of the world which was a shame but then that’s probably just a me problem.

Overall I was pleasantly surprised with Lightfall and it goes to show that sometimes an out of comfort zone read can be a good thing and i’m excited to see where these characters head next.


Lightfall is out on 6th September and is available for pre-order now