Beautiful Fantasy Story with a Splash of Magic

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This debut release from Judy I. Lin takes place in a fantasy world with a little bit of magic. In my head, I imagined this story to unfold like a period/historical chinese drama, taking place hundreds of years ago during a time of dynasties and emperors. This book is about a young girl learning to embrace her natural abilities and accept herself for who she is, while navigating a world where social standings and reputation mean everything.

The main character, Ning, was very similar to Rin from the Poppy Wars but felt more mature and realistic. She is the oldest child of her family that feels unloved by society because she doesn’t fit in with the common ideals and standards. Despite this, Ning is an upstanding character that will speak out or stand up for social inequality injustices. She is a brash and unrefined character that feels out of place amongst the upper class but is very relatable.

This story follows Ning in her magical journey to try to save her sister’s life in a royal competition to find the best tea brewer in the country. While learning to embrace her magic and enjoying her time in the luxurious palace, Ning finds herself mixed up in the politics of the royal court while fighting to win the competition. There are quite a few twists and turns that leave you wanting more. Thankfully, the book is a duology with the sequel set to release later this year.

As an Asian American, I really felt that the themes of this story really resonated with me. I was able to relate to the main character and loved the scenes of magic spun by the author. I also enjoyed how the art of tea brewing was really showcased throughout the story and the author highlighted eastern medicinal practices. This book is perfect for you if you are looking for a beautiful fantasy story with a splash of magic and just a dash of romance. I would not recommend this if you are looking for a more mature or adult fantasy or if you are looking for an intense romance.