Teatime Scoundrels!

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"It's teatime, scoundrels."

A Tempest of Tea was phenomenal.

"Family isn't who we live with but those we would die for."

It was worth the extra long wait this last year, and I've never been so happy to read and review a book early.

"Every good love story starts with a bullet to the heart."

I don't know what I was expecting going into this novel, but Hafsah blew me away immediately. You can tell as a reader of her previous work that her writing technique and style has grown immensely. She seems more confident with her writing, more sure, and it's reflected in the distinct POV characters/chapters as well as the characterization of supporting characters and the world building. If you're a fan of Peaky Blinders, Six of Crows, or even The Gilded Wolves, you'll have zero problem with falling in love with this new duology. It's a heist + vampires book—what more have we ever wanted?!

"It was hard to believe in fairy tales when she'd lived a nightmare, and it just so happened that legends were good for business."

Don't even get me started on the wider world building, particularly when it comes to Arawiya and Ettenia. The implications of the Arz curse on Arawiya's relationship to the rest of the world was one of my favorite gems in this new book because it's bridging that gap in our knowledge between what's happening within the Arz's borders during We Hunt the Flame vs. outside of them. Obviously, A Tempest of Tea takes place years (maybe a decade at most?) after the Arz curse was lifted, but Arawiya is still separated from the world due to the lingering after effects of the curse. Furthermore, Ettenia, our new main setting, is very similar to Great Britain's ruthless, colonizing history, much like the East Jeevant Company's comparison to the horrific East India Company. Ettenia does not hold control over Arawiya like most of the other countries/continents within the area, but I definitely have this feeling that Arawiya, specifically in the sequel, could be targeted or next on Ettenia's list. This is definitely still a theory, but after learning about the Ram's weaponization of kidnapped and starved vampires for their own colonizing needs, I think it's safe to say the sequel will show us the in person ramifications of this. And this honestly terrifies me in terms of what could happen to my favs in ATOT or even back in Arawiya.

"Words themselves can't always unfold a person the way their writing can."

But enough after the broader setting and world building. I want to talk about this new cast of characters, and why I love them with my entire heart and soul. There are three POVs throughout the course of this first book, and all of them stole the show in their own unique way.

"And yet, there was something to be said about a girl who knew everything about everyone and a boy more mysterious than the moon."

Arthie Casimir is the lead of not only this book but also the leader of White Roaring's popular establishment Spindrift—a tearoom turned bloodhouse depending on the time of day. Her mauve tinted hair and masculine outfits mark her distinctly against the dresses other women wear in Ettenia, but she thrives off of that difference. Arthie is most known by the people of White Roaring for pulling the gun Calibore from a plinth, but what these people don't know is Calibore is no ordinary gun. Arthie and calibore seem to have bonded on a magical, deep level, so the gun can change into any weapon of her choosing and can kill anything—even a vampire. But only Jin is privy to this knowledge from Arthie. Now for years, Spindrift has been threatened by the Horned Guards due to its apparent vampiric clientele, but nobody can find or show legal proof. Arthie very much falls into a similar category to other heist leaders like Séverin (The Gilded Wolves) and Kaz (Six of Crows). She's intelligent and sneaky, but also loyal and fiercely protective. I'd argue she's not quite as ruthless, but her sympathies are still not easy to come by. You mess with her Spindrift, and you get the claws. From the beginning, I held the belief that Arthie was on some level of vampirism—whether full or half was the true question for me—so I was not surprised to learn of her half vampire status at the 2/3rd point in the book. Her starvation and even coconut water drinking techniques to alleviate the desire for blood was heartbreaking to read. Arthie's been a strong character throughout the book thus far, so it was jarring to see her sink to her lowest when it comes to her toxic relationship with blood in this installment and as a child. I was not anticipating her bloodlust as a half vampire child, so those moments brought tears to my eyes, especially the refugee boat scene soon after she first turns. I cannot imagine the self-loathing Arthie feels that brought her towards starvation as a tactic to quench her "monstrous" ways. I'm excited to see her journey towards self-acceptance in the sequel because this was only the first step towards healing her hatred towards the vampire side of herself.

"The one who draws Calibore free is our savior. The one who wields Calibore is Ettenia's right and true leader."

In sharp contrast, Jin Casimir is Arthie's second in command and closest confidant. Before the two met, he was eleven, and Jin lived with his scientist parents, who worked under the Eagle then Ram's clutches, and attended one of the most prestigious young boys' schools in White Roaring. One fateful day his home caught on fire and burned to the ground. Jin was unable to find his parents within the burning house and was ultimately saved by Arthie. He's always held a bit of hope that his parents survived, but in the meantime, he has grown to be a prime businessman for Spindrift's needs. He's charming and witty, well-dressed and flirtatious. The amount of times I'd blush or kick my feet in the air during his antics was immeasurable. He's definitely going to steal the hearts of many readers, particularly mine since he's my favorite character of this entire book lol. While I expected Arthie's vampire reveal, Jin's near death and subsequent turn into a vampire was a HUGE twist. My mouth was gaping like a damn fish on a hook as he lay bleeding out from the gunshot to his heart (the freaking foreshadowing of this to the first quote I included is insane btw) by ARTHIE'S FREAKING GUN CALIBORE. Stupid betrayer taking my girl's gun!! I was a MESS. I'm extremely curious to see the consequences of his vampirism on both his mental health and relationships, particularly with a certain sunshine queen herself...

"I'm not a plague, official. You broke your oath, and here I am. Your reckoning."

Which leads me into the third and final POV, Felicity "Flick" Linden. We learn early on that Flick despises to be called Felicity, so much like her forging talents, she's forged her own name for herself as Flick. She is the daughter of the renowned East Jeevant Company's head Lady Linden, and Flick is very much ignored/neglected by her mother. When Flick is brought into the heist by Jin and Arthie, she's initially wanting to double cross Spindrift and take the heist's item for herself to win back her mother's love and attention, but throughout the course of the novel, Flick's allegiance sways to her healthier and new found family. She's definitely the most naïve of the group because she never once expected her forging to lead her to jail, and she's been sheltered her whole life by her rich, powerful mother. Flick still continues to stick to her dresses and etiquette throughout most of the book, denying pants plenty of times until a particular sequence of events. Flick does shine the most during the heist, which is the first time we see her stark growth, and she holds her own against some of the most intimidating characters. I really think her storyline in the sequel is going to be EXTREMELY fascinating. Who would've thought the Ram is Lady Linden herself? NOT ME. What does this mean for Flick and her overall relationship to the Spindrift crew? Is she the Ram's one, true weakness? I have too many questions about this!

"Sometimes I think even vampires hunt for the flame. For the light. It's what we need to live, undead or otherwise, isn't it?"

The heist itself does not begin until the 62% mark of the book. The setup, albeit longer than anticipated, definitely held my rapt attention, especially at the end. Arthie and the crew are tasked with stealing a ledger from the infamous Penn Arundel who runs the Athereum (a vampire society). Laith Sayaad of Arawiya is one of the captains of the Horned Guard, and he comes to Arthie specifically for help in obtaining this ledger. By obtaining this ledger for the Ram, he believes this act of good faith can go towards saving Spindrift, which is CURRENTLY threatened to be overtaken and stolen via the Ram's forces. Arthie has zero intention of letting Laith take the ledger; she plans to blackmail the Ram herself thereby saving Spindrift. Overall, I found the heist to be fun. It's not as detailed as some of the other heists I've read before, but by the 62% mark, I had realized this book is far more than just the heist. I was drawn in by the characters and their relationships, so I was focused more on their growth going into the heist and hopefully coming out alive. Surprisingly, the heist reveals Penn as Arthie's stepfather and protector during her childhood years in White Roaring before she runs away and starts her own path that leads to Spindrift. I found this to be monumentally more interesting than the heist itself, and I loved adding another layer of complexity to Arthie and her relatinship to others/this city. This is the point where we learn of Arthie's half vampire background, and I was in tears by the end of it. Then, the kidnapped vampires via the Ram's nefarious, colonizer plans is revealed too. Upon reflection, the heist was meant to give us all of this knowledge, not necessarily be about stealing the ledger—if that makes sense.

"Stop punishing yourself by refusing to accept what you've become. Imagine your chaos, darling. Stop playing their games, and you can do some much worse."

The last thing I want to cover are the romances. I hinted at it earlier, but Jin and Flick are a romantic pairing. Their tension and interest in one another is the sweet romance of this book. It's very pure and warm, and I'm excited to see them finally act on their feelings in the sequel. I know Jin's vampirism is probably going to have him pushing Flick away because "she could never be with a vampire" blah blah blah, but I know they'll kiss eventually. And I'll be anxiously devouring that scene when it does arrive. Now the romance that is certainly going to cause chaos is the love triangle between Arthie, Laith, and Matteo. I have not talked about Matteo much, but he's a vampire added to the Athereum heist by Arthie. He clashes with nearly every other character, but he seems to have a particular interest and maybe even slight soft spot for Arthie. (I actually believe he may secretly be the Wolf of White Roaring, who was a half vampire that was allegedly let loose by the Ram on White Roaring and started the intense prejudice against vampires. I believe he has this soft spot for Arthie because he is also a half vampire that could not control his bloodlust and led to the slaughter of many people. I think Penn may have known this and taken Matteo in to help him get past that part of himself and now Matteo wishes the same for Arthie.) Readers are going to be feral when it comes to this love triangle. I can see people going for either side. The scene between Arthie and Laith when she bites/sucks his blood was quite frankly insane. Hafsah writes about the sexual nature of vampires (scene with Jin getting bit being the big example at the start of the book) and their biting, but she really digs deep into that during this scene. It's the first time Arthie has bitten someone in YEARS, and it's simultaneously a vulnerable, intimate moment for both of them. Too bad Laith uses this moment to try to get Calibore!!!! Freaking idiot and a half. Laith and Arthie are the main couple of this triangle in ATOT, but after the ending, I'm a bit unsure if this love triangle even still exists. The sequel will definitely be Matteo's time to shine haha. I'm rooting for him.

"What is a monster if not a man pushed to the brink?"

Overall, as you can see by this eternity long review, I loved A Tempest of Tea. Complexity is quite literally thrown into nearly every detail of this world and characters, and I was eating it up. I'm only sad that I now have to wait for the sequel. If you were not a fan of Hafsah's first duology, I URGE you to pick up this new one. I'm probably going to return to this review to theorize more, Calibore and Arthie specifically, but I have written enough analysis for now.

"Death bleeds red no matter the color of one's skin."