A Magic Steeped in Poison by Judy I. Lin
(Titan Books, 2022)
Reviewed by Ksenia Shcherbino
Have you ever watched a flowering tea, for example, a Lily Heart flowering tea bulb, unfurl in a glass teapot in front of your eyes? Fragrant rose and lily flowers, all perfectly tied up with premium green tea from Fujian’s famed spring harvest? This is the same feeling that you get reading Judy I. Lin’s A Magic Steeped in Poison, a finely crafted story of love, loss, palace intrigue and tea. Tea smells of all sorts infuse its pages—I swear I could taste the exotic blends that, according to the author, can make the master of the tea ceremony (or shennong-shi, masters of magic, as they are called in the book) connect to people’s hearts and read their minds. In this sense it reminded me of Becky Chambers’ A Psalm For the Wild-Built—another exploration of tea-brewing as a form of magic bringing people together. Yet while the letter is set against a post-industrial post-apocalyptic background, the Lin’s book is a spectacular mix of South-Asian mythology, wuxia and Imperial palace intrigue. And tea.
Review from BSFA Review 21 - Download your copy here.