Best Fiction for Young Adults (#BFYA2023) Featured Review of A Magic Steeped in Poison by Judy I. Lin

A Magic Steeped in Poison by Judy I. Lin
Feiwel & Friends
Publication Date: March 29, 2022
ISBN: 9781250767080

Ning is wracked with guilt after accidentally brewing the poison tea that kills her mother. The same tea now threatens to take her sister, Shu. She obsessively searches for a cure, but to no avail. Her mother was skilled in the art of magical tea making, but she died before Ning could master the gift. 

When she hears of a competition to choose the kingdom’s greatest shennong-shi, a master of the art of tea magic, she sees an opportunity. The winner will receive a favor from the princess, which Ning hopes will save her sister’s life. She travels to the imperial city to compete, but discovers that the trials won’t be her only obstacle. After meeting a mysterious boy with a dark secret, Ning becomes entangled in court politics and espionage. 

Judy I. Lin makes a strong debut with this unique and immersive YA fantasy. Inspired by Chinese tea-making traditions and mythology, the magic in the book is complex and original. Ning is courageous in the face of danger while also battling guilt, grief, and insecurity. Lin’s atmospheric settings will make readers feel like they have stepped into a new world. 

This book is perfect for fans of fantasy rooted in East Asian history and culture, like Descendent of the Crane by Joan He or Six Crimson Cranes by Elizabeth Lim. Readers who enjoy complex magic systems like the ones found in Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo or Serpent and Dove by Shelby Mahurin may also enjoy this book.

Jillian Girardeau

The Selected Lists teams read throughout the year in search of the best titles published in their respective categories. Once a book is suggested (either internally or through the title suggestion form), it must pass through a review process to be designated an official nomination. 

Each week, the teams feature a review of one of the officially nominated titles. Additional titles to receive this designation are listed as well. At year’s end, the team will curate a final list from all nominated titles and select a Top Ten.