YA Fantasy Duology Audiobook Review: The Book of Tea by Judy I. Lin


A Magic Steeped in Poison by Judy I. Lin (The Book of Tea #1)

bought on Audible

Synopsis from Goodreads

 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.

A Venom Dark and Sweet by Judy I. Lin (The Book of Tea #2)

bought on Audible

Synopsis from Goodreads
A great evil has come to the kingdom of Dàxi. The Banished Prince has returned to seize power, his rise to the dragon throne aided by the mass poisonings that have kept the people bound in fear and distrust.

Ning, a young but powerful shénnóng-shi—a wielder of magic using the ancient and delicate art of tea-making—has escorted Princess Zhen into exile. Joining them is the princess' loyal bodyguard, Ruyi, and Ning's newly healed sister, Shu. Together the four young women travel throughout the kingdom in search of allies to help oust the invaders and take back Zhen's rightful throne.

But the golden serpent still haunts Ning's nightmares with visions of war and bloodshed. An evil far more ancient than the petty conflicts of men has awoken, and all the magic in the land may not be enough to stop it from consuming the world...


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If I was breaking the rating for the two books, the first one would have 8/10 (4 stars) rating as it was more coherent and engaging than book two (3.5 stars). While listening  to the book two I caught myself drifting and missing chunks of what was happening which for me is not a good sign, hence lower rating for the duology.

The best part of this duology is its unique magic system where people with certain abilities could brew tea from any plants, herbs, berries, flowers, etc. or their combinations for different healing reactions in patients or for imbuing people with particular powers and enhancing certain reactions. This whole concept was fascinating and very well done.

Book one with its competition and much tea making was perfect in its simplicity. Ning had a goal to win and get the best medical help possible for her younger sister. She also acquired friends, enemies and a love interest along the way who rounded up the story nicely.

Getting into book two, the plot stretched itself pretty thin. Ning got bogged down in endless quests. Get to point A, grab the object X, continue to point B. And apart from the willow episode and the hike through the bamboo forest, there was nothing juicy here. Kang, the love interest, lost all colour here and quite a lot of backbone. The amount of people who got tortured and killed around him, and he, the prince of the empire, was powerless to do anything to help. I didn't like it at all. I felt like he had no spark or spine and mostly reacted to events, rather than be a force to instigate them. His father had no personality and the villain was outright cartoonish from start to finish.


Overall, it's an okay listen with a refreshing magic concept. Recommended with reservations. 


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