A Magic Steeped in Poison

Written by Judy I. Lin
Published by Feiwel & Friends

A book review by Charlotte (14) and Ivy (14)

A Magic Steeped in Poison

I like Ning because she is a hard-working, mostly honest girl, what I like most about her is that she is human and makes mistakes.

Hi Charlotte and Ivy! Can you tell us what this book is about?

Charlotte: Filled with poisoned tea, bloody politics and secrets soon to be uncovered, A Magic Steeped in Poison follows the story of Ning, a girl who is about to lose everything, including her sister, from deadly poison. Her only hope to save her sister’s life is to partake in a competition to find the greatest shennong-shi, a practitioner of the magical art of tea- making. A favour will be granted to the winner by the princess, though what began as a simple contest soon turns into much more. 

Ivy: A Magic Steeped in Poison is a good read, containing romance (though this is not a huge part of it if you don’t like romance), mystery, adventure, and, of course, magic.

What do you like about this book?

Charlotte: Judy I. Lin has managed to take something as simple as tea and give it purpose and magical qualities that entice the reader to want more. A poorly brewed cup of tea can cause disaster while an enriched cup can do wonders for the mind and soul. Consisting of many plot lines and hidden mysteries, everything comes together in the end to enthrall and create a world where sometimes the most dangerous thing to do is to do nothing. Chinese vocabulary sprinkled throughout the novel as well as a clear and concise index located at the back for easy definitions add greatly to the story.  

Ivy: I enjoyed reading about how Ning, the protagonist, competes against other Shennong-tu, magic tea makers, to cure her sister of a deadly poison made by magic tea. Something I liked about the book in general, was how Judy, the author, created a world much like our own, with subtle differences to make a new one. Instead of following the typical pattern for creating a fantasy world, hers is almost identical to our own, with just enough that the reader knows it isn’t our world.

What do you like about the main character?

Charlotte: An admirable main character, Ning experiences criticism and disgust present in most peoples’ lives and finds ways to keep others’ opinions at bay while following her dreams. In the face of many challenges, Ning remains strong, willing to sacrifice herself for the ones she cares about. 

Ivy: I like Ning because she is a hard-working, mostly honest girl, what I like most about her is that she is human and makes mistakes.

What important messages/themes are present in the story and why would this appeal to a young adult reader?

Charlotte: Many important themes were discussed in A Magic Steeped in Poison, the theme most prevalent being to never quit something based on the judgment of others. It’s only when you start believing what people say that you lose faith in yourself. Relying and leaning on friends and family for support is not a bad thing; drawing strength from others can help you succeed, as seen when reading about Ning’s story. 

Ivy: The important message in this book is to be proud of not only your origins but of yourself and your skills, that you are worth something.

Who would you recommend this book to?

Charlotte: Due to the characters, fast-paced plot and rivalries, I believe that anyone will enjoy and love this book. The story has something for everyone, especially those who have an affinity for tea brewing, Chinese politics and poison.

Ivy: I would recommend this book to people who need that lift, as long as they like fantasy and have patience, because this book is not a short read.

If you could ask the author a question, what would it be?

Charlotte: If I could ask the author of this novel anything, I would ask the question that I have wondered during and since reading this book; what time period does this book take place in? The mention of emperors and the absence of cars and phones can give the reader an idea, though not an exact time and place. 

Ivy: My question to Judy would be, why did you write this book? What inspired you to do this?

Scroll to Top