To be honest with you, this novel couldn´t thrill me. Not as much as it did thrill other readers. The lack of a profound storyline was the reason why I couldn´t feel the real excitement. The cover is totally another story. I am usually no pink fan. But it was the fantastic design of the cover, that caught my eye first. The combination of pink, a hint of green, orange, blue, black, and gold – to name only a few of the colors – simply looks gorgeous. I received this book as part of a blogger box. It arrived with a card and a pink box of Kusmi tea.

A Magic Steeped In Poison-Was Uns Verwundbar Macht*
by Judy I. Lin
The Book Of Tea #1
Translation Rusalka Reh
Original Title A Magic Steeped In Poison
Publisher Fischer Sauerländer on February 22, 2023
Genre Fantasy
Pages 478
Format Hardcover
Source Fischer Sauerländer

Ning blames herself for her mother's death. Because she prepared the tea that poisoned her mother. And though Ning is only an apprentice in the ancient art of tea magic, she should have seen the dark omens. To make matters worse, her little sister also drank from the tea and is now fighting for her life. To make amends for her mistake, Ning faces the mighty Tea Mages of the realm in a deadly contest: if she wins this battle, the princess will grant her one wish - and it's Ning's only chance to save her sister.
Ning is in desperate need of finding a cure for her younger sister. Because Ning created the tea which killed her mother and is now making her sister fighting for her life. The only chance for her, is to win a contest between her and all the other tea magicians at the palace. But soon, Ning starts to realize that not every word spoken about the imperial family is true. And that the princess isn´t the powerful woman, everyone seems to believe. Or is that also a lie?

On the one hand, author Judy I. Lin has a great way of writing things. The setting of this novel is as colorful and opulent as can be imagined. On the flip side, though, is the fact that the actual plot, most of the time, is about life and the intrigues at the Imperial Palace (which isn't a new idea) and not the main character and the competition she's trying to win. That was a bit sobering for me.

No doubt, Judy I. Lin knows how to fascinate her readers with her colorful writing style and the way how she uses every word. And I really enjoyed some chapters of this opulent novel. But the rest is pale and barely to see. Yes, it is wonderful to read how the imperial gardens look like and to imagine how all the clothes would look if you could see them for real. But on the other hand, I don´t need to read half a page in where the author explains to me in which unbelievable colors a koi shimmers when it is hit by a ray of sunshine in the pond. Or to go through every detail of the ceremony it takes to get dressed for the female figures. For me, it was a bit sad that there have been only a handful of scenes in which tea was a part of the story. But maybe I am too critical now, after I´ve read quite a handful of books with a Asian setting.

Ning is determined to save her sisters life, the actual tea magician in the family. At least that´s what Ning believes. Her figure is, compared to the rest of the book, a bit pale and very naïve. I liked the way how she discovers through the contest her real power. And that her power comes with a price.

But there's also something about Ning that grabs you right from the start. She has her principles of always believing in the good in people, despite all naivety. Sure, she quickly adapts to the realities of the capital and later the palace, but she also steadfastly refuses to play by the rules of those who use intrigue and hatred to try and manipulate the competition for their own benefit.

A novel that touched me on the one hand, but on the other hand bored me a bit in many areas. Unfortunately, I wasn't really excited about the story. It's a shame to say that, but I can't share the general hype surrounding the book. Even the ending didn't surprise me. Despite all my critical comments, I'm still curious to see how the second part will continue.

Happy reading

*This book was kindly provided to me by Fischer Sauerländer in exchange for an honest and unbiased review. Thank you.

Deutsche Rezension

Auf der einen Seite hat die Autorin Judy I. Lin eine großartige Art die Dinge zu beschreiben. Die Kulisse dieses Romans ist so farbenfroh und opulent, wie man es sich nur vorstellen kann. Auf der anderen Seite aber steht die Tatsache, dass die eigentliche Handlung, die meiste Zeit über das Leben und die Intrigen am Kaiserpalast handelt (was keine neue Idee ist) und nicht die Hauptfigur und den Wettbewerb, den sie zu gewinnen versucht. Das war für mich ein bisschen ernüchternd.

Aber der Rest ist blass und kaum zu sehen. Ja, es ist wunderbar zu lesen, wie die kaiserlichen Gärten aussehen und sich vorzustellen, wie die ganze Kleidung aussehen würde, wenn man sie wirklich sehen könnte. Aber andererseits brauche ich keine halbe Seite zu lesen, auf der mir der Autor erklärt, in welch unglaublichen Farben ein Koi schimmert, wenn er im Teich von einem Sonnenstrahl getroffen wird. Oder, um jedes Detail der Zeremonie durchzugehen, die erforderlich für die weiblichen Figuren ist, um sich anzuziehen. Für mich war es ein bisschen traurig, dass es nur eine Handvoll Szenen gab, in denen Tee Teil der Geschichte war. Aber vielleicht bin ich jetzt auch zu kritisch, nachdem ich schon einige Bücher mit asiatischem Setting gelesen habe.

Ning ist entschlossen, das Leben ihrer Schwester, der eigentlichen Teemagierin in der Familie zu retten. Das glaubt zumindest Ning. Ihre Figur ist im Vergleich zum Rest des Buches etwas blass und sehr naiv. Mir gefiel die Art und Weise, wie sie durch den Wettbewerb ihre wahre Kraft entdeckt. Und dass ihre Macht ihren Preis hat.

Da ist aber auch etwas in Ning, das von Anfang an begeistert. Sie hat ihre Prinzipien, trotz aller Naivität stets an das Gute im Menschen zu glauben. Sicher, sie passt sich schnell den Gegebenheiten in der Hauptstadt und später im Palast an, doch sie weigert sich auch beharrlich, nach den Regeln derer zu spielen, die mittels Intrigen und Hass versuchen den Wettkampf für sich zu manipulieren.

Ein Roman, der mich einerseits berührt hat, mich andererseits aber auch in vielen Bereichen etwas gelangweilt hat. Echte Begeisterung für die Geschichte ist bei mir leider nicht aufgekommen. Es ist schade, dass zu sagen, aber den allgemeinen Hype um das Buch kann ich nicht teilen. Selbst das Ende konnte mich nicht überraschen. Trotz all meiner kritischen Anmerkungen, ich bin dennoch gespannt, wie es im zweiten Teil weitergeht.

Judy I. Lin
Judy I. Lin ©Aaron Perkins

Judy I. Lin, New York Times bestselling author of the Book Of Tea Duology, was born in Taiwan and immigrated to Canada with her family as a young girl, where she still lives with her husband and daughters. As a child, whenever she could, she stuck her nose in a book and escaped into their imaginary worlds. Today she works as an occupational therapist by day and creates her own fantasy worlds at night.


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