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Two For One

First Looks at A Magic Steeped in Poison by Judy I. Lin and Hotel Magnifique by Emily J. Taylor


This spring bring the publication of two new magical fantasy novels that each offer unique premises as the basis for their stories. Both books are also debut works of young female authors. I received the first fifty pages to each of these exciting works of fiction and I was not disappointed with what I read. The worlds built in these books are simultaneously realistic and fantastical in a way that is well balanced and immersive. As a reader, the magic systems were soft enough that I could imagine these stories taking place in a world similar to ours, but still distinct enough that I could escape to the fiction and forget about today's turmoil.


A Magic Steeped in Poison

From the Publisher:

Judy I. Lin's sweeping debut A Magic Steeped in Poison, first in a duology, is sure to enchant fans of Adrienne Young and Leigh Bardugo.

I used to look at my hands with pride. Now all I can think is, "These are the hands that buried my mother."

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.


My First Impressions:

Of the two stories I reviewed this week, Judy I. Lin's A Magic Steeped in Poison had a premise that I struggled most to get behind. Magical tea makers just didn't excite me, but the plot of the story grabbed my attention so fast that I think this book is going to be the more exciting of the two. The main character's inner thoughts and motivation driving her actions are also far more compelling than that of the characters in Hotel Magnifique. However, I found the idea that the protagonist is going to somehow win a tea making contest in order to save her sister from an accidental poisoning to be a bit of a stretch.


A Magic Steeped in Poison is still a well written and exciting fantasy despite a few short comings, and I am very pleased that it will have a sequel released later this year as well.


Hotel Magnifique

From the Publisher:

For fans of Caraval and The Night Circus, this decadent and darkly enchanting YA fantasy, set against the backdrop of a Belle Époque-inspired hotel, follows seventeen-year-old Jani as she uncovers the deeply disturbing secrets of the legendary Hotel Magnifique.


All her life, Jani has dreamed of Elsewhere. Just barely scraping by with her job at a tannery, she’s resigned to a dreary life in the port town of Durc, caring for her younger sister Zosa. That is, until the Hotel Magnifique comes to town.


The hotel is legendary not only for its whimsical enchantments, but also for its ability to travel—appearing in a different destination every morning. While Jani and Zosa can’t afford the exorbitant costs of a guest’s stay, they can interview to join the staff, and are soon whisked away on the greatest adventure of their lives. But once inside, Jani quickly discovers their contracts are unbreakable and that beneath the marvelous glamour, the hotel is hiding dangerous secrets.


With the vexingly handsome doorman Bel as her only ally, Jani embarks on a mission to unravel the mystery of the magic at the heart of the hotel and free Zosa—and the other staff—from the cruelty of the ruthless maître d’hôtel. To succeed, she’ll have to risk everything she loves, but failure would mean a fate far worse.


My First Impression:

The fantasy world created by Emily J. Taylor in her debut novel is closer to that of historical reality than the one in Judy I. Lin's work. Except for a magically appearing hotel, the characters inhabit a place that closely resembles pre-industrial western Europe. The plot also takes on more elements of mystery than A Magic Steeped in Poison, which has a more straight ahead development of drama. Because of this, I think Hotel Magnifique will have the more dynamic and unpredictable plot of these two books. Much like the disappearing and reappearing hotel, the reader is left anxious and ignorant to where the story will go. Its an exciting read, but somehow I found the fast-moving, albeit straightforward pace of A Magic Steeped in Poison to capture more of my attention.

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A Magic Steeped in Poison is scheduled for publication on March 22, 2022 and Hotel Magnifique is set to be released on April 5, 2022. You can pre-order copies through your local bookseller or from bookshop.org. Bookshop.org is an alternative to Amazon with a mission to financially support independent book stores.


Corey D. Evans received advance excerpts of these book and was not financially compensated for his reviews. Any quotes are from unedited advance reader copies of these books and may differ from what will appear in final printed editions.

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