Let’s Spill the Tea on Judy Lin’s Book of Tea Duology


A Magic Steeped in Poison & A Venom Dark and Sweet book covers from judyilin.com

Sarai Gross, Polaris Editor

Judy Lin is an author who was born in Taiwan and immigrated to Canada at a young age. As of now she has released only 2 books, A Magic Steeped in Poison and A Venom Dark and Sweet. Both books were published in 2022, bringing a new and exciting story to the young-adult fantasy section in bookstores.

In the first book, A Magic Steeped in Poison, the story’s main character, Ning, brews tea for her mother and sister unaware that the tea contains poison. When Ning hears of a competition taking place in the imperial city that grants the winner a favor from the princess, she is determined to compete in hopes that the princess has an anecdote that will save her family at home. The competition is being held to find the greatest shénnóng-shì of the kingdom and fortunately for Ning, she has been practicing the art of tea-making with her mother her entire life.

The second book continues from where the first book left off and switches between the perspectives of Ning and Kang, a boy she met during the competition in the first book. The switching of perspectives is creative but it can be annoying if the reader gets super invested in what is happening to one character then the perspective suddenly changes. The first book had a more lighthearted mood than the second. While reading A Venom Dark and Sweet, it may seem as if misfortune and pain is all that the characters will experience but the plot twist at the end makes the entire rollercoaster of emotions worth it.

Lin’s Book of Tea duology is full of unexpected twists and turns, magic, and even a splash of romance. She holds the reader’s attention with vivid descriptions of tastes, smells, sights, and emotions. 

Occasionally, Lin uses Mandarin Chinese language in her books and she includes a glossary that contains character name pronunciation, descriptions of Chinese medicinal ingredients mentioned,  and descriptions of the places mentioned. Readers are able to learn more about Chinese culture and language through Lin’s magical books.

Both books are recommended for ages 13 and up, however, if you find violence, the death of parents, illness, or gory descriptions of injuries triggering then it is not recommended that you read the Book of Tea duology.

If Judy Lin’s Book of Tea Duology sounds interesting to you, check out Sue Lynn Tan’s debut fantasy book, Daughter of the Moon Goddess, which is based on the legend of Chang’e. Daughter of the Moon Goddess, similarly to A Magic Steeped in Poison and A Venom Dark and Sweet, contains aspects of Chinese culture, specifically mythology. The book is the first of Sue Lynn Tan’s Celestial Kingdom duology and the second book, titled Heart of the Sun Warrior, was published on November 10th of 2022. 

“I really enjoy reading magical stories that teach me more about cultures I’m not exposed to enough,” states Michelle Pachon, senior at JWN High. 

Harlow Arreguin, junior at North, also expresses a liking for cultural fantasy, “I like fantasy books but when they are based on legends or myths of a specific culture, I find the stories to be much more interesting.”

 Judy Lin’s duology is so captivating and well written that it leaves fans wanting more. There is always room in libraries and bookstores for more fantasy books based on cultures from all around the world.