*I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.*
Title: A Venom Dark and Sweet
Author: Judy I. Lin
Publisher: Feiwel & Friends
Publication Date: August 23, 2022
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…
The second book in a duology, A Venom Dark and Sweet is the thrilling conclusion to Lin’s Book Of Tea series. In Volume 2, Ning must solve the mystery of the dark magic that is creeping through the kingdom of Daxi, or die trying. Alongside her sister, the cast out princess and her body guard, they embark on a quest to save their realm from forces of evil. There is so much beyond their understanding and outside of their control. With the odds stacked against them, it seems likely they won’t succeed.
I loved that the main forces of good in this novel were the women, and they come from all walks of life. Previously on opposite ends of their socioeconomic spectrum, they are united in their fight against the dark to save the citizens of Daxi, and find that they have more in common than they could have imagined. This is a book full of strong female characters who are in positions to lead and to harness great powers. It’s a diverse cast of characters and a fantastic conclusion to what has been one of the most unique stories of this year.
I’m actually so glad this series was a duology. It was perfect length for this story and it allowed the author enough time to build robust and fully-fleshed out characters, without dragging the story out. I was fortunate to be able to read both halves of the story within a few weeks of one another, which heightened my enjoyment of the experience. To top it off, the magic in the tea is such a unique idea, and the power only grows Ning learns and expands her abilities. It was so cool to see this journey unfold. Though I had a bit of a tough time adjusting to the writing in the first book, by this book I was fully entrenched and immerse in the beauty of the story.
If you need a story to get you started this summer, this is the series for you! Happy reading!