'A Magic Steeped in Poison' by Judy I. Lin is a killer blend of Asian mythology and tradition.
Elegantly written, the prose is filled with just the type of lyrical language one would expect, and sprinkled with quotable lines. It's an excellent representation of the artistry and complexities of the cultures which help shape the story.
Though I found most of the mystery to be predictable, the author still does a good job of leading the reader through the paces of discovery.. and if I'm being honest, I really feel like the tea magic is where it's at for this story. Lin's magic system is a fascinating departure from the usual in modern fantasy and her descriptions of Ning's specific gift of magic is probably my favorite aspect of the whole book.
I enjoyed the way that due to the competition, we also got a glimpse of life in various provinces across the kingdom, rather than just the imperial city or Ning's own town. It made the world Lin created feel fuller, distinguishing not only between the citizens of the city itself.. but also shedding light on those very realistic kinds of regional biases one might see in a large country.
The story itself has plenty of tense moments, romance, and enough political machinations to keep the pace moving at a steady clip.. even when the telling diverges from the main path. There are numerous characters that we experience only briefly, but they're textured richly and make their mark, adding more layers to Lin's already robust world-building.
If you're looking for a tale bursting with creative magical elements, palace intrigue, and threat of heavy consequences.. this is the book for you.
(I received this title as an ARC. All opinions are mine and freely given.)