In this charming debut fantasy perfect for fans of Sorcery of Thorns and Girls of Paper and Fire, a witch cursed to never love meets a girl hiding her own dangerous magic, and the two strike a dangerous bargain to save their queendom. Tamsin is the most powerful witch of her generation. But after committing the worst magical sin, she’s exiled by the ruling Coven and cursed with the inability to love. The only way she can get those feelings back—even for just a little while—is to steal love from others. Wren is a source—a rare kind of person who is made of magic, despite being unable to use it herself. Sources are required to train with the Coven as soon as they discover their abilities, but Wren—the only caretaker to her ailing father—has spent her life hiding her secret. When a magical plague ravages the queendom, Wren’s father falls victim. To save him, Wren proposes a bargain: if Tamsin will help her catch the dark witch responsible for creating the plague, then Wren will give Tamsin her love for her father. Of course, love bargains are a tricky thing, and these two have a long, perilous journey ahead of them—that is, if they don't kill each other first...
Sweet & Bitter MagicFeatured
Tamsin has learned this lesson when she performed this awful magic in the past, leaving her with loads of guilt, a curse that means she cannot feel love for people, food, or anything around her, and cast out by the Coven she had planned to serve. She was banished to a small village where she barters her magic for other people's love that give her a bit of feeling for a small amount of time.
Wren lives with her father whose depression has incapacitated him, and her life revolves around taking care of him. She is an undocumented source and lives in fear of being discovered. A plague begins going around the country that is causing nature to rebel and people to lose their memories before ultimately dying as a result of dark magic. When Wren sees her father begin to succumb to the plague, see seeks out the help of the witch in town in hunting down whoever is doing the dark magic to stop them.
With an agreement made, the two set out to join the hunt for the witch who is casting the dark magic. However, along the journey, Tamsin must confront her past and the guilt that weighs her so heavily, and Wren must confront her own history and relationship with her family.
What I loved: The world-building and theories around magic were really intriguing. I found the themes of balance with nature and the give-take of magic to be really thought-provoking. The themes around love were really stunning and gave a lot of fuel for discussion. Love can be quite complex within family, romantic, and even just the relationships with things that bring joy. This book brings up this complexity in so many ways by beginning with a character who is unable to feel it any longer and carrying into how this has led to where she is and where she will be able to go in the future. Love has its own power, and that is really palpable here.
The characters were quite compelling, and both Wren and Tamsin had unique points-of-view that I enjoyed following in the alternating sections. I appreciated both of their perspectives on magic, nature, and witches that made it such an interesting story. The adventure was slow-building, but becomes quite action-packed near the end. Some twists along the way help to maintain interest. I also appreciated that the main romance is f/f, and I was definitely cheering for the two to come together.
What left me wanting more: As small points, I did feel like the pacing was slow in the early parts of the story and I wanted a bit more of the build up to the romance. As someone very excited about the LGBT romance, I think I wanted a bit more of the attraction/tension leading up to it, but there is enough that it is very far from instalove.
Final verdict: Lush, magical, and compelling, SWEET & BITTER MAGIC is an enthralling YA fantasy with intriguing themes and enchanting characters. Highly recommend for fans of THE MIDNIGHT LIE, A DARK AND HOLLOW STAR, and BLOODLEAF.