ARC Review: Sweet & Bitter Magic

If you aren’t excited about the upcoming Sweet & Bitter Magic, sadly, we must conclude that you have been living under a rock. But not to worry! Today we come prepared to extract you from that situation, with our reviews and also a mix to listen to.

And if you need any more convincing, check out the interview we did with Adrienne in 2019!

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 Magic

Adrienne Tooley


Rep: bi/pan mc, lesbian mc
Release: 9th March 2021

Charlotte’s Review

Sometimes, all you really want from a fantasy is something a little quieter. Something that isn’t about life and death and saving the world from destruction and/or invasion. And that’s exactly what Sweet & Bitter Magic provides. A fantasy that centres on love — romantic and familial.

That’s what I loved most about it, really. For all that epic and wide-ranging fantasies are exciting and I enjoy them, the kind of fantasy that’s just quieter, that’s a less expansive story, just hits differently. But there’s also a balance there to keep the plot moving when there’s less happening and it’s done so well here. I read this book in a single sitting and didn’t want to put it down.

Part of that was also due to the characters. Wren and Tamsin are both characters you can’t help but root for. You know how, sometimes, you can pick a favourite POV? I couldn’t ever decide between them. I wouldn’t want to decide between them. They’re the kind of characters you want to read about forever.

And it’s Wren and Tamsin’s love that’s central to the story. Not for one another, but for their families (and yeah, okay, later one another). It’s also their love that saves everything and, I don’t know about you, but 2021 is the perfect year to read about love saving everything. Especially when it just so happens to be sapphic love on top of that.

Anna’s Review

First word that comes to mind when trying to describe Sweet & Bitter Magic is: beautiful. Because the writing is beautiful, yes; it’s very poetic, it’s charming, it’s like those fairy tales your parents used to read you when you were kid only so much better. But also because of the kind of story it tells.

See, this is a story about love. Not a romance* – a story about love. Literally the only reason for the whole plot to take place is that both of the main characters love their family. That love is portrayed in two different ways, and not just because for Tamsin it’s love for twin sister and for Wren it’s love for her father. It differs in the way the girls approach love, in how they think about it, how they put value on it. How that love dictates their actions.

*The romance is also beautiful, obviously.

There is nothing simple about those feelings, and Tooley spends a big portion of the novel exploring that. How a love shapes a person, helps them grow, but also how it takes away their choices, how it makes them do things they wouldn’t if it wasn’t for the love. Or not do things they otherwise would… Love is never shown as this Big Magical Spell that will just make your whole life easy in a heartbeat. Which still allows for love to be shown as magic.

The only reason all of this works is that both Tamsin & Wren are outstanding characters, in term of death and development, growth. It’s not a stretch at all to say this is a character driven novel (which explains why I like it so much, probably). And it’s executed perfectly in every single way. If you want “strong female characters”, you should read this book.

And a quick note: another cool thing about Sweet & Bitter Magic – and this is something I always talk about when I find it in a book – is the total lack of homophobia in this made-up world. It’s not hitting you over the head with some preaching or whatever, it’s subtle. It’s in a throwaway line about a baker and her wife that no one comments on, in the way no one objects to same-sex relationships. It makes you feel like it’s a safe space. A beautiful space.

All in all, if you’re a fan of enchanting writing, of character driven fantasy novels, of strong-minded, beautiful, loving female characters, if you want a book to awaken only warm feelings in your heart – read Sweet & Bitter Magic.

So, have we convinced you that you want to read this book?

2 Replies to “ARC Review: Sweet & Bitter Magic”

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