Book Review: Sweet & Bitter Magic by Adrienne Tooley

Sweet & Bitter Magic

Author: Adrienne Tooley

Publication Date: 09 March 2021

Genre: YA – Fantasy

Pages: 368

Publisher: Simon Teen

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.

First things first, I NEED more queer witch stories in my life. This book was the warm and fuzzy feelings that I needed amidst all of this chaos.

Sweet & Bitter Magic is a dual POV narrative that follows Tamsin and Wren.

Tamsin is a banished witch who has been cursed with the inability to care and love after getting caught using forbidden dark magic to try to save her dying twin sister. Since she can’t feel love…she deals in it. Literally. Needless to say, Tamsin literally embodies a grumpy old hag and is the antithesis to Wren.

Wren is a source…meaning that she is literally compromised of magic. She can see, taste, and smell magic, but she doesn’t wield it. Where Tamsin is all dark and miserable, Wren is loving and sees the beauty in all of nature.

Having this pair come together on an adventure to capture the dark witch responsible for a plague ravaging the humans was absolutely hysterical. I love how polarizing their personalities and outlooks were. And yet, you just knew that this was going to be the messy queer enemies to lovers romance, which I was 100% here for.

I really loved the way the world was laid out in this because it was easy to navigate and visualize. It was very reminiscent of Neil Gaiman’s Stardust in that you have the humans on one side separated by the Woods that protect Coven (aka Witchlands if you’re Wren).

One thing that I wanted to scream while Tamsin and Wren were on their trek was ”Wren, watch where you are walking so you don’t keep crashing into Tamsin”. People crashing into me is a huge pet peeve, so I visibly bristled every time that Wren did it.

There were definitely some pleasant plot twists in this one that I didn’t see coming. I thought that the pacing was steady throughout, and I was thoroughly engaged.

The only real issue that I had with the book is that I wish the Academy life was a little more flushed out because I definitely didn’t grasp the hierarchy of the professors, which left me confused at a certain point.

Overall, this was a fun and original story with some pretty great queer witches. I can’t wait to see what Tooley comes up with next!

Thank you to Simon Teen for providing a review copy. This did not influence my review. All opinions are my own.

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