Author: Adrienne Tooley
Publication date: March 9, 2021
Genre: YA fantasy
My rating: 4/5 stars
Today is my stop on TBR and Beyond’s blog tour for Sweet & Bitter Magic by Adrienne Tooley, a debut fantasy full of darkness, witchy magic, love bargains, and two girls who are polar opposites learning to work with each other to save their world–and fall for each other in the process. Read on for a brief review and some of my favorite quotes from this lovely slow-burn!
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…
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This was a lovely debut novel, and I could go on about plenty of things I loved in it–but I’m going to keep this review brief, because this is one that I think you just have to read for yourself, without knowing too much ahead of time. A lot of the story unfurls slowly, teasing out the depths of each character and their past traumas without revealing too much early on. Tamsin, in particular, is a complex character with a painful backstory, who does not outright voice all of her guilt. Much of her history comes out not in the story’s narration, but in times where external forces require her to face the things she did that resulted in her being cursed in the first place. (Also, can I just say, I freaking loved Tamsin? So well-developed, and her inability to feel love was executed in a fascinating way.)
But here is what I can tell you: this book has a beautiful, slow-burn, sapphic, enemies-to-lovers romance. (Or at least rivals to lovers? They’re not out to murder each other, but they can’t stand each other, that’s for sure.) It does not shy away from topics including grief and mental illness (which are often glossed over in fantasy worlds, even with lots of tragedy in them, and I really appreciate the inclusion of that representation). It features the “grumpy one/sunshine one” trope, which frankly, I can never get enough of. It has a magical pandemic that makes our present reality look a little less terrible–at least our plants aren’t all spontaneously catching fire, and we aren’t losing our memories, right? And it even features some small fairytale nods–a brief “Frog Prince” scene was particularly enjoyable.
This is a story of friendship, romance, hidden strength, and learning to reconcile and embrace differences. It is about trusting and healing. It didn’t quite wow me enough to reach a five-star level, but it is enjoyable and very much worth the read.
Of course, love could never truly be controlled. It was like trying to trap flies in a birdcage.
No matter how strong she believed herself to be, magic itself was always much more powerful.
There was a difference between existing and living. That was something Tamsin knew well.
“What do you think a witch actually does?”
Wren frowned. “I don’t know. Whatever they want?”
That was the trouble with dark magic. People always assumed that the stories were exaggerated, that the truth was not nearly so terrible, when in fact the opposite was true.
Tamsin was so used to viewing grief and sadness as an extension of love that she had nearly forgotten she had the capacity for it at all.
“Never learn to love someone untouchable. They’ll only disappoint you in the end.”
Living with the feeling that the world was on fire, Wren now knew, was nothing compared to watching it burn.
The other hosts on this tour have created plenty of wonderful content, from reviews and quotes to lovely Instagram photos to reactions, mood boards, and even a journal spread! Check out all of their hard work HERE.
About the Author
Adrienne Tooley was born and raised in the desert suburbs of Southern California. She grew up in the theater, earning her B.A. in Musical Theatre from Point Park University. She and her wife currently live in New York City where she works in hospitality tech. In addition to writing novels she is also a singer/songwriter and has released several EPs which are available on Spotify & other streaming sites. Her debut novel, SWEET & BITTER MAGIC, will publish from S&S/McElderry in Spring 2021. Her second novel, SOFI AND THE BONE SONG, will release from S&S/McElderry in 2022.
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One lucky winner will receive a finished copy of Sweet & Bitter Magic! This giveaway is open to US only (sorry, international pals!) and will remain open through March 15, 2021.
Click HERE to enter–and best of luck!
Thank you to TBR and Beyond Tours and the publisher for providing me with an eARC of this book as part of my participation in this tour. All opinions are my own.
Great review, Kathryn! I’m surprised I haven’t seen more about the book in the blogosphere but I’m now quite excited to give this a read. Sounds wonderfully witchy and magical (I mean, besides the pandemic thing of course lol)!
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It’s a great book! I’m surprised it isn’t getting more attention–it has ALL the tropes people love. Slow-burn. Enemies-to-lovers. “There’s only one bed.” “Grumpy one loves the sunshine one.” Plus it’s sapphic. And deals with big things like mental illness and complex family relationships. (And the cover is so pretty!) Hope you get to pick it up soon 🙂
This is one of my most anticipated releases! So glad to see you enjoyed it.
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Aaahhhh I hope you end up enjoying it too!