A Venom Dark and Sweet - Review
*I received the physical copy for the B2 Weird Bookclub tour. All reviews are my own.*
We are back with the conclusion and final thoughts to the sequel of Judy Lin's A Magic Steeped in Poison. A Venom Dark and Sweet picks up where we left off, with Ning and her gang of treasonous womenfolk running for their lives and looking for allies to take back the fallen throne. As much as I was excited to get my hands on this book, the final tale did not satisfy my appetite for Shennong-shi tea magic.
"A great evil has come to the kingdom of Dàxi. The Banished Prince has returned to seize power, his rise to the dragon throne aided by the mass poisonings that have kept the people bound in fear and distrust.
Ning, a young but powerful shénnóng-shi—a wielder of magic using the ancient and delicate art of tea-making—has escorted Princess Zhen into exile. Joining them is the princess' loyal bodyguard, Ruyi, and Ning's newly healed sister, Shu. Together the four young women travel throughout the kingdom in search of allies to help oust the invaders and take back Zhen's rightful throne.
But the golden serpent still haunts Ning's nightmares with visions of war and bloodshed. An evil far more ancient than the petty conflicts of men has awoken, and all the magic in the land may not be enough to stop it from consuming the world..."
What bothered me the most about this story was the decision to use multiple POVs between Ning and Kang. Actually, it was Kang's version of the story that was bothersome. In AMSIP, he was the mystified love interest that may or may not have been the good guy. In AVDAS, his third-person storytelling didn't grab my attention at all. He was similar to a koala bear: pretty to look at but useless in the story. His personality was bland, and he over-talked his worries and emotions. I understand he's been through a lot, and he now has big shoes to fill, but I have never seen a guy in his feelings as much as Kang. Unlike Ning, who went and traversed the world, Kang's stationary role didn't add to the wonder of the tale. I didn't need to see his POV. I understand why Lin added this format to the novel, but it wasn't necessary.
Other than that, AVDAS was an okay book. The world-building is something you wish you could hop on a plane and find, the food and tea-making descriptions are still immaculate as hell, and well, we get to see a female protagonist whoop ass, and that's what I'm here for.
Overall I'm rating this story 3-stars and the entire duology 3-stars. The idea of a magical tea-making competition to become the top Shennong-shi was fascinating. Taking the tale a step further by discovering the old fairytales about the Gods and their battles were real AND searching for magical artifacts to stop an evil from spreading, Lin took the original AMSIP and gave it a new wardrobe. Maybe I should get into the art of tea-making because this book made me appreciate the natural properties of something that's been around since the beginning of time. Maybe one of those tea ingredients will make me magical.