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..
“Resentment can fade. Hate burns bright.“Sweet & Bitter Magic, Adrienne Tooley
Sweet & Bitter Magic is such a lovely debut sapphic YA fantasy standalone that I enjoyed getting into. It may not be an ultimate wow moment in a book for me, especially with an author’s debut novel, but I did find myself reading well into the nights and laughing and sighing at the main characters. I also read this book via audiobooks, and the narrators brought Tamsin and Wren’s characters to life, and I was highly amused that they even got their little nuisances that matched their tones perfectly.
The plot of the story was mostly on both girls’ ideas of love, family, duty, and hurt. Tamsin and Wren have very different views on how they went on about with their personal conflicts and struggles, and it was nice to see their storylines merge together as you go along. The story itself was pretty straight-forward and a bit expected. What I did like was the world-building and magic system, especially the way the witches were depicted in this. I also loved how their powers are finite until a Source is tethered to them, and their magic has tons of consequences. I always did prefer my magic systems in my fantasy books to be a good balance of might and consequence.
The character work done to Tamsin and Wren was great. I liked how their personalities shone through, and it was really entertaining to read both of them. I actually liked Wren more at the beginning of the story, but I grew to enjoy Tamsin as I went through the story. I would have hoped that they were fleshed out a tad bit more, since it felt like there wasn’t more depth into them apart from the circumstances that were weighing them down. The very slow burn romance they had was something I also really appreciated, because I really wanted to see more of their interactions build up rather than being smacked in the face first. Their relationship was really adorable and funny, but also sweet and tender.
The other characters were a big miss for me. It was obvious that they had made a very big role in Tamsin and Wren’s lives, particularly for Tamsin, but it wasn’t seen as much as I would have wanted to. The family dynamics in this book played a huge part in the first half, but then it slowly tapered down towards the end. I wished it stayed on a consistent note all throughout. Even the “villian” of the story didn’t spell out as a villian for me, and those measly 2-3 chapters about them was too rushed and underwhelming.
Over-all, it was a really nice and entertaining book, especially if you just wanted some light fantasy to keep your imagination running. I am really hopeful for the next books the author has planned in the future, especially with a first amazing entry.
About The Author
Adrienne Tooley grew up in Southern California, majored in musical theater in Pittsburgh, and now lives in Brooklyn with her wife, six guitars, and a banjo. In addition to writing novels, she is a singer/songwriter who has currently released three indie-folk EPs. Find her @adriennetooley.