Sweet & Bitter Magic by Adrienne Tooley was the March Owlcrate book of the month, and it was so good! A cute standalone Sapphic fantasy with an enemies to lovers slow burn, magical plagues and curses healed by true love? Sign me up!
About The Book
Sweet & Bitter Magic by Adrienne Tooley, published March 9th, 2021, by Margaret K. McElderry Books. Reading age recommended is 12+.
Trigger Warnings: Sibling death, parental dementia
Official Synopsis: 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…
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. Her debut novel, SWEET & BITTER MAGIC, is out now. Her second novel, SOFI AND THE BONE SONG, will release in 2022.
Adrienne is represented by Jim McCarthy of Dystel, Goderich, & Bourret.
Where to Find Them
The cover for S&BM, designed by Laura Eckes and Illustrated by Tara Phillips, is f*cking GORGOUS. Seeing the girls on the front cover, holding hands, is perfect given how important touch is between them in the book. The dust jacket/cover also features one of my favorite things a dust jacket/cover can have- a wrap around design! If I were to take the dust jacket off and lay it out flat, you would see one consecutive image, which I LOVE!
I love the art style of the cover as well. It almost looks soft, but still realistic. Does that make sense? I’m also vibing with the black ribbons around their necks!!!
Plot & Characters
I really love how simple yet elegant the plot was. Adrienne Tooley referenced a few of everyone’s favorite fairy tales in passing without making it an obvious reference, which I loved.
Tamsin has been banished from the Coven and the home where she grew up, cursed to never be able to love anything again unless she steals the love from someone else. Wren would do anything for her father, and when the plague rolls into town, Wren must ask Tamsin for help in order to hunt the witch who created this new plague, even if it means sacrificing her love for her father and disclosing that she is a powerful magic source to appease Tamsin.
I think that premise alone has so much potential for these two characters and how they could possibly interact with each other, and I loved how Adrienne did it. These two girls came from two very different backgrounds, but each has something the other needs. Wren needs Tamsin’s help navigating this new magical world, and hunting the witch who is cursing the Queendom, while Tamsin needs Wren’s love to feel anything and her source magic to fight off the plague. It seems so common, but It’s actually a very unique concept!
I loved whenever Wren was able to break through Tamsin’s walls and get some sincere information out of her. Wren is the definition of looks like a cinnamon roll and is actually a cinnamon roll, while Tamsin is looks like a cinnamon roll but would actually kill you. It’s perfect.
Least Favorite Moments
As always, I’m not a fan of the twin trope where one twin has to suffer/die to further the plot/arc of the other twin (who is probably the MC). This book had that in abundance. As a twin, I just want to read fantasy/sci-fi/contemp books where twins are allowed to be happy or at least together, but I have not found hardly any books like that 😦
I also think the romance was rushed a tiny bit, despite it being a slow burn. There were moments when a character would say things like “and look at the way she looks at you, she obviously likes you” or “I see the way you look at her” when it hasn’t been mentioned in either character’s POV that that’s how they might feel? It feels like it came out of nowhere, where there should have just been a friendship. I do acknowledge that I am used to reading series where the slow burn is a bit longer because it has more room to develop, and this book being 359 pages didn’t have the time for that, but still. I am so happy that there was a HEA, don’t get me wrong, I just wish the romance had been fleshed out a little bit more.
I might, given that it only took me an afternoon to read and it was a fun and sweet book!
A great Sapphic fantasy that everyone who loves enemies to lovers and fun fantasy novels with Happily Ever After’s will love!