Aza Wu knows that real magic is dangerous and illegal. After all, casting killed her sister, Shire. As with all magic, everything comes at a price. For Aza, it feels like everything in her life has some kind of cost attached to it. Her sister had been casting for money to pay off Saint Willow, the gang leader that oversees her sector of Lotusland. If you want to operate a business there, you have to pay your tribute. And now with Shire dead, Aza must step in to save the legacy of Wu Teas, the teahouse that has been in her family for centuries. When Aza comes across a secret invitation, she decides she doesn’t have much else to lose. She quickly realizes that she’s entered herself into an underground casting tournament, and the stakes couldn’t be higher. Real magic, real consequences. As she competes, Aza fights for her life against some very strong and devious competitors. When the facts about Shire’s death don’t add up, the police start to investigate. When the tributes to Saint Willow aren’t paid, the gang comes to collect. When Aza is caught sneaking around with fresh casting wounds, her parents are alarmed. As Aza’s dangerous web of lies continues to grow, she is caught between trying to find a way out and trapping herself permanently.
I first heard about this book when the cover was revealed. It has an absolutely stunning cover, and it definitely sets the stage for what this book is about. And then I learned it’s about magic and the price that has to be paid for it. There’s underground tournaments, secrets, and mysteries too. It sounded like something I would like to read, and I wanted to give it a shot.
While I’m a bit back and forth on my feelings toward some parts of this book, I can say that I enjoyed it. It delivers everything the synopsis promises. There’s magic and prices paid, there’s death and secrets, there’s a world falling apart at the seams.
Aza has crafted such a web of lies, that I was honestly stressed for her when she was trying to keep everything balanced haha. It’s like she has multiple different worlds, and different roles to play for different people. And they just keep piling up! It really speaks to her strength as a person on how she balances everything. She feels the weight of responsibility and she wants to help her family. She’s also just a teenager, so her emotions are messy and she slips up here and there. She feels like lose of her sister keenly and she’s trying to figure out where to put her grief and her anger.
In all the worlds Aza is balancing, I found some more interesting than the others. The tournament was fascinating. I loved watching the competitors, and it was so cool how it played out. Aza’s problems with the gang weren’t as interesting until the end. I sort of just wanted this dude to go away so she could focus on the problem at hand haha. I mean, I think that means Chapman accomplished what she was going for, because that dude was supposed to be jerk haha.
This world, and the characters, just are. It doesn’t feel like there is a right or a wrong anywhere. The line is barley a line. They make decisions based on their feelings and what they think is going to have the best outcome. There’s no solid answer. This is true both for decisions in fighting and in emotions. It felt really real and it added rawness and reality to the story.
I really, really like the magic system and the world. There is such an obvious system for how everything works. I liked how the price paid for using full magic was always clear. The world the way it is in the present and also the history of this world is so fascinating. I would love to know more. I originally thought this was a standalone, but there are more books! I can’t wait to see more of the magic and the secrets it holds.
I did feel like there was a ton of info dumping throughout the entire book. The world and it’s magic is complicated. It takes a lot of explaining. Unfortunately, that explaining got a bit tedious here and there. Though, the information was interesting enough that I ended up enjoying the book a lot overall! I also felt like there were discrepancies with the magic at times. It’s a complicated system, and magic was often cast during high stake moments, so it felt like a few details slipped through the cracks.
The ending was not what I was expecting at all, but it works so, so well. I can’t wait to see where the story goes in the next book. I’m hoping there’s expansion on the world because it’s so cool, and I think there are a lot more secrets to uncover. The government is hiding something, I’m pretty sure, and I can’t wait to see what else Aza uncovers. Because I have a feeling she’s going to be digging a lot deeper.
Thank you for reading!