Sweet And Bitter Magic by Adrienne Tooley

*Spoiler free*

Thank you so much to Margaret K. McElderry Books and Netgalley for the e-ARC!

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.

Witches, and f/f enemies-to-lovers. Yeah, that was enough for me to be completely invested. Then I found out that it was about a witch who is unable to love traveling with girl who is a source of magic to stop a plague that is ravaging the queendom. I also found out it had a cat, so this book was filled to the brim with things that I wanted to know more about. Trigger warnings: grief

This book was good. It feels likes a quiet purple hue, filled with saplings and talking toads. It’s a journey of magic, painful and hopeful, and so beautifully written. I don’t think I fell completely, head over heels, in love with this one. But, I did fall in love with it, because there are so many things to love.

One of the things that I loved most about this book was Wren. She added such a sweet, caring, selfless feeling to this book. She’s like a flower reaching towards the sun, shielding little mice from it’s scorching rays. She’s sweet and wonderful, with an inner strength she is learning she possesses. She’s the kind of girl who stops to usher turtles across the road and doesn’t blink an eye when asked to give something up to provide help.

Tamsin is the exact opposite. She’s cold and brittle, cursed to live without love. She is the epitome of grumpy from the grumpy/sunshine dynamic. She’s swimming through a sea of pain and guilt and grief, with nothing to balance the negative feelings out. But there is still something about her that is so lovable. She’s determined and fierce, and she’s learning to open up.

Speaking of Tamsin, I thought the love curse was incredibly written. For me, it’s so hard to imagine life without love, but I feel like Tooley captured it really well. Love is something that is welded into every facet of life, and when it’s gone, life is completely altered. It takes away positive experiences and replaces them with negative ones. It drains the color and the joy from life. All of this is woven into Tamsin’s character, and it created a wealth of wonderfully written pain and anguish. I also loved how it changed and morphed throughout the book, as new situations were presented.

The world is both quaint and vast at the same time. Travel does happen, but everything feels so contained. I think it worked for what this book was trying to do! This story wasn’t something that needed to encompasses the entire world. It focused on two girls, and the journeys both of them were going through. It needed a world to reflect the vastness of their stories, but no so vast the small details would slip through the cracks. It’s made up of small villages, and towering witch’s academies. A fantastic combination.

One of the things I’m not too sure of it the plot. I’m not quiet sure where it stems from, but maybe I wanted more. Maybe I wasn’t completely invested in the overarching plot of the plague and the world being ripped apart. I think I wanted more from that. It did feel like a book that moved very fast through plot points. There were times where I would be in the middle of scene and realize that something big and dramatic was happening, because it zipped straight to the point. I think this affected how deeply I connected with the emotional journey’s of both Tamsin and Wren.

Though, overall, I did enjoy this book. It is incredibly gay and the cat lives in the end. It’s got a sweet happiness to it, but it doesn’t shy away from the heartbreaking pain. It is sweet and bitter (I know, I know), working in fantastic harmony. It truly is a great book.

Sweet And Bitter Magic comes out March 9, 2021! You can add it on Goodreads and pre-order a copy in the meantime!

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