Hello everybody. Today’s post is a spoiler free review of Adrienne Tooley’s YA Fantasy Sweet & Bitter Magic, followed by an interview with the author. This post is also part of a book tour organized by TBR And Beyond Tours. You’ll find more information about the tour at the end of this post, as well as links to all of the other blogs that are also participating in it.
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.
My review of Sweet & Bitter Magic
This book is so deliciously witchy, with a fantastic world brought to life by an engaging and rich writing style, and a wonderfully sweet, slow burn sapphic romance. Tamsin and Wren too were very compelling characters, each with her unique personality and her own interesting character arc. Throughout the story, we also get to visit a lot of magical places, including the Witchlands and its numerous intriguing landmarks, among which is an academy for witches that had me wishing that I too could live in this world and study magic with other witches. Another thing that I thought was really interesting is that this story takes place in a fictional world where queer love is completely socially accepted and where homophobia is not a known concept. This just made the reading experience even more special for me because as much as I think it’s important for works of fiction to reflect the often harsh realities of the queer community in our society, it’s just as important to have stories that simply celebrate queer love and offer queer readers (like me) stories where queer characters too get to have their cute romances and happy ever afters.
Interview with Adrienne Tooley
QaS: In the book, after being exiled by the Coven that rules over witches, Tamsin is cursed with the inability to love. What was your inspiration for Tamsin’s curse?
AT: When coming up with a punishment for Tamsin’s crime, I knew the Coven would want to get down to the root of what motivated Tamsin to break the law in the first place. Despite Tamsin’s cold, detached personality for most of the book, in the past she was a big-hearted, loving girl. But when the Coven realized that it was her love that made Tamsin take risks, they knew they couldn’t afford to let her continue to love. So by eliminating that emotion altogether, the Coven would feel confident that Tamsin could never care so much about anyone or anything that she would be motivated to do anything so dangerous again.
QaS: When witches complete their training at the age of 17, they can choose between staying in the Witchlands or going to live among ordinary folks in the land beyond the magical Wood that separates both places. If you were a witch and had to choose, where would you want to live?
AT: I would want to stay Within! I would absolutely haunt the Academy, maybe become the librarian who runs the archives and who all the students would come to with questions or concerns and I could help them choose the right spells.
QaS: Aside from witches, this world also features many other magical creatures, such as ogres, mermaids and sprites. What are some of your favorite magical or fairy tale creatures?
AT: I’ve always been very intrigued by sirens – there’s something so powerful about being able to use just a voice to lure people to their deaths…
QaS: Will we be seeing more of these magical beings in your future books? And if yes, what magical beings would you like to potentially include in your next books?
AT: Never say never! Now that I’m thinking of sirens, I’m already wondering how I can work them into a future book…
QaS: In the book, the Witchlands is full of awesome locations such as the witches’ academy, the woods and the Wandering Woes inn, among others. If you could travel to the Witchlands, which of these locations would you want to visit the most?
AT: I would be equal parts excited and terrified to see what the Witchwood would reveal to me (of course, this would assume that I held enough power to enter through the trees in the first place)!
QaS: As a singer and songwriter, have you ever worked or considered working on songs inspired by your stories?
AT: Actually, yes! This is a perfect place for me to promote my second book! SOFI & THE BONE SONG is a standalone fantasy novel about a musician who loses the future she’s been training her entire life for to a girl who doesn’t deserve it. This book was a huge challenge and great way to explore music and magic together – ironically, I haven’t written any new songs in years, but when writing SOFI the lyrics poured out of me. I’m actually hoping to put together some recordings of the songs I wrote for the book, maybe for a pre-order or pre-pub campaign!
QaS: And for the final question, what are some of your favorite witches in fiction?
AT: I’m actually really excited for so many witch-centric books coming out this year: Witches Steeped in Gold by Ciannon Smart, Blood Like Magic by Liselle Sambury, Bad Witch Burning by Jessica Lewis, The Nature of Witches by Rachel Griffin, and The Witch Haven by Sasha Peyton Smith!
About the author
Adrienne Tooley was born and raised in the desert suburbs of Southern California. She grew up in the theater, earning her B.A. in Musical Theatre from Point Park University. She and her wife currently live in New York City where she works in hospitality tech. In addition to writing novels she is also a singer/songwriter and has released several EPs which are available on Spotify & other streaming sites. Her debut novel, SWEET & BITTER MAGIC, will publish from S&S/McElderry in Spring 2021. Her second novel, SOFI AND THE BONE SONG, will release from S&S/McElderry in 2022.
You can follow Adrienne online at the following: