Out of all of fantasy hopes and wishes, I would bet that being a witch is probably the most realistic of them all. Being a pirate is never going to happen, as I live in a landlocked state. Dragons are highly unlikely, unless I discover a dragon egg. Time Travel involves science, but I am firmly a word girl. But witchcraft??? Entirely possible.
I’m just saying, maybe I could start tossing ingredients together to make a potion, surely I would hit a winning combination at some point. The odds are in my favor, that’s all I’m saying. Plus, I’ve been working on perfecting my cackle.
Book: Sweet & Bitter Magic
Author: Adrienne Tooley
Published March 9th 2021 by Margaret K. McElderry Books
Format: physical book
Death of a loved one, Grief, Anxiety, Depression
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..
The magic system was fully developed and super cool. I feel like the words “super cool” reek of middle school awkwardness and don’t fully convey my love for the magic system, so let me elaborate.
I’m going to do a quick crash course. Ok, there are witches and sources. Both can use magic (to some extent), but witches rely on sources to heighten their power. Dark magic = earth starts dying, so dark magic has been banned. Bargains can be made with ribbons that will choke you to death if you break them, sealed by a kiss. Little tidbits of fairytales and other folklore and tied into the world. Magic is a reservoir that can be depleted, and better yet doesn’t solve every problem. All of it is absolutely glorious.
I fell in love with both of the main characters slowly. Towards the beginning I felt pretty neutral towards both, but slowly there were little moments that endeared me to both Wren and Tamsin. I don’t want to go into too much detail, but the way that both of the characters progressed made them both charming protagonists.
Wren and Tamsin had this sunshine-and-grumpy adjacent dynamic going on that I fondly call the feels-too-much-and-doesn’t-feel-at-all. Or always-feeling-and-emotional-skills-of-a-walnut. You get my drift. The point is, this dynamic is one of my absolute favorites! The self doubting, the so-thought unrequited angst, the second guessing and did I do something wrong??? Brilliant. All of it. Also, bonus points the one bed trope.
Spoiler ALERT, proceed with caution
My absolute favorite moment of this dynamic was when Tamsin said “Did I do it wrong” after professing her love. I WAS DYING!! It was such a moment of vulnerability but also so sweet but I was also definitely laughing
I do wish that some of the dialogue, especially in the beginning, had been a touch less mean and more passive-aggressive-sass. I honestly think this is more of a personal preference, and less of a flaw, but I still wanted to mention it. That being said, as the book progressed we definitely found ourselves firmly in the more banter-esque zone.
The only reason I wasn’t able to rate Sweet & Bitter Magic a full 5/5 stars is because of, for a lack of a better word, the “villain.” Without going into too much detail, I found the motive to be somewhat lacking and then the consequences after similarly lacking. That being said, the character development, shocking midway plot twists, and interesting magic system more than compensated for any parts in which said “villain” fell short.
Overall, Sweet and Bitter Magic is a compelling debut featuring a sapphic enemies-to-lover romance, witches, and a fascinating magic system. The characters, and their development, is an absolute delight and I flew through the book! I’d recommend this book to fellow aspiring witches (or witch lovers in general) and to those on the lookout for standalone fantasy!
Also, thoroughly enjoyed screaming about it with Birdie @ Birdie’s Booktopia. Do check out her interview with the author, Adrienne Tooley, here!
Have you read Sweet and Bitter Magic?? What did you think??