by Mia Tsai
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Pub Date 14 Mar 2023 | Archive Date Not set
In this xianxia-inspired contemporary fantasy, a Chinese immortal and a French elf navigate romance, family loyalty, and workplace demands. In her debut novel, Mia Tsai has created a paranormal adventure that is full of humor, passion, and depth.
[STARRED REVIEW] “Sparks fly in Tsai’s refreshing and enchanting paranormal debut.
“Overflowing with effervescent charm and sly humor, Bitter Medicine intoxicates with its steamy romance, globe-trotting adventure, family drama mystery, and a fabulously inventive world.”
—Angela Mi Young Hur, author of Folklorn
As a descendant of the Chinese god of medicine, ignored middle child Elle was destined to be a doctor. Instead, she is underemployed as a mediocre magical calligrapher at the fairy temp agency, paranoid that her murderous younger brother will find her and their elder brother.
Using her full abilities will expose Elle’s location. Nevertheless, she challenges herself by covertly outfitting Luc, her client and crush, with high-powered glyphs.
Half-elf Luc, the agency’s top security expert, has his own secret: he’s responsible for a curse laid on two children from an old assignment. To heal them, he’ll need to perform his job duties with unrelenting excellence and earn time off from his tyrannical boss.
When Elle saves Luc’s life on a mission, he brings her a gift and a request for stronger magic to ensure success on the next job—except the next job is hunting down Elle’s younger brother.
As Luc and Elle collaborate, their chemistry blooms. Happiness, for once, is an option for them both. But Elle is loyal to her family, and Luc is bound by his true name. To win freedom from duty, they must make unexpected sacrifices.
A Note From the Publisher
[STARRED REVIEW] “Sparks fly in Tsai’s refreshing and enchanting paranormal debut. A sordid family past has driven gifted immortal Elle Mei, a descendant of Shénnóng, the Chinese god of medicine, into leading a quiet, unassuming life. Though Elle’s exceptional talent at magical calligraphy could easily earn her a lucrative career, she chooses to cover up the extent of her gift, hiding in plain sight as an “ordinary” glyphmaker in Raleigh, N.C. It’s the only way she knows how to protect her family, as using too much power would surely draw attention. But the temptation to use her full abilities becomes too much to resist when it comes to her favorite customer (and crush), the dashing half-elf security expert Luc Villois. When Luc realizes what Elle’s truly capable of, he commissions her to create custom glyphs for an upcoming assignment, and, against her better judgment, she agrees. Meanwhile, Luc has a secret of his own, and he knows that Elle would never choose to spend more time with him if she knew who he truly was. Despite their mutual reservations, their friendship deepens into love—but will their trust in each other be enough to save them when their twisted pasts come back to haunt them? With brilliantly developed, multifaceted characters; a clever magic system; and witty prose, the pages of this fantasy fly. This marks Tsai as a writer to watch.”
“Overflowing with effervescent charm and sly humor, Bitter Medicine intoxicates with its steamy romance, globe-trotting adventure, family drama mystery, and a fabulously inventive world of magic inspired by cross-cultural lore. The delights are plenty—especially potent are gorgeous descriptions of magic inspired by Chinese calligraphy and brushwork along with a tender, sweeping love story crafted so thoughtfully from the characters’ individual journeys of self-knowledge and redemption.”
—Angela Mi Young Hur, author of Folklorn
“As a contemporary fantasy debut, Mia Tsai’s Bitter Medicine is an extraordinary and distinct blend of agent thriller, the supernatural, and romance.”
—Asia Pacific Arts
“The modern Chinese diaspora fantasy that I’ve yearned for—fresh, exciting, with characters who leap off the page.”
—Courtney Milan, author of The Devil Comes Courting
“A romp of a supernatural action-romance, Bitter Medicine is a sparkling mix of angsty yearning, cool magic, family drama, and intriguing side characters, with a garnish of wonderful use of language!”
—Malka Older, author of Infomocracy
“Magical, sexy, and snarky, Bitter Medicine is perfect for grown up fans of Artemis Fowl looking to scratch that fairy heist itch.”
—Lara Elena Donnelly, author of the Amberlough Dossier and Base Notes
“Bitter Medicine goes down like a spoonful of sugar with a dash of spice: a dazzling and adventurous romantic fantasy with tons of heart. I can't wait to see what Mai Tsai does next!”
—Hugo Award-winning editor Diana M. Pho
“Creative, tense, and extremely swoonworthy, Mia Tsai’s Bitter Medicine brings together cultures, mythical creatures, and genres for an unforgettable mash-up debut that will appeal to fans of Fonda Lee and paranormal romance enthusiasts.”
—Mike Chen, New York Times bestselling author of Star Wars: Brotherhood
Rating: 10/10. “Bitter Medicine is hands down my favorite read of 2022 and I already can’t wait to read it again to linger with my new favorite couple."
—Buba's Book Review
Marketing and publicity
• Featured cover reveal on Buzzfeed
• Print ARCs sent to leading fiction, fantasy, and romance outlets
• Digital ARCs provided via NetGalley and Edelweiss+
• Blog features to include The Big Idea; My Favorite Bit; and other venues
• Instagram influencer tour via Storygram Tours
• National book launch event and author tour dates TBD
Average rating from 24 members
Summary: In this paranormal contemporary fantasy we follow a Chinese immortal and a French elf in their journey of romance, humor, and adventure. Elle, the descendant of the Chinese god of medicine, is destined to be a talented doctor. Unfortunately, she is otherwise employed as a magical calligrapher at a fairy temp agency. Luc, a half elf, is the temp agency's top security expert. Luc must lay low due to a curse he cast on two people from a previous mission.
Review: Wow!! This was a very unexpected and fun journey. It was a unique experience that took alot of risk but made it all work together in a beautiful way. I adored this book and the characters in every way. This is my third 5 star read for this year and I am hoping the trend continues. My overall rating for this book (obviously) is a strong 5/5.
Magic System: 5/5
Elle and Luc are two duty bound characters in a beautiful magical world. Elle is fighting to protect her family by making her self smaller to hide, Luc is the mysterious half-elf agent of Roland & Riddle who has forgotten who he is outside of his obligations to his job.
I loved this book. It was beautifully written and well-executed with such a unique world and perspective. I loved the different use of so many languages and how they were presented in the book. It was such a unique way of incorporating different cultures in languages that I haven’t seen before.
I really appreciated the realistic nature of the characters. They were assertive but able to listen, brave but not reckless, and supportive of eachother in some of the huge revelations in the book. I also really enjoyed how the romance was such a slow and realistic build. I also just really loved how Elle was a strong assertive woman who still cried, loved her family and learned to stand up for herself, and learned to not see herself as less than everyone around her.
Overall, I really loved this book and I will definitely be telling my friends about it!
Thank you to Netgalley and Tachyon for the digital ARC of BITTER MEDICINE.
This is a fun, contemporary fantasy with a lot of heart. Elle works a dull job at a fairy temp agency providing goods to different agents ranging from those haunting cemeteries to one of the agency's top security experts. Over the last year, she's struck up an unlikely friendship with Luc, a very hot agent whose work for the agency is mostly classified. That's fine with Elle, she doesn't ask him a lot of questions about his background, and he doesn't ask her much about hers. When he asks for a personalized commission, Elle and Luc begin to spend more time together and find that it's very hard to keep their secrets from each other. Work complications and family drama ensue, both working to keep them apart.
The world-building and magic system in BITTER MEDICINE is as delightful as it is intriguing, and Tsai has carefully crafted a world rich with linguistic diversity. Elle and Luc's relationship dynamic is really lovely, and you root for them through the whole book because they make each other so much better.
I was especially struck by Elle's journey through the book. Elle is a character that gives of her whole self, sacrificing her own happiness and dreams to ensure that those she loves are taken care of. She is convinced that no one wants a relationship with her unless she can offer something in return. At one heartbreaking point, she asks her mother, "Did I not do enough?" For someone who has already sacrificed so much for her family, Elle's question is heartbreaking but begins a journey where Elle rebuilds her life and rediscovers art.
This is a book as much about the love between these two characters as it is about finding yourself, being a little more selfish, and living your life without regrets. It is a powerful reminder that redemption is always possible and that it's never too late to reach for what you want.
There is so much that is great about this story but I don't want to spoil anything!! Just to give you an idea I can say that is set in very interesting time and and has fascinating characters. I would recommend this book to anyone!.
Big thanks to NetGalley and Tachyon for providing me an ARC to review.
Bitter Medicine by Mia Tsai is a gorgeously written debut romantic fantasy that takes place at a fairy temp agency. When it comes to Romance I am not normally a fan of office/workplace romance, but Bitter Medicine might just have changed my mind about the whole subgenre. I cannot say enough how much I adored the concept of the Bureau and all the fun and fascinating details of the fae world that Tsai developed around the most heart wrenching story of love, family duty, and self-acceptance I’ve read in a long time.
Ellie is a Chinese immortal, posing as a mediocre magical calligrapher. She’s been sacrificing any chance at joy and hiding her true magical potential in order to protect her eldest brother from their youngest brother who needs them both dead to fill the role of family heir that her eldest brother refused to take up.
Luc is a French half-elven fixer for the controlling head of the bureau whose terrifying reputation and lack of interpersonal skills have cut him off from his colleagues and left him desperately lonely. His only goals are to impress his boss enough to earn leave to pursue a curse breaking personal project whose victims have haunted him for years.
When Elle starts personalizing Luc’s glyph orders and saves his life, he comes requesting a magical commission that might challenge her for the first time in years, but at the same time could reveal her and her eldest brother to the brother hunting them.
The chemistry between these characters is electric from the first moment they’re on page together. I adored how absolutely in love Luc is from the very first page. The adoration between these characters who so clearly and deeply want to be seen and loved and yet whom familial duty and work hold back and force them apart has my whole entire heart.
Elle is such a self-effacing and yet unbelievably badass character. Luc is the unbelievable badass that you will love for how soft he can be for Elle (and also his cooking, nothing sexier than a man who can cook omg the way this book made my mouth water)
The way Tsai writes magic made my heart flutter from page 1. I could not get enough of Elle’s xianxia-inspired magic, and the oh so cool calligraphy/glyph magic. Every new and inventive use felt fresh and fascinating and yet so innately a part of who Elle is as a person. I hope to read so much more fantasy from this author. I could lose myself in her magical world for hours and I absolutely did, binge reading this straight through in 6 hours.
On top of being eminently bingeable Tsai handles an interracial/multicultural romance with so much nuance and grace I was swooning. We love a man who doesn’t tolerate racist microaggressions. The multicultural aspects definitely hit me in all the Asian diaspora feels, of having family and a home impossibly far away that you can never return to because you have been irreparably changed by leaving. Of having expectations and duties heaped upon you and feeling that no matter how much you sacrifice it will never be enough in the eyes of your family and the harrowing journey to self-love and self-acceptance for who you are instead of what you can do for those you love. I actually wept my heart out at multiple points and then had it pieced together masterfully.
Bitter Medicine is hands down my favorite read of 2022 and I already can’t wait to read it again to linger with my new favorite couple.
What an amazing book!
The book is super exciting and would love to read more from the author!
Thankyou netgalley for the ARC
An interesting paranormal romance. Luc is the top enforcer at Roland & Riddle, the premier fae organization. Elle is a low level practitioner making glyphs for Roland & Riddle employees and other fae. Both are hiding dark secrets and paying for previous mistakes. But the French half-elf and the Chinese descendant of a god of medicine seem drawn to each other. Each seems to fill a void in the other's life. But just as things are heating up, their secrets intersect and they have to quickly decide what is most important - happiness together or misery apart? And what will be the price paid this time? Mia Tsai has created a world inhabited by quirky characters that resonate with the reader. Hopefully, Mia will write more tales in this universe! This was the romance I needed now.
Thanks Netgally and Tachyon Publications for the chance to read this tale!
This was my first book by Mia Tsai and I'm glad I was able to read this. It was such a well done story and had a unique take on a fantasy romance novel. The characters were what I was hoping for and they were interesting people, I wanted to know more about them. I enjoyed the story and getting to read it from beginning to end, I look forward to reading more from Mia Tsai.
"That’s Ēnlián’s way of insinuating Elle doesn’t belong in San Francisco. Neither does she belong in Shénnóngjià. She’s been through too much. “I see it when I look at my paintings. Maybe one day I’ll go back, but I’m busy with things here.”
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