Bitter Medicine

Tachyon. Mar. 2023. 272p. ISBN 9781616963842. pap. $18.95. FANTASY
DEBUT A half-elf mobster falls for a descendent of the Chinese god of medicine in this lushly romantic urban fantasy that mixes ancient Celtic heroes with svartálfar of Norse folklore and fox spirits from Chinese mythology (there are also epic flying battles). Elle Jiang is hiding in plain sight, pretending she’s a low-level magical calligrapher, while also pretending that her older brother is dead, even as she takes the blame for the younger brother who killed him. Her elaborate pretense unravels when she falls for Luc, the “Fixer” who is supposed to bring what’s left of her family to justice. Luc’s boss expects him to sacrifice Elle for duty—as he has sacrificed everything else. But Elle shows him there’s another way if he’s willing to give up everything he is for a future they might not live to see.

CORRECTION: Two facts have been corrected in this review: first, svartálfar are from Norse mythology, not Germanic; second, fox spirits come from Chinese mythology. LJ regrets the errors.

VERDICT Urban fantasy readers will appreciate the well-crafted hidden world, and lovers of bad boy or Mafia romances will see Luc as their darkly delicious type, all while Elle’s long sacrifice will break readers’ hearts. Fans of Sarah J. Maas’s epic paranormal fantasies will also find much to savor in Tsai’s debut.
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