Tuesday, March 14, 2023

Bitter Medicine by Mia Tsai: review

3/5 stars on Goodreads

Bitter Medicine by Mia Tsai

I picked up Bitter Medicine thinking it was UF with romance in it, but it was romantic fiction with UF elements. It was also a somewhat odd book, consisting of two uneven parts. First storyline came to a point at around 60% mark. It was ok, even if the romance was very slow-burn with rather odd intimate scenes. If the book had ended there, I might have given it a better rating. Unfortunately, it continued.

The latter part was a meandering mess that didn’t need to be that long; a couple of chapters would’ve sufficed. The conclusion was very unsatisfying. It’s a happily ever after, but at a cost that went against the tropes of fantasy genre, and not in a good way. Kudos for originality, but … no.

Fantasy elements were a mishmash of everything, but mostly western. The description promised xianxia inspired fantasy, but it was inspiration in name only. The main character, Elle, was Chinese, but nothing in her behaviour made me believe it. She was very American in her thoughts and deeds, though incredibly stupid for some reason (she could use a computer but not a smartphone?). For his part, Luc didnt feel very French, and the Catholic elements seemed really odd.

I was especially disappointed with Elles family relations. As a western reader, one thing that makes Asian fiction feel authentic to me, is the idea of duty to one’s family and elders that is very alien to western society. Some lip-service was paid to it here, but in actual dealings with each other, the characters were wholly western. Even the premise was about Elle taking away her brother’s immortalitywithout his consent, I might addso that he could escape doing his duty to his family.

Maybe modern Chinese are more western in this respect, but these characters were over a century old and from the heartland of China. If the characters hadn’t been Chinese, the premise would’ve worked. Now it only irked me. As a whole, the book left me unsatisfied both as a romance and as a fantasy.

I received a free copy from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

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