Adrienne Tooley grew up in Southern California, majored in musical theater in Pittsburgh, and now lives in Brooklyn with her wife, six guitars, and a banjo. In addition to writing novels, she is a singer/songwriter who has currently released three indie-folk EPs. Sweet & Bitter Magic is her debut novel.
Tamsin is a witch, but unlike other witches her age, she has spent the last five years banished from the witches' land of Within, cursed to never feel love as punishment for a terrible deed. Now she ekes out a lonely existence as a harsh, callous village witch among the Ordinary folk. Wren is a source: someone who is magic but cannot use magic. But unlike other sources, she didn't travel to Within when her magic appeared, as the witches' governing coven requires. Instead, she stayed behind to care for her ailing father, hiding the evidence of her relationship to magic as best she could. When a dark plague sweeps across the land, Tamsin hopes to return to Within and hunt for the witch who cast it, potentially earning the right to return home. Determined to rescue her father from the plague, Wren seeks Tamsin's aid. The girls strike a bargain and set off to Within. The romantic arc of Sweet & Bitter Magic trods an enjoyable if well-worn opposites attract path. Chapters alternate between Tamsin's and Wren's perspectives, and each young woman exhibits both flaws and growth that readers will find relatable, perhaps even healing. Tamsin must outgrow her tendency to be selfish and let go of her guilt over her past mistakes, while Wren struggles to prioritize her own desires and develop confidence in her own abilities. Debut author Adrienne Tooley's magical system of witches and sources is simple but intriguing, and the novel's setting evokes a mix of European fairy tales and medieval society. The land of Within is filled with such strange and vivid imagery that readers will be reluctant to leave it behind. With its combination of fresh and familiar elements and two heroines whose emotional journeys are sure to resonate, Sweet & Bitter Magic is a treat for readers who loved the queer fantasy of Melissa Bashardoust's Girls Made of Snow and Glass and the atmospheric, witchy vibes of Peternelle van Arsdale's The Beast Is an Animal. -- BookPage * March 2021 *