Mia Tsai’s BITTER MEDICINE is one of the best debut novels of 2023

Mia Tsai’s BITTER MEDICINE continues to amaze with Yume Kitasei, in an interview by Uri Bram of Five Books, citing the novel as the number one debut of 2023 and glowing reviews from The Quill to Live, Jeanne K Wong on their JKStar88 Reader, and Jessie Mihalik for Romanced by the Book.

Bitter Medicine by Mia Tsai
Cover art by Jia-Ling Pan
Design by Elizabeth Story

Your first recommendation for us is Bitter Medicine by Mia Tsai. Can you tell us a little about this book?

This is a contemporary fantasy set in California, New York, France, and many other places. It’s a fun paranormal adventure story that contains a very sweet romance.

The main character is a woman who has given up her powers and gone into hiding to take care of her elder brother and protect him from their younger brother. She’s been making herself smaller: she has extraordinary abilities but chooses to do something mundane for a living to preserve their cover identities. As the book unfolds, this all starts to unravel and she is forced to confront the past.

It’s really fun. The magic system in the novel is based on Chinese calligraphy. Tsai has built a very rich world. She is multilingual and made a cool choice not to translate any of the other languages (Chinese and French) in this book – you can understand a lot through context, even though there’s no translation. It works really well.

Five Books

BITTER MEDICINE by Mia Tsai is a delightful fantasy/paranormal romance that sparks with magic and a little bit of drama. It has two endearing protagonists and a love story set in a unique world that I would have loved to stay in longer. The problems that Elle and Luc encounter are real, fantastical, and totally complicated which combined make for a great light summer read.

The Quill to Live

Reading the book gave me a sense of calm and soothing feeling. There is a jumble of elements that pulls from Western faerie lore as well as Chinese legends. Much of the book gave vibes of a high-flying cdrama, with locales in the U.S., France, and Egypt.

It is a debut novel that packs in a lot in one volume, and asks what heroes are willing to give up for a good life.

JKStar88 Reader

This lovely, emotional contemporary fantasy romance features a woman desperately trying to balance the needs of family, self, and work—and losing. When a handsome stranger becomes more, she has no idea that his secrets might just destroy hers. I had a book hangover in the best way when I finished reading!

Romanced by the Book