Mia Tsai's debut contemporary fantasy, Bitter Medicine, has it all: cinematic xianxia-inspired action scenes, thoroughly developed characters, romance and a diverse, fascinating magical world. When Chinese magical calligrapher Elle's younger brother attempted to murder his older siblings, Elle and her older brother faked their deaths and went into hiding. Twenty-six years later, she's selling simple glyphs for a fairy temp agency and never using the jade laes that connects her to her ancestors (a laes holds a fae's magical essence). French half-elf security agent Luc has been coming to Elle for years, both of them wishing for more than their brief exchanges but holding back because they don't want to endanger one another. Just as their personal relationship starts to deepen, Luc's latest assignment puts them both directly in the path of Elle's murderous brother.
Bitter Medicine is steeped in yearning. Luc has spent decades suppressing his personal feelings and desires, building a wall between himself and the world in order to tolerate the awful things he is magically compelled to do as his boss's Fixer. Elle has disconnected from her ancestors, including the Chinese god of medicine, in order to protect her brother and they've moved frequently, so she has no social life. Elle and Luc have both done things they believe unforgivable, but they're good people and easy to root for.
Bitter Medicine is contemporary fantasy at its best: sharp, complex but contained and driven by two lovable characters working hard for their Happily Ever After. --Suzanne Krohn, librarian and freelance reviewer