I admitted that I picked this book based on the cover. It is so pretty. Thankfully the book was good or I would have been super disappointed. Ning is from a small town but one day gets an invitation from the Palace to compete to be the new shennong-shi, a master of the art of magic and tea. If she wins and becomes the Palace’s shennong-shi it will bring her power she can only dream of but more importantly, it will give her access to cure to save her sister. Ning immediately gets caught up in Palace politics. The Princess is currently ruling as he Emperor is sick. Her cousin, the son of the banished Prince wants something but his motives are allusive. Others in court have their own agenda. Who can Ning trust? It’s a lot of back and forth as I doubted each character’s motives, convinced that they were the bad guys, only to be surprised at the end. Ning is definitely my favorite character. She is super smart but a little naïve. She is a little over her head when it comes to the machinations of court. Despite that, she is very resourceful and talented. She is able to move through the competition by using what she knows and being able to think on her feet. She often knows the smart thing is to walk away but the does the right thing and stay and help. This often gets her in trouble but also helps her find allies. I was really drawn to this book and sad, I have to wait until October for the sequels. I guess I should be grateful, I don’t have wait a year.