Ning is desperate. In a society where tea isn’t just important, but magical, she accidentally gave her mother and sister poisoned tea, and she’s consumed by regret and grief after watching her mother die. She has one chance to hold off her sister’s death: she must pretend to be her mother’s apprentice and enter a royal competition to find the kingdom’s next shénnóng-shi.
The shénnóng-shi are those who are trained to create and understand the magic of tea rituals. And though Ning has some experience in both working with tea and the art of healing—thanks to her parent’s gifts and experiences—she feels woefully out of her depth.
The royal courts are lavish and corrupt, nothing like her rural home. Stumbling into conspiracy and scheming at virtually every turn, Ning discovers that her fellow competitors and the governing officials are telling lies.
But the ingredients to the teas call to her, the berries and the flowers combine to create the magic that each situation demands. She may not have the training or the resources of the other competitors, but she is talented and determined.
She must trust her instincts and rise up to stop the darkness that threatens to consume her, her family, and the kingdom.