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The Tainted Cup

Robert Jackson Bennett mixes Fantasy with a Murder Mystery in this exciting series start!


The Tainted Cup by Robert Jackson Bennett is the first book in the Shadow of the Leviathan series.

I was so intrigued by the premise of this! It's a mashup of fantasy and murder mystery, and I enjoyed it even more than I anticipated!

Set in a fantasy world with characters "altered" for heightened abilities, the advancements are mingled with a few age-old things like politics, corruption, and murder. Din is an "engraver" altered to have an extraordinary memory that allows him to recall every aspect of a scene. An apprentice, he is the eyes and ears of the Empire's most brilliant detective, Ana. She rarely leaves the house, so he reports the scenes to her from his exceptional memory. The two must catch a murderer who has covered things up to look like a contagion, and Din must try to keep his own secrets from the ultra-perceptive Ana.

This was fun! Well-written and unique. The world-building is vivid and imaginative. The Empire is fascinatingly strange, with plant life that can be helpful or deadly, inhabitants augmented to amplify various traits, and leviathans trying to breach the walls. The mystery is twisty and solidly plotted, with misdirections mingled with this world's peculiarities in a way that keeps the reader guessing.

My favorite character was scene-stealing Ana. She's eccentric, blunt, and genius. Her deductions are so brilliant that she's always at least ten steps ahead of everyone else. She and Din bicker and banter, and it's hilarious. I loved their interactions! Din is also a likable and complex character whose layers will likely continue to unfold across additional books.

Super entertaining! I look forward to the next one!

Thank you to NetGalley and Random House Ballentine for the gifted ARC.

My steep was Mountain Stream Oolong from The Cultured Cup

I recently bought this for the first time, and it ended up being the perfect pairing for this book because of the tea's unique story. When a bug bites the leaf, the plant sends out compounds that deter the bug, and these compounds impart delicious flavor!


In Daretana's greatest mansion, a high imperial officer lies dead—killed, to all appearances, when a tree erupted from his body. Even here at the Empire's borders, where contagions abound and the blood of the leviathans works strange magical changes, it's a death both terrifying and impossible.

Assigned to investigate is Ana Dolabra, a detective whose reputation for brilliance is matched only by her eccentricities. Rumor has it that she wears a blindfold at all times, and that she can solve impossible cases without even stepping outside the walls of her home.

At her side is her new assistant, Dinios Kol, magically altered in ways that make him the perfect aide to Ana's brilliance. Din is at turns scandalized, perplexed, and utterly infuriated by his new superior—but as the case unfolds and he watches Ana's mind leap from one startling deduction to the next, he must admit that she is, indeed, the Empire's greatest detective.

As the two close in on a mastermind and uncover a scheme that threatens the Empire itself, Din realizes he's barely begun to assemble the puzzle that is Ana Dolabra—and wonders how long he'll be able to keep his own secrets safe from her piercing intellect.

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