Review| The Tainted Cup – Robert Jackson Bennett

Even though I haven’t read and Sherlock Holmes books, I always find it interesting if books have characters that are a lot like Holmes and Watson. If you add a fantasy story with a mystery to the mix, I’m sold. That was the case with The Tainted Cup! I finally sat down and read this one, so I want to tell you about it and my thoughts. Keep on reading to find out more!

A big thank you to Netgalley and Del Rey for providing me with an eARC to read and review. This doesn’t influence my opinion in any way.

In Daretana’s most opulent mansion, a high Imperial officer lies dead—killed, to all appearances, when a tree spontaneously erupted from his body. Even in this canton at the borders of the Empire, where contagions abound and the blood of the Leviathans works strange magical changes, it’s a death at once terrifying and impossible.

Called in to investigate this mystery is Ana Dolabra, an investigator whose reputation for brilliance is matched only by her eccentricities.

At her side is her new assistant, Dinios Kol. Din is an engraver, magically altered to possess a perfect memory. His job is to observe and report, and act as his superior’s eyes and ears–quite literally, in this case, as among Ana’s quirks are her insistence on wearing a blindfold at all times, and her refusal to step outside the walls of her home.

Din is most perplexed by Ana’s ravenous appetite for information and her mind’s frenzied leaps—not to mention her cheerful disregard for propriety and the apparent joy she takes in scandalizing her young counterpart. Yet as the case unfolds and Ana makes one startling deduction after the next, he finds it hard to deny that she is, indeed, the Empire’s greatest detective.

As the two close in on a mastermind and uncover a scheme that threatens the safety of 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.

Featuring an unforgettable Holmes-and-Watson style pairing, a gloriously labyrinthine plot, and a haunting and wholly original fantasy world, The Tainted Cup brilliantly reinvents the classic mystery tale.


The Tainted Cup is a great mix of fantasy and murder mystery. I can honestly say, I haven’t read anything like this one. We’re dumped right into this world where our main character Din must investigate a murder for the investigator he’s working with. The idea that people are augmented and have different abilities was really interesting.

The world is interesting as I already said with augmentations, politics, and leviathans that can destroy their world. It took me a bit to get into this story, because I feel like we didn’t get a lot of background information. I kind of understand that we were getting information as Din was, but seeing how he did know more about his own world, I would’ve loved just a little more world building.

Din was such a heartwarming character. I love that he was flawed and insecure, but he was very aware of this. He really wanted to do his best and I feel that he did better investigating his first case than I would’ve! He made me laugh and I even wanted to give him a hug a few times while reading. Ana, the quirky investigator, was just so much fun. I love how she figured things out and what people thought about her. Din and Ana are a fun duo and I definitely want more of these two together.

Then we of course had a murder mystery with an interesting contagion that was the culprit. I loved trying to figure things out, but I was glad to say I didn’t figure it out. The author pulled me into this world and I had a great time with these two characters. I do hope we get a little more world building in the next book. I will definitely pick it up!

Even though it took me a bit to get into this book, I’ll definitely be reading the sequel. This also makes me excited to finally pick up Foundryside. Do you have any favorite Sherlock Holmes retellings? Let me know in the comments! I’d love to hear from you.

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