A Well-Steeped Cup: The Cybernetic Tea Shop by Meredith Katz

A Well-Steeped Cup: The Cybernetic Tea Shop by Meredith Katz

Genre: Sci-Fi Romance
Available on Bookshop.Org*

Like most romance novels, The Cybernetic Tea Shop is an effervescent read. I tore through its slim volume in an evening, smiling with joy when the characters shared a warm moment. Clara, an AI repair technician, moves from city-to-city about once a year. Sal, a sentient robot, has been running the same tea shop for the past 278 years. When Clara walks into Sal's shop after arriving in her new city, she is intellectually interested in meeting a sentient AI for the first time. Those feelings soon grow into something more.

The Cybernetic Tea Shop does what it sets out to do: it has me hoping that that the characters will relax into it each other and grow. Often, when I read romance, I feel like I need to justify my enjoyment by talking about the quality of writing or its interesting asides about AI sentience. The star of the show are the moments the characters connect, made all sweeter by the time they sit stewing over each other. This novella also focuses on grieving and learning to move on, particularly as both characters navigate attachments to places.

However, I wish that this book didn't raise as keep raising questions and leaving them unresolved. Repeatedly, the book brought up what it meant that Clara was owned by another person, and left that hanging. The resolution felt more like Clara letting go of grief than exploring this dynamic. Since it touches so closely to how we talk about slavery, it feels unfinished not to examine it closely.

Content Warning Notes:

  • Grief over a partner, xenophobia, hate crime-themed assault and arson

Next Week's Review: A Door into Ocean by Joan Slonczewski

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