The Potion Diaries (Potion #1), by Amy Alward
Publish Date: July 2, 2015
Published by: Simon & Schuster
Genre: YA Fantasy
My Rating: ★★★☆☆ (3.5 out of 5 stars)
When the Princess of Nova accidentally poisons herself with a love potion meant for her crush, she falls crown-over-heels in love with her own reflection. Oops. A nationwide hunt is called to find the cure, with competitors travelling the world for the rarest ingredients, deep in magical forests and frozen tundras, facing death at every turn.
Enter Samantha Kemi – an ordinary girl with an extraordinary talent. Sam’s family were once the most respected alchemists in the kingdom, but they’ve fallen on hard times, and winning the hunt would save their reputation. But can Sam really compete with the dazzling powers of the ZoroAster megapharma company? Just how close is Sam willing to get to Zain Aster, her dashing former classmate and enemy, in the meantime?
And just to add to the pressure, this quest is ALL OVER social media. And the world news.
No big deal, then.
I came across this book by happenstance at my workplace and was instantly intrigued. It sounded like it would be cute and romantic with an intriguing fantasy world and plot. And while the story easily drew me in, I was not completely enthralled with the writing itself, and the romance was definitely lacking.
Like I said, the story drew me in instantly, with great world-building, a fantasy setting I absolutely loved, and narration that is easy to follow. The story is mostly told from the first perspective of Samantha Kemi, with a few chapters interspersed told by Princess Evelyn’s perspective – but in third person. This seemed a little strange and unnecessary to me, especially since each chapter title was headed by the narrator’s name, so the use of both first and third person seemed strange to me. This didn’t draw away from the rest of the story, luckily, and I was able to easily follow along as the story progressed, save for a few times where things jumped around so quickly – either in the plot itself or in what Sam’s decisions and emotions were – that I felt confused and startled at the abruptness of things.
I thought the plot was interesting, if a little convoluted at times. The premise is that there are these Wilde Hunts that are called by a magical horn whenever a member of the royal family is given a potion that puts them or the country in mortal danger. It pits alchemists against each other in what is basically an Amazing Race to find all the ingredients to create a cure for the potion, and whoever creates the cure first wins money from the crown and access to the royal’s magic. You’d think the honor of just saving a person’s life might enough? I mean, it was fun and definitely made for some suspense, but it also just seemed a little insensitive in the scheme of things.
I thought Sam was a great character, and she remained so through most of the book, but the other characters just felt very one-dimensional. Her family especially annoyed me, because her parents seemed to have no conviction whatsoever, and always went along with whatever Sam’s grandfather said without question. He, meanwhile, is very stubborn and difficult, revealing little about why he believes certain things and refusing to listen to Sam’s suggestions to help improve the family store to gain more customers. Some of the other characters did have promise, but just didn’t really get to show it as much. Even the antagonist, Emilia, had an interesting history, but when she did appear on the page, turned out to be kind of cheesy and disappointing.
Then there is the romance. I had such high hopes that it would be a strong part of the plot but honestly it was kind of…not. I mean, if it hadn’t been such a factor in the summary of the book I would have been okay with that, but since I was going into the story with the idea that the romance was going to be very prevalent, I was a little disappointed. Sam spends all of three or four actual scenes with Zain, and none of them were very enlightening. There is some clear attraction between both of them, but I felt like they never really spent enough time together.
Overall, this was a cute and fun read, with really great world-building and a wonderfully unique setting. It had some unfortunate plot-holes, a romance that I wanted to see much more of, and many characters who needed more dimension. Despite the technical issues, I still enjoyed reading it and will most likely pick up the next one sometime soon.
Beat the Backlist 2018 | Books Completed Toward Goal: 4/20