Book Review # 55: The Potion Diaries by Amy Alward

Saturday, 25 July 2015
Title: The Potion Diaries
Author: Amy Alward
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Format: Paperback
Publication Date: July 2nd 2015
Pages: 320

Review Copy from Publisher/ Maximum Pop Books

PurchaseThe Book Depository / Waterstones

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.

With a bright, vibrant cover and a quote from Zoella plastered on the front, The Potion Diaries by Amy Alward probably wasn't going to be my first choice of book to pick up. In honesty it screams teenage girl doesn't it? Clearly that is the direction in which the marketing people at Simon & Schuster are going with book and that is totally fine! When the lovely people at Maximum Pop Books were advertising books to review for S&S, I felt the need to request one. As I had heard a bit about what this book was about, it initially intrigued me. The concept sounded wonderful but I kept being put off by the marketing design. Was this going to be the book for me or was it going to be a cheesy teenage flop? Well, what did I think?

Let me tell you straight that this book did not disappoint. Yes there are some typical teenage girl tropes dotted throughout the story that would appeal to that audience, but don't get the wrong impression from this book, it's nothing quite like it's pitched as. I really enjoyed this book! It was packed full of action, adventure, a touch of romance and enough character development to make this reader very happy. After reading such a disappointing book prior to The Potion Diaries, this was such a refreshing and light read that I absolutely sped through! The story was fast paced, the characters were intriguing and the plot had lots of elements to it that really made it stand out. One of the things I really loved in this novel was the occasional chapters written from the point of view of Princess Evelyn while she was under the effects of the love potion. I found them to be quite refreshing to read and they separated the events happening in Sam's POV really well. They added a lot of suspense too because you'd constantly be wondering what was happening to Evelyn while transitioning on the journey with Sam. Another element I really enjoyed was the mix of fairytale like tropes and magic with modern reality. In the beginning I questioned whether some of the elements worked as well as some of the others, more specifically the use of mobiles and social media in contrast with such a fantasy setting. However, as the plot progressed and they were gradually used more and more I found myself to be rather surprised with how much I felt they were necessary to tell the story. What I admired in this story was the feeling I got from it when reading. For anyone who enjoyed the tri-wizard tournament element of the Harry Potter series, then this has a very similar feel, except it's the main focus of the story. 

There are lots of characters that we get to meet in this novel and I think Amy did a wonderful job at keeping them all quite separate in their personalities. I never found myself to be confused with who was who, with the characters being very individualised. They all worked really well to actually benefit the story instead of just 'being there' as I've seen used in previous novels. It really bugs me - if you're going to have a character, give them a purpose, don't just let them linger in the background and Amy did a brilliant job at creating purpose for each of her characters. 

Focusing more specifically on some of the characteristics of her main protagonists, I found myself to really enjoy Samantha. She was down to earth, actually well written for a teenager and Amy really stretched the boundary with her character in regards to her emotional depth. Amy's character didn't focus heavily on the romance aspect of her life, more of the upkeep of her family traditions which I really appreciated. Family over romance. However, when the romance was introduced it wasn't incredibly overbearing - which is possibly a reason that I didn't see the whole necessity to it. I enjoyed what was there but at times it felt very sudden and set back. I enjoy the concept of it being in the background but really I could have happily seen Sam's character develop without it. She was independent enough to just maintain her friendships. Speaking of the love interest, in the beginning I really found myself to enjoy Zain as an anti-hero character. As the novel progressed and he became more of a good guy, I didn't mind him so much but I don't know I guess I just wasn't completely taken with him. As for the main villain in this novel, Emilia, I found that I enjoyed her interactions with the characters as she tried to best Sam and her team after they completed to locate a potion ingredient. I thought she had substance but unfortunately I found her to be a bit questionable in her methods of persuasion. For a novel set in such a fantasy based world I think I would have liked a villain who utilised the magic in the world. As a talented I think we could have got more of an interesting twist of events rather than her just pulling out a gun. I mean, really?  There were many other characters that served their own purpose in the novel, but these were the ones that I liked to focus on specifically.

So overall this was a very light-hearted and easy read. I can definitely see why the marketing team have pitched it at the level it's at because whilst the book is action packed and adrenaline pumping, it does have some very younger novel tropes. However, besides it's faults I'm very glad I read it. It got me out of the mood I was in after reading my previous book. I award The Potion Diaries a 3 out of 5 star rating on my classification scale. Seriously one to read if you're slightly wary about it, it may just surprise you!

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