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Thursday, 1 December 2016

Book Review: The Potion Diaries & Royal Tour by Amy Alward

* I received copies of these books in exchange for an honest review.

The Potion Diaries

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.



Image: Amy Alward / Simon & Schuster
Upon receiving these books to review, I was pretty excited to get reading. I had previously heard a lot of good things about this series, so I wanted to see if the books could manage to live up to the hype!

However, I think the concept was by far the best thing about this book. The marriage of traditional fantasy (Kings, Queens and Princesses, alchemy and magic, a hero on a quest, the rags to riches storyline) and modern life (celebrities, social media) was absolutely perfect. It was fun, engaging, and a pleasure to read.

Then we come to the characters. Our main character, Sam Kemi, is instantly likeable. We immediately recognise her as the hero of the story, and we root for her to succeed. The rest of the Kemi family are great characters as well. From Sam's cantankerous but wise grandfather, to her caring but harassed parents, to her sweet, clever little sister, each family member brings a unique personality and set of skills to the story from the very start.

In addition, the rest of the hunt contestants are also a lot of fun to read about. In fact, the only character I didn't like was the princess. I found her to be little more than a shallow stereotype, and to be frank, I wasn't at all invested in wanting to see her cured. I cared about the hunt solely due to the impact it had on Sam, Zain, and the other contestants, and not for the final result. Speaking of Sam and Zain, that entire subplot was clearly signposted from miles off. It may have been predictable, but that didn't stop it being fun to read about, which to be honest, was pretty much the theme throughout the book.

A solid 3 stars.



The Potion Diaries: Royal Tour

Since winning the Hunt and saving her new BFF, Princess Evelyn, Sam Kemi has been royally busy.. What with TV interviews, working in her family’s potion store and preparing to join Evelyn on her world tour, Sam STILL hasn’t had time for a real date with Zain, her new-boyfriend-slash-former-rival.

And that’s not happening anytime soon. Someone has tampered with Sam’s grandad’s mind and she is the only one who can unlock his memories. Memories that contain the key to the most powerful potion in the world and one which people would kill for . . .

So Sam must swap dresses, princes and palaces for dragons, centaurs and caves in her quest to save her grandad (and everyone else).

Just your standard episode in the life of a potion-making teenager, then.


Image: Amy Alward / Simon & Schuster
The gang are back for another Royal Hunt and further escapades in Royal Tour. Following much along the lines of The Potion Diaries, it seems that this series is set to be nothing short of formulaic. I have to admit that I wasn't quite so keen on the plot of this one - once the novelty of the brilliant concept starts to wear off, it all starts to seem a bit far-fetched (yes, I'm well aware it's fantasy, but even fantasy has to have realistic limitations within the series' individual fantastical world). 

However, in saying that, it was nice to tie up some of the loose ends left by the first book. We learn a lot more about Sam's family in this one, which was very interesting to read about. The dilemma facing Princess Evelyn is also great, though more from a human perspective than a plot based one. I do think that perhaps this book would have benefited from slowing down the breakneck pace a little to allow more time to explore other avenues such as this, which were opened up but barely had time to be addressed.

A high-speed whirlwind of a story, Royal Tour is still a fun read, and I'll still be on the lookout for the next instalment in the series.

Rating: 3 stars

The Potion Diaries and Royal Tour are available to buy now.

Are you a fan of the series? Let me know in the comments below! 

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