A Cauldron of Suspense (The Potion Diaries)

Am I the only one who thinks this premise is one of the most intriguing things ever?
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 mean, for a start, the setting is a stroke of genius. In a world ruled by potion-making, magical Talent and creatures who we would consider mythical, you'd expect the characters to travel by cart and give messages by carrier pigeon. But the first rule of fiction is that you never write the expected . . . so why can't this world have social media and magical teleportation and synthetic potion-labs that are out to make millions? Why shouldn't the idolised royal family be political figureheads for a modern democracy?


This book was very plot-driven, but I found that absolutely okay because that plot was pretty darn good. Alward was really good at building up the Hunt to a teasing mini-climax, then cutting away to a short scene with Princess Evelyn, which was just as suspenseful. Then she did it again. And again. And again.
And then we get to the characters.

Sam, the main character, was . . . I guess the right word is admirable. I mean, her potion-mixing talents absolutely fascinated me - more on that later - and I liked her. It wasn't hard to hope she won or anything. But, besides the 'Kemi family gift', she wasn't really very interesting. Has she heard of hobbies? Maybe a sport, or a musical instrument?

I had a similar problem with most of the others, to be honest. Sam and her finder, Kirsty, had some funny conversations; her sister Molly was cute and sympathetic. But while there was nothing explicitly wrong about any of them, I just found that all the characters could have been explored or planned out with much deeper personalities. Maybe they were, and the amazing plot took up too much space to add in much character development . . . hopefully the sequel might give me MORE.

This is Augustus Gloop. He's greedy too.
I might as well air all my grievances at once, right? The only other problem I had was a tiny little hint of the dreaded instalove.

*tries to think of a way to describe said instalove without any spoilers* So … basically … there was a relationship … it was sometimes cute … but sometimes instalove-y.

Don’t you appreciate what a clear and understandable reviewer I am?

I’m done moaning now, I promise, because this book was really really good. For about the last hundred pages, I just couldn’t put it down, and some of the side characters were actually really interesting. I’m desperately hoping that we get to see more of Sam’s grandfather in the sequel, for instance; he was such a noble character, and [highlight for reasonably tiny spoiler] I really respected Sam for standing up to him to join the hunt. That must have taken a lot of grit. [end of spoiler]

The second reason that The Potion Diaries must be a brilliant read is simply that it includes this quote:

 "Chocolate - so many uses it's stupid to list them all, even in my head."

Do you need any more proof? Sam’s ability to recite the properties of an ingredient just by glancing at it was cool enough, but then I read this and I was just the world’s biggest fan of Alward and the whole potion making-system that she’d created. Some of the scenes that involve mixing or brewing them were just jumping off the page: I felt they were so real I could have apprenticed as a potion-maker tomorrow if I wanted.

And I love it when books manage to suck me in that well.
In conclusion, you’ll probably love this book if you can look past the fact that it’s more plot-driven that character-driven. You’ll probably have to read it anyway, just to see if you can.

In the comments: If you've read The Potion Diaries, what are your opinions about it - do we disagree wildly? If not, have I convinced you to give it a try? And who's willing to run away with me and become a potion-maker's apprentice?
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  1. Woah this book sounds cool! I was just thinking about how weird it is that Fantasy always seems to be set in some medieval world (unless it's Urban Fantasy). Anyway, this one's going on my TBR, although I do dislike underdeveloped characters. Oh well. Nicely done! :D

    1. Ah, thank you! Your appreciation is appreciated.

      This is by no means a bad book, so I'm really glad it's going on your TBR. I WANT TO TALK TO SOMEONE ABOUT IT! I really hope you enjoy the world, and the book in general.

      Thanks for your comment. As always, Julia, it made my day. x


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