Book Review: “The Potion Diaries” by Amy Alward

I’m back with another book review, and this time I’m looking at “The Potion Diaries” by Amy Alward! Here’s a summary so we know what it’s about:

“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.”

Character development: 3.5 out of 5 stars

Romance development: 4 out of 5 stars

Emilia, though initially an antagonist, is unfortunately quite weak. She didn’t have a lot of page-time compared to others such as Zol, and then we don’t see much of her after the avalanche incident if at all  late in the book.

Sam and Zain were both ultimately likeable, but Zain lacked development other than being a nice guy who was trying to look out for Evelyn (who was her friend at the time and all) and Sam (who he fell in love with, and that was the only main part of him that changed). I hoped for more hints of Zain and Sam’s struggle of them living with completely different lifestyles and wanting to learn more about he other’s own talents (Sam grew up with an anti-synth grandfather for alchemy while Zain’s father Zol was completely in support of synths and had a whole company working in that field), but unfortunately that got shafted for their developing romance. The romance was good between them, and though had some misunderstandings at first, they did ultimately clear it up between each other and got together in the end, which was nice.

Though Evelyn has few chapters in her point of view compared to Sam, the main protagonist, Evelyn’s plotline was something I wish I could read more of. I loved the twist that her aunt, Emilia, was the one who influenced her to take things into her own hands and create the love potion in the first place, even if it backfired. I also enjoyed reading Evelyn’s descent into madness as she grapples with her new ‘reality’ as influenced by said love potion and being in love with the mirror version of herself.

Plot development: 4 out of 5 stars

I thought the main plot, overall, was a little uneven. This is because the main plot unfortunately suffers from tying up all the loose ends too fast, through its ending entirely stuffed in the last chapter. I think if it wasn’t so short, it could expand better on the consequences of the failed potion for Zol and his company, as well as the Kemi family’s reputation post-Sam-saving-Evelyn.

However, I did enjoy reading Evelyn’s subplot and actually wish there was more of it. I think if this plot had more development, it could have turned into Evelyn ultimately choosing to take matters into her hands even post-potion influence and assert her wanting to be independent and not get married immediately, as well as bringing out some sort of message of self-love (given that she fell in love with her own reflection and all). Unfortunately, she instead, in the end, resigns to her fate of marriage, despite her inner turmoil about it expressed throughout the book.

All relationships other than romance: 5 out of 5 stars

What I really enjoyed about this book was Sam’s relationships with her own family, ranging from her grandfather, to her dad and mom, and even Sam’s relationship with Molly. All of those interactions were quite heartwarming to read, and if the romance bores you, these other moments where Sam is with her family definitely won’t let you down.

Worldbuilding: 4 out of 5 stars

I really loved the magical elements that went into the worldbuilding. All of it was well-explained throughout the book so it made a lot of sense to me as a reader. However, I thought the social media would play a larger role in the plot other than through news broadcasts. What about livestreaming parts of the Wilde hunt? Or having Instagram or Facebook profiles for each of the participants (or the magical world equivalent of them)? I felt like more could be done there.

Overall, I’m rating this book 4 out of 5 stars! I think the book would’ve got a higher score if there was more focus on individual character development and better plot pacing, but it’s still a fun read.

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