The first book in the Potions Trilogy is told from the dual point of views of Samantha, apprentice alchemist of the famous Kemi family, and Princess Evelyn, heiress to the crown of Nova. Also mistaken drinker of her own illicit love potion. You know that can’t be good.
And it isn’t. She falls in love with someone eminently unsuitable, and is distraught when the feelings are not returned. Not to mention the fact that love potions were banned for a reason; they are dangerous. She is in danger of losing her life, and control of her magic.
The King summons alchemists nationwide to develop a cure, offering a prize of magic and riches and fame for saving the princess. Teams of competitors, including the king’s evil and banished sister, travel the world in their search for the unknown ingredients in a no-holds-barred dangerous hunt. And, no pressure, the quest is world news, all over social media.
Sam enters the competition, knowing that she has what it takes to save the princess, and win the hunt. In the process, she will show the world that the old ways of alchemy, that natural ingredients and pure instinct and training, are superior to the synths of Big Pharma.
Sam makes a GREAT protagonist. She is a teen struggling to find herself, and her place, in the changing world. Driven, smart, sweet, she is close to her whacky family and friends, and loves her heritage and history.
Princess Evelyn is an 18 year old in the throes of unrequited love, and acts just as rationally as you would predict. So not.
The rest of the cast of characters are just as alive and distinct as Sam and the Princess. I, apparently, have a thing for crusty, stubborn granddads. (See The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate and The Fourteenth Goldfish). If you’d ever met mine, you would totally understand. He was awesome. And so is Ostanes. Former alchemist to the royal family, Sam’s granddad refuses to accept the new ways, and trains Sam in the old. And he is, of course, right.
The world building is fabulous. It is, essentially, the modern world, with everyday technology like phones and tv and social media, with magic overlaid. Everything is believable, from the ferocious but lonely abominable snowman, to the magical and pure unicorn. Magical mermaids and ivy that tries to devour bemused passers-by. Travel through mirrors. And cell phones that don’t work in the mountains. I love the little details.
The fast-moving plot was a great mix of adventure and magic and just plain fun.
If I have an issue with the novel, it is the romance. I thought it unneeded. Although I can understand why author Amy Alward went with it, it seemed a bit forced, that she had to make it happen in order to steer her story. I think she could have found another way, or just developed it differently. It wasn’t organic. I LOVED the princess’s romance, however! Loved it.
As well, I do think the story ended a bit quickly and neatly, but given that it is the first in a trilogy, and Alward didn’t stick me with a cliffhanger, I am ok with it.
Madly is a fun, fast-paced fantasy novel that’s purpose is to entertain, and that is precisely what it accomplishes. Any age can read it, and should, for the escapism and giggles it will give you.
Madly is published by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers.