________________ CM . . . . Volume XXIII Number 18. . . .January 20, 2017

cover

The Potion Diaries: Royal Tour.

Amy Alward.
New York, NY: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2016.
410 pp., hardcover & ebook, $23.99 (hc.).
ISBN 978-1-4814-4381-4 (hc.), ISBN 978-1-4814-4383-8 (ebook).

Subject Headings:
Magic-fiction
Romance-fiction
Fantasy-fiction.

Grades 5-9 / Ages 10-14.

Review by Mary Thomas.

*** /4

   

excerpt:

We pass by a huge poster advertising the princess's Royal Tour finale parade, which is to be held in the center of Kingstown after the tour is over. BE THE FIRST TO SEE THE PRINCESS AND HER BETROTHED reads the billboard. Who will it be? is written in the scrolling text beneath. It twists my stomach to see it.

Zain must have been thinking the same. "You shouldn't give her false hope about a permanent solution to her problem," he says, interlacing his fingers through mine. I've been practically speed walking in my haste to get back to the store, but then I remember how little time I'll have with him today and I slow my pace.

"What, you don't think I can do it?"

"I know you can do it." He squeezes my hand tightly as he says it. "If I thought you had a few months and unlimited resources, you could absolutely do it. But at the moment, Evie is breaking Novean law by not being married. You have until the end of the Royal Tour to find a solution. Maybe. And that's if we're still able to mix our potion successfully." He pauses for a moment. "Do you think the natural yellow ark flower is going to work? The synth version didn't make much difference."

I wrinkle my nose. "Of course it didn't."

He gives me a gentle nudge with his shoulder. "Hey, we're on the same side here, remember?"

 

The Potion Diaries: Royal Tour is definitely the second of the series, and just as certainly it is helpful to the reader's understanding if the first volume, The Potion Diaries, has been read first. As the excerpt above hints, Sam (the "I" voice) and Zain were rivals in the first book. That being said, however, the initial couple of chapters do a pretty good job of filling in what happened earlier, without its being too obviously a condensed version of book one.

     What is happening in this alternative world which has so much in common with our own, but also has magic, alchemy, mythical creatures, and much much more? Well, the princess, whom Samantha Kemi, an apprentice alchemist, has managed to save from her infatuation with her own image, is now in danger again because she has such powerful magic in her that the only way it can be controlled is if she can share it with a husband. But Princess Evelyn hasn't fallen in love and really, really doesn't want merely a marriage of expediency. Sam has devised a potion that will keep things, i.e., her magic, under control for the moment, but the obvious long term solution is to find a true love for the princess. So a royal tour has been organized, with Sam and her boyfriend Zain, also an alchemist, in attendance. Evelyn is hunting for a husband, and they are along to keep the princess and her magic in check, while, on the side, trying to find Sam's great grandmother's potion diary. This is the personal record of all the potions she devised, among which they think they will find the recipe for aqua vita, the master cure for every ailment. Of course, they are not the only ones looking for this recipe. The king's sister who wants to usurp the throne, but needs to get healthy first, is also on the track of the ancient diary and its presumed contents. She has stolen Sam's grandfather's memories, hopeful that they will give her a clue as to where the diary might be. Successes are followed by disasters, but eventually all works itself out, although there is a final cliff hanging incident that points to yet another difficulty from which the princess will have to be rescued. The series goes on.

     If this all sounds a bit confused, it is because it is. It is also exciting, and charming, and fun, and ridiculous, and just a little bit romantic. Sam is a very strong female hero, much brighter and more positive than Zain in spite of his magical abilities and her lack of them. Obviously the book can't inspire girls to be alchemists, but it might possibly make some of them think of chemistry as a possible career choice! I did enjoy The Potion Diaries: Royal Tour, and I expect the same audience of young girls who loved the first book will like this one just about as much. I wonder slightly if there is enough content to keep interest alive through another book, but I would be happy to be surprised. Amy Alward obviously has a vivid imagination!

Recommended.

Mary Thomas lives and works in Winnipeg and does enjoy fantasy rides in her fiction. She also travels quite a lot and would appreciate having a grandfather like Sam's who, with a small puff of powdered potion, could make airline officials be helpful rather than rude!

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

Copyright the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.
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ISSN 1201-9364
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