September 29, 2015

Blog Tour: Madly (Potion #1) by Amy Alward – Review and Excerpt



Hello everyone, and welcome to tour Tour Stop for

Madly (Potion #1) by Amy Alward

presented by Simon & Schuster Canada!

Check out our review, read an excerpt, and be sure to follow the rest of the tour!




I couldn’t find a trailer, so here’s a song!





Gabby-2013All it took was reading Madly’s opening scene to become head-over-heels excited to read this novel. A story with magic, competition, and a love spell gone wrong? It sounded totally like my cup of tea. I can say that after having already finished this novel, Madly is the type of novel that many readers entering the realm of YA will absolutely adore. It’s a light-hearted, amusing read that kept me guessing until the very end.

Set in a world where magic is a common part of modern life, protagonist Samantha Kemi is the descendent of a long line of alchemists. Her life is average, at best, living as the only non-Talent daughter within her household. Under the rule of a monarchy that watches over the entirety of Nova, Samantha is called to arms alongside a multitude of other alchemists when a love potion (a brand of potion that is outlawed) gone wrong afflicts the kingdom’s beloved princess. Presented with the opportunity of a lifetime, Sam embarks on a quest of her own to discover a cure and save Princess Evelyn before it’s too late. However, in order to do so, Sam is forced to work against Zain Aster. Her biggest competition and a boy who she’s always thought had no idea she existed. But there’s something about Zain that Sam is drawn to and she isn’t too sure if it’s the result of something real or something magical.

What immediately caught my attention with Madly was Alward’s prose. We are first introduced to a scene that is told in the third person, and the past tense, through the eyes of Princess Evelyn. It was absolutely gorgeous. One of the most riveting introductory scenes that I’ve ever had the opportunity to read. Everything about it—the word-choice, the structure—it all just worked. That being said, I was hyped to read more of this wonderful prose only to discover that the majority of Madly is told in Sam’s point of view. The only catch? All of Sam’s chapters are told in the first person, present tense. Throughout reading Madly I wished so badly that the entire story had been told as it had first been presented, as it was difficult to switch later on from present tense to past tense, third person to first person, and so on and so forth.

The world of Madly gave me some very real Lunar Chronicles vibes in the best way. I loved the setting for how unique it was, and I adored the way that Nova had been established and introduced to the reader. The idea of a world filled with ‘Talented’ peoples and alchemists was intriguing, and the time spent within it was great. My only hope was that there would be a bit more elaboration throughout the novel addressing the backstory behind Nova and the kingdom’s history. In a world where you have magic and science existing alongside one another, I imagined that there might have been some sort of overlap or turmoil that had presented itself in the past? I hope that, should we get to look into the world of Madly again in the future, we learn more about the setting’s history.

As for the romance inside of Madly, it’s the kind of novel that has romance that I think younger teen girls will adore. You have your sex-god handsome teenage boy possibly falling for the plucky, average girl that could be anybody in their mind’s eye. The romance was light and cute and left me cheering on the Sam/Zain ship. They were definitely my one true pairing while reading. And the ‘romance’ between Princess Evelyn and the new apple of her eye was beyond hilarious.

I would recommend Madly to any readers who are looking for a good YA novel to test out. Any readers who are looking for a fantasy read that is quick and fun should also give Madly a read. Any readers who are fans of romance, novels with supernatural undertones, and readers who like novels that deal with competitions (a la Hunger Games, The Scorpio Races, etc.) should also check it out.




Chapter One
Princess Evelyn


A TINY BEAD OF BLOOD BLOOMED WHERE the knifepoint pressed against the tip of her finger. She held it over the rim of a glass vial and watched as the droplet fell, turning the liquid in the bottom from pink to a dark, inky blue.
She’d always expected a love potion to be red, not blue.


Chapter Two


THE DIRT CAKED ONTO THE CURVED GLASS surface of the jar is so thick, not even a hint of a label is visible. I give it a quick scrub with the edge of my sleeve before remembering Mum’s stern warning not to keep ruining my shop clothes. Instead, I grab the rag I shoved into my jeans pocket this morning. Another vigorous rub reveals my grandfather’s spindly handwriting, neat and precise except for where the ink has bled into cracks like fingers reaching out in the linen parchment.

Berd du Merlyn

“No way.” The words slip out as a sudden swell of excitement wiggles its way up my spine. I have to put the jar back down onto the shelf and take a few deep breaths to calm myself before I can continue.
“What have you found?” My best friend Anita looks over at me from her perch a few shelves over.
The two of us are balancing on ladder rungs three stories and thirty-six shelves high. We have a deal. Anita helps me with my huge, mind-numbing task of doing an inventory on my family store’s thousands of ingredients and mixes, potions, plants, and wotsits. In return, I agree to go with her to watch the princess’s eighteenth birthday concert on one of the big screens by the castle, even though hearing about her life makes me cringe. I’ve secretly packed a book in my bag, just in case.
I grin widely and Anita drags her ladder toward me. The tracks are old and clogged with dust, and even with the drops of oil I use to lubricate the wheels they still won’t run smoothly.
I turn the jar in her direction. She lets out a low whistle. “Do you think it’s real?”
“Who knows,” I say. My thumping heart betrays me. Every time I search these shelves, I feel like I’m digging deeper and deeper into a lost treasure trove, and one day I’m going to find something great. This could be it. “There’s a plant I’ve read about in Nature & Potion that’s known as wizard’s beard. This could just be an old name for it.” Uses for wizard’s beard spring into my mind before I can stop them: A key ingredient in potions dealing with shock—brew for five minutes in hot (but not boiling) water to help ease the sharing of bad news. It’s a relatively common ingredient, and wouldn’t be that exciting a find.
If, however, this turns out to be real Merlin’s beard—from the man himself . . . well, I suddenly know how we’re going to pay for the leak in the roof I found yesterday (the hard way, with a wet head) which is now temporarily taped over with duct tape. I web my fingers over the top of the lid and twist with all my might. There’s a brief tug of resistance and then the lid jumps off the jar, along with a great puff of dust that explodes right in my face.
A hacking cough and frantic arm-waving disperse the dust, but my heart sinks.
Anita pats me on the arm. “Something else to add to Kirsty’s list?”
“Looks like.” I sigh, then take a pen out from behind my ear and jot down wizard’s beard on my list of missing things to ask Kirsty, our Finder, to collect for us. And it looks like I’m going to have to find another way to fix that leak.
Sometimes, if I’m feeling romantic, I think about all the generations of Kemis that have stood on these rungs, how many great alchemists have studied these shelves.
But then reality hits: the store is falling apart, our supplies are diminishing, and we have no business coming in to change it.
It wasn’t always this way. Kemi’s Potion Shop was once one of the most prominent apothecaries in Kingstown. But no one needs apothecaries anymore. Not when they have the megapharmacies downtown selling synthetic versions of traditional potions for half the price. Now we’re leftovers from a previous time. Relics.
Anita’s dad also owns a potion store, specializing in mixing techniques from Bharat. When his apprentice left to retrain as an engineer, Mr. Patel decided not to hire another—even though Anita offered to give up her place at university to take over. When he retires in a couple of years, he’s going to close his shop for good. Another apothecary bites the dust, while Kemi’s Potion Shop clings on for dear life.
Mr. Patel is lucky. At least he’s chosen to close his store, so he has some measure of control. A familiar pit opens in my stomach as I wonder what will happen to me when our time runs out.
Anita slides back along the shelves to where she’d last been working. I try to drum up some enthusiasm for the task again, but it’s disappeared into the ether like the dust motes from the empty jar.
“Oh my god, Sam, look at this!”
“What?” I scramble my way across to her. What could she have found? Sphinx breath? Or maybe even a dragon’s tooth?
She thrusts her phone in my face. Onscreen is Princess Evelyn posing inside one of the grand palace ballrooms. “The Princess is wearing the same Prime Store dress
to her eighteenth that I wanted to buy for the summer ball! Great, now it’s going to be sold out everywhere,” she pouts.
“I can’t believe you’re actually going to the summer ball.”
“Yeah, well, not all of us shun boys for potions, like some people I know.”
“Very funny. You don’t have a date, though, do you?”
“I’m lining up my suitors like I’m Princess Evelyn herself, just waiting for my perfect match.” Anita flicks her long glossy black hair, then sticks out her tongue.
I throw my cloth at her and she giggles.
“So who’s your bet for her date tonight?” Anita asks.
“What do you mean?”
Anita rolls her eyes at me. “Come on, if you’re going to force me to help with your inventory you have to make it a bit fun for me. I’ll go first, I think it’ll be Damian.”
“No way. The royals would never let the princess marry a pop star. It’ll be Prince Stefan from Gergon. It’d be good for diplomacy.”
“Well, that’s boring. Ooh, I know. Zain Aster.”
“You think?”
“Why not? Arjun says all anyone at uni can talk about is how good friends he is with the princess.” Arjun is Anita’s brother, two years older than we are. He and Zain had been in the same year at our school. “Have you seen Zain around lately?” Anita wiggles her eyebrows suggestively.
“That’s all in your head, silly. Zain Aster has no idea who I am.”
“If you say so.”


[about-author author=”Amy Alward”]


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