{A Twist in the Tail} Reviewing MADLY (THE POTION DIARIES in the UK) By Amy Alward

Love fairy tales and mythology?
Fans of mermaids, dragons, unicorns, and other mythical creatures?
Enjoy when a beloved classic tale is retold?
A Twist in the Tail Thursdays features all this and more!

O P E N I N G   H O O K:

  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.  

(Page 11 , US e-book edition)

"Being ordinary is what makes us great alchemists. Our lack of magic means we can work with magical ingredients without risk of taint and contamination. But it's not the only factor. What makes the Kemi family special is our unrivalled skill in the alchemical arts--to know by feel the recipe of any potion, to tease out the properties of each ingredient, to understand the mysteries that go into building a cure."


Amy Alward's new series is perfect for fans of scavenger hunt-style adventures such as The Amazing Race and The 39 Clues. Add in a dash of magic and a fantasy world full of amazing creatures, and this is one compelling story that's hard to put down!

Princess Evelyn thought she was doing something good to secure her future happiness when she slipped her friend Zain Aster a love potion. Her plan backfires when she consumes the drink for him and falls in love with herself after seeing her reflection. At first, it seems silly: A princess in love with her reflection? How can that possibly be a good enough reason for Auden's Horn to call a Wilde Hunt? How can being in love put the Princess in mortal danger? Think back on the mythological story of Narcissus. Nemesis tricked Narcissus into falling in love with his own reflection and eventually, drowned in order to be with his beloved. As time passes without a cure, Evelyn gets angrier and more violent at everyone who try to keep her from Lyn, who she has sworn to marry. 

Samantha Kemi has always wanted to work with potions. She has the Kemi gift and can put recipes together on instinct. Her once-esteemed family, however, is on the brink of bankruptcy. Potions are now synthesized and ZA Corp is in charge. But even the fanciest technology can't whip up a cure for Princess Evelyn. She put the potion together herself, and all alchemists participating in the Wilde Hunt must discover the exact ingredients used and replicate it exactly in order to create a cure. Samantha is going on instinct, but everything feels right. Samantha wants to get her family back on the map, but it's harder than she thought, especially with Zain Aster, heir of ZA Corp and a fellow participant, always turning up in her path. Throw in a psychotic aunt next in line to the throne out to destroy all of the participants, and this Wilde Hunt is quickly becoming more dangerous than Samantha thought possible!

Finding the cure is more dangerous than ever, but if she gives up, the kingdom will fall to an evil tyrant...the same tyrant out to destroy Samantha.

MADLY is a fun, quick read. I started reading it on the plane a couple of weeks ago and thought it was the perfect way to pass the time. I loved the inclusion of mythical creatures such as mermaids, unicorns, and Abominables, and really thought they enhanced the story. The Rising, in particular, made me wish such a thing existed in our reality, because I'd love to see such a monthly event with mermaids. (Granted, I always want to see real mermaids, but this event was described so well that it was a little painful to realize it would never happen for real. Kind of like when you watch How to Train Your Dragon and realize you'll never get to ride a dragon like Hiccup gets to. IT HURTS!)

The elements of the Wilde Hunt themselves reminded me of when I was reading The 39 Clues. Some of the participants are dangerous and out to destroy anyone in their path. Secrets must be kept in order to get ahead, but the media can out you in a heartbeat. When I read The 39 Clues series, I remember wanting Amy and Ian to get together, and seeing hints of a relationship there. (Whether they ever did or not, IDK, I only read the original series.) With MADLY, I was rooting for Samantha and Zain to somehow put aside their Romeo and Juliet-esque differences and wind up on the same team...with a bit of romance for their efforts! I think MADLY is a great bridge series. Tweens can safely read it without stumbling onto anything too mature, and older readers will be invested as well. Fans of The 39 Clues wanting something a little older will definitely love this book!

I've been a fan of Amy Alward since before her debut under her maiden name, Amy McCulloch, and announced her Knots Sequence Duology, which took forever to release in the US:

Luckily, MADLY released much more closely to THE POTION DIARIES, though I'm upset that the title changed. I don't like it nearly as much! I'm also a huge fan of the UK cover. I'm waiting to see if the US has a cover change when MADLY releases to paperback and the second book comes out next summer; if it doesn't, I'll be importing these books for my collection (Even though I always want to help sell copies in the US! It's so tough!!) What's ironic is that I imported her duology because it took SO LONG to come out in the US, and I liked the US covers better! #booknerdproblems

If you're looking for a fun, fast-paced fantasy that's a mix of modern times and whimsical notions, MADLY is definitely a book to add to your TBR!
C O V E R   D E S I G N:

I want the UK cover to be the US cover. I wanted to buy this book Day One and support the US release. But...I REALLY prefer the UK cover in SO MANY WAYS. I'm hoping the series gets a re-design next year or else I'll be importing this via The Book Depository!!

Ironic, right? Her US covers for the Knots Duology are so much better than the UK version, yet I own the UK version of that. Guess I just can't win!!!

Content Ratings: highlight between ( ) for details

Romance:  PG ( kissing )
Language: --
Violence: G ( Mild attacks during the hunt, a unicorn goring, nothing crazy. )
Other: PG12 ( When talking about unicorns, virginity is talked about. One of the older characters is not a virgin. She also thinks Samantha might not be one, either, since she'd been up late in her room talking with Zain the night before...but nothing happens and there's no innuendo of any sort in that scene. )

O F F I C I A L   I N F O:

Author: Amy Alward
Release Date: Sept. 29, 2015
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Reader
Received: For Review

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.