Author: Amy Alward
Genre: Young Adult Fantasy
Publisher/Publish Date: Simon and Schuster Books for Young Readers/July 2015
Why I Chose It:
Madly was the last book I bought in 2015 shortly after I had just completed my own novel and was still floating on a cloud of happy bliss. I was in Barnes and Noble, envisioning my book one day upon those shelves, and was suddenly and possessed with a need to go out and buy a new book to honor another author who had taken the long, tiring journey to publication that I also hoped to take someday. Madly’s cutesy cover immediately piqued my interest and after reading the synopsis, I knew I had to buy it because it like a sign. The book’s premise seemed to be the same as the book I had just finished moments before.
Madly tells the story of Samantha Kemi, an apprentice alchemist in the land of Nova who is called to go on a journey for a cure when the nation’s Princess Evelyn accidentally falls in love with herself as the result of a love potion gone wrong. Madly seemed like it would be a goofy, light-hearted fantasy, and a nice break from the current trend of darker fantasy novels on the young adult market. Unfortunately, the book takes itself too seriously and suffers from a lack of imagination, resulting in a story that feels underwhelming and out of sync with its fun premise.
Madly is a contemporary fantasy. It takes place in an alternate universe that is almost identical to our own with the exception of magic and alchemy playing a large role in the day to day life of its inhabitants. There is nothing wrong with melding some real world elements in a fantasy novel (particularly a contemporary fantasy), but in this case it felt like the author was sidestepping the opportunity to be creative by simply renaming things that already exist in our world, such as Nova’s version of Facebook, Starbucks, iPhones and lands that mimic both India and Zambia. Perhaps this was the author’s intention, but as a result, it made the setting of the story feel too familiar and unexciting for this particular genre.
The book is narrated mostly in first person (occasionally there are third person inserts from the Princess’s POV) by Sam, the main character. Sam is a safely likable character who suffers from both insecurity and passivity of the Bella-esque variety, but manages to come out on top at the end with everything she wanted. I will say that I appreciated her for her very relatable bookish-ness and her sweet relationship with her family, but that can only go so far. She was still lacking in depth like most of the novel’s other characters, including Zain, the love interest. We’ve seen love interests like him before — characters who are charming, attractive, sensitive and who have no business liking the main protagonist, but do anyway.
Characters like Kirsty, the no-nonsense Finder on Kemi’s journey or Ostanes, Sam’s grumpy and enigmatic old grandfather, stood out, but suffered from a lack of development and page time. And then there were extraneous characters, such as Dan the journalist, and the main antagonist, Emilia who suffered from what I like to call Pokemon’s Team Rocket syndrome. She always showed up predictably to cause some degree of havoc, which was solved almost as soon as it happened and she never truly seemed like a threat to the protagonists or their goals.
The story does go by quick, but possibly a little too quick towards the end. When I finally reached the ending, I had to flip back a couple of pages to see if I’d missed anything, and I found myself disappointed when I realized I hadn’t. The story has no falling action to speak of. Once the major conflict of the story is resolved, it rushes abruptly to an end that focuses in on the romance and doesn’t speak at all to any questions I’d had brewing throughout the story (specifically, does the Princess suffer any reprimand for the havoc she caused while poisoned, and what happens to Sam’s family).
All in all, Madly didn’t live up to expectations. I believe this would appeal more to younger and newer fantasy readers, but for someone looking for something quirky and unusual, I say look elsewhere.
(+) very quick to read
(+) some of the magic was pretty cool, like the transporting. Would totally make world travel a lot easier!
(+) the potion-mixing in general seemed well thought out. The competition between the natural vs. synth ingredients was also interesting and somewhat relevant to our world.
(-) we are told about the other people in the Hunt but rarely see any others aside from Zain’s team, which makes the Hunt feel smaller and more trivial than intended
(-) the POV switches to Evelyn were hardly necessary. I get that we are supposed to see her mental decline, but it didn’t do much to advance the plot or present any new conflicts
(-) over and over we are told how good Sam is with potions, but we rarely ever see her mix them or do much else with her talent
Grandma Disapproval Rating: 0/5. Pretty tame stuff. No touching of the butts. Gran may disapprove of Zain’s magical tattoos though.
Similar To: One of those original Disney movies we loved when we were kids but now are sort of embarrassed to watch
Read this if…: You’re hesitant to approach fantasy because of the vast worlds, and would like something you can recognize in a fantasy book, you like Disney-esque endings and don’t mind minimal wrap up, you’re a younger reader or starting to get into fantasy
FINAL RATING: 2.5/5 STARS