Two potion shops, one heated rivalry…until hate bubbles over into something else.
Any adventurer worth their sword knows about Ambrose Beake. The proud, quiet half-elf sells the best, and only, potions in the city—until a handsome new shopkeeper named Eli opens another potion shop across the street, throwing Ambrose’s peace and ledgers far off balance.
Within weeks, they’re locked in a war of price tags and products—Ambrose’s expertise against Eli’s effortless charm. Toil leads to trouble, the safety gloves come off, and right as their rivalry reaches a boiling point…
The mayor commissions them to brew a potion together.
The task is as complex as it is lucrative, pushing both men to the limits of their abilities and patience. Yet as the fires burn and cauldrons bubble…they find a different sort of chemistry brewing.
My Review: 5/5 ⭐- Humor, Heart, and a healthy amount of scientific shade
The best word to describe this book is “Delightful.” It’s a quick, entertaining, and exciting read, perfect for if you need something cosy to curl up with in the car on your way to a mandatory family field trip. It takes place in a world inspired by your typical sword and sorcery fantasy settings, and takes a closer look at what the NPCs are doing while your party is off saving the world. The strength of the worldbuilding comes not from elaborate politics or original species, but from the charming minutia of daily life – the dumplings at a favorite tavern, mail getting postponed by griffin migrations, contending with the whims of the local government, which sinkhole to scavenge for the best moss, and of course, the eponymous rival potion shops vying for customers.
The protagonists each have unique and memorable personalities, voices, and mannerisms that make both sides of the rivalry sympathetic and lovable. There were a couple moments at the very beginning when I wished they would simply talk to each other like grownups, the not-quite-a-fight scene giving me a bit of secondhand embarrassment for poor Ambrose and his busted knuckles. However, their original misunderstandings stem from differences in their backstories you learn later in the book, which puts everything into perspective. Both of their arcs were heartfelt and well-resolved, and the romance was really fun to read as well, as they both come to terms with their feelings, and then navigate a new relationship with career plans in mind.
The side characters are also wonderful in their own ways. Dawn’s friendship with Ambrose is a driving side-plot, and it’s interesting to explore how these very different personalities interact and support each other. Banneker is wonderfully weird and confident in his role as comedic relief, as well as a supportive friend. Sherry and Grim are the protective parents of the ragtag found family. I found it a fun subversion that the orcish Grim works with delicate jewelry, while the little old lady is the village blacksmith and armorer. I also would be remiss to end this review without a mention of the fantastical technobabble about potion reagents and procedure, or the fantastic illustrations. As a chemistry nerd myself, it was a blast to read about people who do the fantasy-version of my line of work. Even the chapter titles are the steps in a potion recipie!
I highly recommend A Rival Most Vial, as well as R.K.’s other series, starting with The Stray Spirit! You can read my review of TSS here, and find my interview with Ashwick here. If you’re interested in reading ARMV yourself, you can pre-order it here!
Thanks for reading! Be sure to check back next week to read another interview with Ashwick about the creation of A Rival Most Vial! I want this blog to be more than me shouting into the void. If I can use this platform to help boost other creators, I’d love to see your work too. If you want to have your recommendations and/or your own writing featured in a Resource Rec post, or if you want to collaborate with me, you can leave a comment below for both, or contact me on either tumblr or IG! If you feel so generously inclined, you can support my writing by leaving me a tip or buying stickers on my Kofi. Until next time, thanks for reading and happy writing!