Tuesday, May 03, 2022

The Marvellers

Clayton, Dhonielle. The Marvellers
May 3rd 2022 by Henry Holt and Co. (BYR)
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

Ella is excited by apprehensive to be the first Conjuror to attend the Arcanum Training Institute. This school floats in the air and changes its appearance every year, and students travel to it by a magical water-zeppelin. Students come from all over the world, and have language crystals that help with translation. This makes for a very multicultural school, although most students are from Marveller communities and not Fewel ones; Ella is from Conjurer communities in Mississippi and New Orleans,but her family occasionally interacts with the Fewels. Her mother would rather have her at home, attending Madame Collette's Conjure Ecole, but her prominent conjure-politician father wants to see conjurers accepted into the elite academy. The staff are generally accepting, and Masterju Thakur is assigned as a staff mentor, while Jason is a student who is supposed to show her around. At first, she is assigned three roommates, Lian, Samaira, and Siobhan. While they are a little apprehensive about having Ella as their roommate, especially after her mother sets  up several conjurer wards to help protect Ella, they aren't actively mean to her. Nonetheless, Ella finds herself uprooted soon after and placed in an out of the way room with Brigit, who has been raised in a Fewel community and does NOT want to be at the school. Brigit was raised by a foster mother and doesn't think she has a marvel, although she does a lot of magically inspired knitting. While Ella is shielded from the worst of the news about how people are negatively reacting to a conjurer at Arcanum, she does have to put up with various microaggressions. She does enjoy her classes, and even starts to get along better with Brigit, but things are not going well in the Marveller world. A generation ago, there were students who were fighting against the magic, and these students were called Aces. The major player was named Gia Trevilino, the Ace of Anarchy, but she has been imprisoned in the Cards of Deadly Fate. She managed to escape, and eventually works her way to the Institute to extract her revenge. Ella has been working with Masterji Thakur to understand how conjurer history intertwined with Marveller history, and when he goes missing, she feels compelled to look for him with Jason and Brigit. Will she be able to find her  mentor and sustain her position at the Institute? Also, with Gia on the loose, how will the next school year unfold?
Strengths: Pick this one up for the richly developed fantasy world, complete with magical classes, a fantastic school campus, and a selection of magic from many different cultures. I did enjoy the fact that the students weren't given their Marvel Examinations until the end of the year, when an elixir and a magical machine told them their Paragon (one of five) and their Marvel (a specific trait within the Paragon). There are so many good details, along with food, magical creatures, and innovative ways of traveling that it would be easy to read this book and not really care a lot about the plot. While Conjurers haven't been officially in the Institute, there was some interesting hidden history, and surprising secrets of other characters who had Conjurer roots. Ella's family was so interesting that I wouldn't have minded an entire book before this one, explaining her life with her family, and maybe a lot more back story of Gia Trevilino and the Institute. The fact that she was generally welcomed, but there were some people who weren't happy with her being there, made this seem much more brutal and realistic than if the hatred and prejudice had been very bold. A very interesting and well developed fantasy title with characters of color. 
Weaknesses: Given the other meanings of Ace (a shortened form of asexual), I found it slightly problematic that the evil characters in the book had that name. Young readers might not be aware of this. There was also some confusing language describing Brigit's crafting; she seems to be knitting with needles, but her work is sometimes referred to as quilting or quilt blocks. Fantasy books are the hardest things for me to read, so I personally struggled a bit with some of the backstory and feel like I need to reread the entire book to fully understand what crimes Gia and the Aces committed and how and why they were punished. This will be important going forward with the series. 
What I really think: Definitely purchasing, and this will be fun to hand to students who have read the Tristan Strong series, since they will get the shout out to author Kwame Mbalia, who is apparently moonlighting as a fictional character! The fantasy world will appeal to readers who couldn't get enough of Bell's The Crooked Sixpence, Black and Clare's The Magisterium series, or Townsends' Nevermoor books. 

Ms. Yingling

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for sharing your review. I love fantasies with strong world building. I just won an ARC, and you've got me excited to read it.