The Marvellers (Maravellerverse 1)

The Marvellers (Maravellerverse 1)
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Release Date
May 03, 2022
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Eleven-year-old Ella Durand is the first Conjuror to attend the Arcanum Training Institute, a magic school in the clouds where Marvellers from around the world practice their cultural arts, like brewing Indian spice elixirs and bartering with pesky Irish pixies.

Despite her excitement, Ella discovers that being the first isn’t easy―some Marvellers mistrust her magic, which they deem “bad and unnatural.” But eventually, she finds friends in elixirs teacher, Masterji Thakur, and fellow misfits Brigit, a girl who hates magic, and Jason, a boy with a fondness for magical creatures.

When a dangerous criminal known as the Ace of Anarchy escapes prison, supposedly with a Conjuror’s aid, tensions grow in the Marvellian world and Ella becomes the target of suspicion. Worse, Masterji Thakur mysteriously disappears while away on a research trip. With the help of her friends and her own growing powers, Ella must find a way to clear her family’s name and track down her mentor before it’s too late.

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Breaking Stereotypes and Expectations
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What worked:
The story offers familiarity with twists of imagination to keep things fresh. Ella heads off for her first year at the Arcanum Training Institute with other Marvellers, although being a Conjuror is feared and misunderstood by others. Conjurors are in charge of the bridge between life and death, and Ella’s father is in charge of the Underworld. The Arcanum is divided into five Paragons, the focus of different sources of magic. There are Paragons of Spirit, Sound, Touch, Vision, and Taste with different Marvels within each group. For example, a Paragon of Taste might have a specialty with spices, a Paragon of Sound might be able to communicate with animals, and a Paragon of Vision might see into the future. Ella can’t wait to discover her own Paragon and Marvel and she finds solace that her godmother will be teaching a new class at Arcanum about conjuring.
The plot contains subplots woven into the overall story. Ella is the first Conjuror to attend Arcanum and it isn’t without controversy. Her presence polarizes many students and Marvellers and signs of prejudice and bigotry frequently pop up. Ella’s new roommate (her first roommates wanted Ella gone due to the conjuring) named Brigit wants nothing to do with the school and doesn’t care about her classes or what others think. She carries a small clown doll everywhere which Ella finds very peculiar. Brigit’s abnormal behavior toward Marvellers and the school will make readers watch the character carefully. Every few chapters, there’s an update on a villain named Gia as she plans and implements her escape from prison. She leads a rogue group of criminals called the Aces and most Marvellers believe they’re associated with Conjurors. You can see where that will become a problem for Ella.
Especially early on, the Arcanum seems like a United Nations of Marvellers. Ella hails from Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and her roommate is from New York City but their classmates and teaching staff come from all parts of the planet. Students are provided with translators so they’re able to easily communicate with each other, although some of them turn the translators off when Ella is around. The cafeteria serves meals from all different cultures and Ella loves exploring new flavors. The Arcanum was founded to unite all Marvellers but it’s experiencing problems associated with blending their differences. Putting people together doesn’t necessarily end prejudice and the history of the Arcanum’s origin is waiting to be revealed.
What didn’t work as well:
It takes some effort to figure out this magical world. Some aspects feel familiar from other books about schools with magical students but then this book adds new twists or rules. Ella doesn’t fully understand everything either which makes readers’ understandings take a little longer. However, the variations to familiar ideas make this book feel fresh and new.
The Final Verdict:
This book is a finalist for a 2022 Cybils Award in Elementary/Middle-Grade Speculative Fiction. Some aspects of the story are predictable but it holds many surprises ranging from plot twists to the characters. The imaginary world created by the author is sure to please middle-grade readers and I highly recommend you give it a shot.
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