ARC Review: THE MARVELLERS by Dhonielle Clayton (Middle Grade Monday)

I received an eARC from the publishers through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. It has not affected my opinions.

Title in white on graphic of three kids against a fancy building and flying trams
Genre: Fantasy
Age Range: MG
Star Rating: 4 stars
Series: yes - first book


Title in white above three kids against a fancy building with flying trams

Eleven-year-old Ella Durand is the first Conjuror to attend the Arcanum Training Institute, where Marvellers from all around the world come together to practice their cultural arts like brewing Indian spice elixirs, practicing Caribbean steel drum hypnosis, and bartering with fussy Irish faeries. Ella knows some people mistrust her Conjuror magic, often deemed “bad and unnatural,” but she’s eager to make a good impression—and, hopefully, some friends.

But Ella discovers that being the first isn’t easy, and not all of the Marvellers are welcoming. Still, she connects with fellow misfits Brigit, a girl who hates magic, and Jason, who is never found without a magical creature or two. Just as Ella begins to find her way at the A.T.I., a notorious criminal escapes from prison, supposedly with Conjurors’ help. Worse, her favourite teacher Masterji Thakur never returns from a research trip, and only Ella seems concerned about his disappearance.

As tensions grow in the Marvellian world, Ella finds herself the target of vicious rumors and growing suspicions. With the help of her new friends, Ella must find a way to clear her family’s name and track down her beloved mentor Masterji Thakur . . . before she loses her place at the A.T.I. forever.

Blurb taken from Goodreads. Add to your shelves here.


THE MARVELLERS is the start of a fantasy school series that takes traditions from all around the world and celebrates them in a tale of friendship and finding your people.

This is a fantasy magic school book with a new “house system” based on the sense and with an incredibly diverse cast. It’s a fun way of showing what these sorts of tales can be, and also why they are so common. It takes something most children are used to – a school – and injects magic and danger in place of the humdrum of lessons and cafeterias.

THE MARVELLERS explores prejudice, both on an individual level and on an institutional level, through Ella’s experience of being the first magic user of her type to join the school. The adherence to the rules by the governing body, but only in situations where she’d be negatively affected, the way her type of magic user is blamed for troubles.

It’s a multi-media tale, with newspaper clippings and letters in between chapters. There are school reports and handbook excerpts. I really like books that mix and match prose with other elements as it’s a nice of way of using different forms of written media to convey a story. It also mixes it up visually, and I’m sure it will look very impressive in the final form with placeholders removed.

There are also interludes from the villain’s perspective, Gia. That was probably the thing that has captured my attention the most post-reading. Her plans are vague and she seems to be gathering people to her, and it made for an interesting dynamic as you knew she wanted something but not what exactly.

This did take me a while to get into – there are a lot of people, names, and new concepts crammed into the opening that took some time to straighten out and remember who was who and what was what. There were a few people who I couldn’t remember throughout the book because they’d come in that deluge of names. However, I’d more or less got a handle on it by about 20% in.

I will be reading the further instalments to see what Gia is up to!

Read my reviews of other books by Dhonielle Clayton:

Young Adult:

The Belles:

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