Book Review: The Marvellers by Dhonielle Clayton

You might not see many middle-grade reviews on my blog, but this year I’ve decided to finally start picking up some of the kids’ books I’m interested in. Having read some of Dhonielle Clayton’s YA books, I’ve been interested in this one since I first heard about it last year. It’s a fun magical school book filled with adorable friendships, fascinating world-building and plenty of black girl magic.

Ella Durand is the first conjurer to attend the Arcanum training institute. The magic school in the clouds had been closed to her people up until now. The other students think she’s weird and fitting in isn’t easy, but she makes friends with fellow misfits Brigit and Jason. But when the Ace of Anarchy breaks out of prison, the conjurers are blamed. Suddenly, school becomes even harder for Ella. Especially when her favourite teacher disappears shortly after. If Ella is going to clear her family’s name, she needs to start by exploring her powers.

This was an excellent magical school book. Obviously, there will be comparisons with a particular series. But the Marvellers was a wonderful book that stood up on its own and was much better than that other series. I had a lot of fun; this was a well-written, well-thought-out story. That blends magical ideas from different cultures perfectly.

With so many different cultures popping up in this book, it’s not surprising that prejudice is an important plot point. Ella is looked down upon for being a conjurer. Her people are connected with the underworld and use their voices to affect the world far more than many other magical groups. This is a magic system that’s tied in from those Afro-Caribbean people who were brought over to America and other countries during the slave trade. That said, the prejudice that Ella experiences aren’t because she’s black. There are other BIPOC students in the school, and there’s even a scene where Ella helps another girl with her braids, and they find that they have things in common. The magical world likes to celebrate that all people with magic are mixing together in this school. Yet, Ella is still judged for something she can’t control. This felt important as you see Ella fighting this prejudice. Still, you also see that there are many reasons people hate others. And also that a big reason for this can be what kid’s parents are telling them.

Ella might struggle with fitting in, but her friendships are still entirely adorable. I loved seeing Ellaa get to know her classmates and grow to love some of them. These kids are different, but they all use their strengths to help each other.

I look forward to seeing these friendships get stronger in the later books, as these kids will be together forever.

There were also a bunch of cute animals. From animal companions to conjurers to these adorable creatures that Jason looks after called Wombies. I wanted one as a pet, and I bet they’d make adorable plushies. Just saying.

As you can tell, I loved this book a lot, but I’ll be honest and say some of the stuff about the villain I wasn’t really feeling. I was glad we have a villain who has taken on that role for a reason. That was good. And there was a twist I didn’t see coming about one of the Ace of Anarchy’s companions. Much wasn’t revealed about that connection, so I cannot wait to see where that plot’s going in the later books. But the main twist about who Gia was to one of the main characters? That was pretty obvious from very early on. And it actually made me feel sorry for Gia. Like, I get why Gia was lied to, but it would’ve been better for Gia just to be told, no, you’re not allowed near them. It just felt unfairly cruel. That said, Gia was still a good villain. I disliked her and want to see her defeated, especially after her final chapter in this book. But, oof, I also really feel for her.

This is a middle-grade novel that people of any age can read and enjoy. This magical book will make you think but is also filled with friendship, fun and adventure. Check it out.

4/5 Stars

Title: The Marvellers

Author: Dhonielle Clayton

Genre: Fantasy

Age Range:  Middle Grade

Publisher:  Picadilly Press

Release Date: 5/1/23


Amazon UK | Amazon US | Waterstones | Bookshop Org

One thought on “Book Review: The Marvellers by Dhonielle Clayton

  1. It’s been a while since I’ve read a MG novel but I do love them. There are some really great ones out there and this one has been high up on my TBR wishlist ever since I first heard about it. I love a good magical school setting and I love how diverse this sounds. 😃 Great review!

    Liked by 1 person

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