Ella Durand’s family can work wonders. As Conjurors, they can traverse the underworld, make plants grow with a song, speak with spirits and more. Ella is proud of her family’s gifts, although Conjure folk have long been wrongfully excluded from magical Marvellian society. When a change in magical law grants Conjurors citizenship and the right to attend Marvellian schools, Ella jumps at the opportunity to be the first Conjuror to enroll at the Arcanum Training Institute, concealed from non-magical Fewels high above the clouds.
Ella arrives at the Institute eager to make friends and share her skills, but her goodwill is met by anti-Conjuror prejudice from many peers and adults alike. The dreamlike delights of a school where stars deliver the mail, cafeteria dumplings dance and sugar snowflakes fall from enchanted balloons are dampened by the harsh realities of bullying and exclusion. But Ella is not completely without allies, and when her beloved teacher, Masterji Thakur, goes missing, Ella and her friends must work together to rescue him. As Ella untangles the dangerous secrets at the heart of her teacher’s disappearance, readers will be captivated by hints at even larger mysteries to come.
The Marvellers, bestselling young adult author Dhonielle Clayton’s first middle grade novel, bursts with charm and whimsy as every corner of the Arcanum Training Institute comes alive with magical details drawn from cultures all over the world. Readers who appreciate copious, intricate world building will find much to love. Students take pride in their unique magical talents and heritages, showing off miniature fu dogs and djinn-housing lanterns while also learning from and connecting with magic users from other backgrounds.
Ella, who is fascinated by Marvellian society but never turns her back on her Conjuror identity, exemplifies how The Marvellers vibrantly celebrates both common ground and difference. She is a splendid protagonist whose inner strength propels her through obstacles with optimism and courage to spare. In every scene, her emotions shine, whether she’s feeling love for her family, uncertainty about her future at the Institute or determination to stand up for what’s right.
It’s clear that The Marvellers is only the start of Ella’s journey, but Clayton has carefully given Ella everything she needs to one day join the likes of Percy Jackson, Morrigan Crow and Aru Shah in the middle grade fantasy hall of fame.