Monday, October 17, 2016

Me on Rebel Genius

Title: Rebel Genius
Author: Michael Dante DiMartino
Release Date: October 4, 2016
Publisher: Roaring Brook Press (Macmillan imprint)

In twelve-year-old Giacomo's Renaissance-inspired world, art is powerful, dangerous, and outlawed. Every artist possesses a Genius, a birdlike creature that is the living embodiment of an artist's creative spirit. Those caught with one face a punished akin to death, so when Giacomo discovers he has a Genius, he knows he's in serious trouble. Luckily, he finds safety in a secret studio where young artists and their Geniuses train in sacred geometry to channel their creative energies as weapons. But when a murderous artist goes after the three Sacred Tools--objects that would allow him to destroy the world and everyone in his path--Giacomo and his friends must risk their lives to stop him.

Rebel Genius is tense and mysterious, seeping with artistic flair. It's a dangerous race against time to find the Sacred Tools, and Giacomo will have to make some impossible decisions if he wants to keep everyone safe.

Giacomo is a lonely boy, left homeless and without any kind of help or support after the death of his parents. Hiding in the sewers with his sketchbook, he struggles to eke out a living, stealing old bread so he can eat. When his Genius appears, he's worried. He's panicking. Having a Genius means capture, means being found and locked away, as per the laws of the tyrannical ruler Nerezza. But someone else finds him first, a secret group of artists and their Geniuses training to use art and their creative energy as a weapon. This is the start of something, the start of potential hope in Giacomo, and the start of a deadly journey to find things powerful and lost.

The world-building is intriguing. There's a a massive sense that the author drew from Renaissance Europe, especially Italy, when it comes to Giacomo's world and the reverence given to art. Here art is something magical, something vital. Something living. Something that can be harnessed, used for good or evil.

This is a tense adventure. There's a lot for Giacomo to learn, to overcome, to discover both about the world around him and about himself. Secrets abound, danger lurks. Perhaps it's a little dense at times, but there are so many characters, so many things happening that almost everything needs to be described. The illustrations were a great addition to the story. With it being so visual, being about art and shapes, the charcoal-esque drawings come in at perfect times. I would recommend this to readers looking for a new middle grade adventure series.

(I received an advance copy of this title to review from Raincoast Books.)

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