CBR15 Bingo: Edibles – Dhonielle Clayton ramped up the concept of magical food to an almost absurd level, many sound down right hard to eat. Things like Jamaican patties that sing reggae when you cut them open and hummingbird cakes that fly around are two that stick out in my memory.
A few years ago I discovered Clayton through her YA Belles duology, The Belles and The Everlasting Rose, which I thought were both 4 star reads. The Marvellers came to my attention due to the recommendation of an awesome bookseller when looking for some middle grade fantasy. I got this in audiobook format so my 15 year old could have something to entertain her while waiting to see Urgent Care after getting shot in the eye with a nerf dart (fortunately, she was totally fine).
Clayton has created a world where magic is hidden and there are two sets of magical societies, Marvellers and Conjurers. Marvellers live high in the atmosphere in floating Marvellian cities. Their magic gives them a ‘marvel’ which is depicted as a light inside them. Marvels fall within the five paragons, Touch, Sound, Taste, Spirit, and Vision. Conjure folk “are magical people that are descendants from West African Marvellers. The Transatlantic Slave Trade changed their magic, turning their marvel light into a twilight because of the horrific atrocities and pressure that was put on them due to the pain and struggle of that experience and the subsequent experiences post-emancipation.” – Dhonielle Clayton
The grand Marvellian Arcanum Institute is allowing Conjurers to attend for the first time and Ella Durand can hardly wait. Living among non-magical Fewels in New Orleans she has always dreamed of visiting a Marvellian City. Ella is bursting with excitement to find out what her marvel will be. But the dream quickly sours. She is made to feel unwelcome nearly form the moment of arrival as there is prejudice against Conjurers. Fortunately she makes close friend with Jason and Brigit and she dearly loves learning about Marvellian magic. Her favorite teacher is Masterji Thakur a paragon of Taste with a Spice marvel. However, strange things happen when Masterji Thakur tries to tell Ella about conjurers and the Arcanum Institute. When Masterji disappears, Ella becomes desperate to find her teacher and embarks on a mission to find him.
I quite liked this book. It has a lot to say on integration, racism, and first only different, set in a creative fantasy world that is just a step to the side of our own. This is a truly international school with students and teachers from across the globe. There isn’t a token kid to represent all of Africa. There are students from several African countries each with their distinct magical traditions. Shout out to the audiobook narrator, Joniece Abbott-Pratt! She gave an amazing performance. I was impressed by all the different dialects she depicted and the unique voice of each character.
If you have young people in your life who likes magical schools, I high recommend this middle grade adventure.