My rating: 5 of 5 stars
I am so impressed with this book! I loved every second of it! There are definite influences of the Italian Renaissance in the setting through the artwork, architecture, and names. The writing is full of action, mystery, and magic, and of course, the characters are absolutely delightful. They feel like real people, varied and interested, changing and growing all the time, each with their own secrets and agendas.
Giacomo is an orphan, living on the streets, when he mysteriously acquires a Genius, a little bird that is a companion to artists to inspire their imaginations and give them magical powers of creativity. But the evil ruler, Nerezza, sends her soldiers to kill all the Genius birds and their artists, and Giacomo and his new little friend are on the run. Giacomo teams up with some other artsy children, and they go on a quest to find an object of magical power to bring Nerezza’s evil rule to an end.
One of the best things about this book is the unique magic system based on art forms, including sculpture and music. As the children begin learning Sacred Geometry and how everything in the universe is created from those shapes, they learn that everything is connected, and their magical power and strength all stems from the True Creator. Then the children can work together with their Genius birds to create shapes, draw forms, and use those to heal, to destroy, or to create images and material forms. It’s interesting especially because it’s based on real geometry and art techniques. I loved reading all about it!
I could definitely feel an “Avatar: The Last Airbender” influence in the structure of the story, and I loved it! A bunch of kids with magical powers team up, and go on a quest to stop an evil ruler. They are still learning how to use their magical abilities. Some of them are prickly and mean at first, but gradually warm up and start to trust each other. All of them have secrets and/or a damaged past that spurs them onward. It’s great stuff, and there’s a reason this kind of story structure works so well!
But Rebel Genius is definitely its own story, with a unique magic system, a totally different world setting, and a new set of characters that are not at all derivative of ATLA. Similar structure, but a completely new story.
I can’t wait to read the rest of this series!!