Rebel Genius by Michael Dante DiMartino
Summary from Goodreads:
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 punishment 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.
This is a book that requires your full attention to detail. It is a fascinating world that the author has created, loosely based in the Italian Renaissance period. It is a world where math and science help create the art that then creates the magic. The artists in this story have geniuses which are like their muse in bird form. Geniuses come to their chosen person when they are very young, infants even, and help them channel their art and their magic. This is a fascinating idea, as is the idea that the mathematical concepts of sacred geometry can help to create and control magic.
The main narrator of the story is an orphan boy named Giacomo. His parents were both artists and had geniuses but he did not. At the start of the story he gets into a bit of trouble and in a blinding flash a genius shows up to help him. He then meets up with three other children with geniuses. All of the characters are well written and are interesting. I enjoyed reading about all of them and found myself rooting for them during their adventures. Melina is very smart as well as artistic and she is the one who figures out many of the clues they find on their journey. Aaminah is a very sweet girl who has a big heart, she is able to heal wounds with her music and her genius. Savino was a bit of a braggart and obnoxious at times, but he is brave and loyal to the others if not to Giacomo. There is one other boy who figures into the story, Enzio, he is the son of the nobleman who is protecting the children. He is not a very nice young man, but as we get to know him and his reasons why he is the way he is, you at least understand him. He does change by the end of the story as well.
The other narrator of the story is Zanobius, who was created and controlled by Ugalino. I don’t want to say too much about Zanobius because it would spoil some of the story, but he was an interesting character. Ugalino is the evil magician in this story, and it is through Zanobius that we learn what he is up to. Zanobius is an unusual character, that eventually wins you over.
As I mentioned before the plot and premise of the story is very interesting. I found myself caught up in the sacred geometry and how it related to art and to the magic of this world. I did find that these explanations slowed down the pace of the story a bit though. I very much enjoyed the drawings in the book of both the sacred geometry as it was explained and Giacomo’s drawings of the people he meets and the places he goes to. More books need to have illustrations in them, they really help to enhance the story.
This is a story that needs to be read when you have the time to devote to it. I only really got into the story when I had a few free hours that I was able to devote to reading it. This is a solid middle grade novel that is for the older tween and young teens. There are perhaps some older teens and young adults that would be drawn into the story as well. It is a series, with three books planned. The second book in the series comes out in January 2018. It will be interesting to see where Giacomo and his friends go next on their adventure.