Rebel Genius by Michael DiMartino
Published by Roaring Book Press on October 4, 2016
Genres: Childrens, Middle Grade, Fiction, Fantasy
Pages: 384 Format: ARC Source: BEA
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.
I acquired this ARC from the publisher at Book Expo America. This does not impact my thoughts and opinions in any way.
When I heard Michael DiMartino, co-creator of Avatar the Last Airbender, was writing his first novel, I was over the moon excited. Going in with high expectations probably wasn’t the best idea, but Rebel Genius was still a great read. Giacomo has been surviving the streets of Virenzia on his own for quite some time but the arrival of his Genius thrusts him into a dangerous quest to find three Sacred Tools.
If I could count on DiMartino for one thing I knew the worldbuilding would be off the charts amazing. And of course, it was! The reader is transported into this Renaissance like empire where artists have a magical birdlike creature that embodies their creative spirit. It’s ingenious, really. The detail and description were so eloquently put and each scene was so easy to picture. I found the Genius/artist connection so well thought out and the way sacred geometry worked was fascinating.
This book is truly a love letter to the arts; whether it be painting, drawing, sculpting, music, etc. DiMartino shows his appreciation for creativity and imagination with each turn of the page and his passion for it shines through. The artwork that is interspersed within the story was stunning and really added to the overall theme. Rebel Genius also reflects the struggles creators face and how to overcome them.
The only weak point I could find was in the character department. Giacomo was interesting enough and I loved seeing his connection with Mico grow, while Aminah, Milena, and Savino for most of the story were underdeveloped. I did enjoy the glimpses into their pasts and the friendship they all found. The adults pretty much had no depth whatsoever and I could not connect with them at all. Hopefully that can be built up in the future though.
Overall I really enjoyed Rebel Genius by Michael DiMartino. This brilliantly imagined world brought forth a unique story and while the characters weren’t fully fleshed out it still held me captivated. It spoke to my creative side and resonated the difficulties that always seem to get in the way of the process. I would definitely recommend this one, especially to lovers of ATLA, the arts, and fantasy. Plus there’s more to come!
So are you excited for Michael DiMartino’s prose debut? Do you love one art style or all of them? Let me know all your thoughts in the comments below!