Thanks to NetGalley and Roaring Brook Press for providing an eARC in exchange for an honest review.
Release Date: October 4th, 2016
Synopsis: 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 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.
For anyone who isn’t familiar with the name Michael Dante DiMartino, he’s the co-creator of the multiple award-winning animated series Avatar: The Last Airbender and the sequel The Legend of Korra. So being the geek that I am, I immediately jumped on this as soon as it popped up on NetGalley, especially when I read the premise. I love stories set in renaissance worlds, so I was prepared to be completely captivated, and for the most part I was. I have to be honest and say I thought that the first few chapters were a little slow. It seemed like a lot was thrown in regarding characters and world-building in a very rushed sort of fashion. By the time I had reached the fourth chapter though, things evened out. I was also dismayed that there was just as much an emphasis on geometry as there was art. Of course this was probably due to the fact that I flunked geometry not once but TWICE in high school! Thankfully there are these beautifully drawn sketches provided by the author that not only made this element easier to follow, but also really brought to life the characters and their world. Giacamo is an underdog that I think many kids will relate too. He goes from being an orphan who’s forced to live in the sewers, to realizing he’s an outlaw artist who now has a Genius of his own. Even with all this being thrown at him, he jumps right in and with his new friends, does everything he can to save the world. There is a large cast of characters and some aren’t quite as developed as others. I was especially frustrated with the fact that the villain of the story, the evil Empress barely makes an appearance, and that’s only during the epic battle near the end. I also thought some of the dialogue was sloppily written and came across stilted at times. I was initially going to rate this 3-3 1/2 stars, but what saved this book for me was the uniqueness and gorgeousness of the world-building. Well, that and I REALLY want my own Genius! It’s also extremely fast-paced and filled with swashbuckling fight scenes, which even though it was almost 400 pages, made it a quick read for me. Despite it’s flaws, Rebel Genius is an exciting middle grade adventure that kids will love and will also appeal to creative types and math lovers alike. No, it’s nothing like Avatar, but that’s not a bad thing. I’m quite looking forward to the next book!