Sunday, June 4, 2017

Magora: The Gallery of Wonders by Marc Remus - Book Review (Book 1)

Book: Magora: The Gallery of Wonders
(Book 1 in The Magora Series)
Author: Marc Remus
Genres: Middle Grade, Young Adult, Fantasy, Adventure, Art

Magora: The Gallery of Wonders is the first instalment in the Magora series by Marc Remus.

Note: I read the second book first but just had to pick up the first one. Each can be read as a standalone, but you'll be making connections if you read both.

Centred around Holly O'Flanigan, who is living with her distant and annoying relatives The Smoralls, Magora: The Gallery of Wonders opens with Holly seeing a fire break out at her grandfather, Nikolas' house. We don't meet Nikolas because he dies at the beginning, but immediately after we are introduced the world of Magora, which Holly stumbles upon when she discovers a chest with a painting and the strange creature, Tenshi.

Had she actually seen flying seahorses in the tree? Holly jumped back up on her feet and grabbed the binoculars. Jittery, she focused on them. There they were, three seahorses as big as cats, but they weren’t ordinary seahorses. Their leathery tails were spiked with gigantic steel needles, and their bodies were protected by rusted armor. Metal helmets covered their heads and smoke steamed from their snouts. Their bulgy eyes gazed at Holly as if they could see her from the distance.

Magora: The Gallery of Wonders is full of interesting characters, twists, events and adventures. Some parts are reminiscent of events from other fantasy books, but overall Remus has lots of creative ideas in there.

From the beginning, the reader is introduced to Holly's friends: Rufus, Brian,  and Amanda, who will appear in the following books.

For me, Brian was sarcastically adorable and just cracked me up as I read. I loved his character. I liked them all – maybe not Amanda, but she's a love-hate-type of character.

"Everything about Amanda repulsed [Holly]. She was arrogant, gossipy, and only cared about her looks. Most of all, she was an extremely good painter. That just made matters worse."

This is the reader's introduction to Amanda; however, having read the second book, I must note I liked the development of both Amanda's and Holly's characters in terms of friendship and trust.

Character development is evident for the four main characters and continues as the books progress.
Holly O'Flanigan artwork by Marc Remus

One of the things I liked about Holly is that she's smart and actually tries to think outside the box. This is evident in the Quadrennial Art Competition she enters towards the end of the book. She is also brave and sometimes funny.

The coolest thing about Magora: The Gallery of Wonders is the pace by which the author introduces the reader to Magora and the concepts in that realm. Having read book two, I was already aware of certain bits, but reading book one gave me a perspective and depth.

Holly gaped with astonishment at two tiny paws covered with fluffy orange fur. Behind the paws, two frightened green eyes appeared. What followed looked like an orange koala with a humanoid face, like that of a child. It had pointy ears and short arms and legs.
“It’s a Nukimai.” Grandpa Nikolas had painted creatures he told her were called Nukimais many times, but Holly had always thought he had made them up.

In Magora, the children attend Cliffony Art Academy, where Holly can finally pursue her love of art, which in the real world everyone has discouraged her from pursuing. Although she's told she's a Gindar, a rare kind of artist that can create living beings, Holly struggles with her brush strokes and her creations.

Each chapter begins with a kind of author's note on art, painting, and fantasy versus reality. Among the ones I liked is:
"The line between reality and fantasy has many shapes. It can be thick or thin, colourful or dull, wavy or straight, blurry or sharp. It is always changing."

The chapter on Ravenscraig Lane reminded me of Diagon Alley from the Harry Potter books, especially the pastry shop where Holly asks for marzipan griffins and the shop owner jumps around trying to catch them from his shop. Warning: It's a mouthwatering chapter!

I also liked the chapter banners done by Remus. I just wish they were coloured instead of grey.

Throughout the book, we see Holly struggle with her painting and her self-confidence. She has always loved drawing and colouring BUT people have discouraged her saying she didn't have the talent. At Cliffony, there are things she could do, but others that she just seems to fail it. Holly constantly self-doubts her abilities, giving her character depth and making the reader sympathetic. It also makes room for a lot of character development.

Overall, Magora: The Gallery of Wonders is a highly interesting, exciting and artistic first instalment in a new magical series. It is a middle grade-to-young adult fantasy, combining art, magic, adventure and excitement. It's highly recommended for all ages. You'll love it, trust me.  

I loved the artistic cover, designed by Marc Remus, and the whole idea of a fantastical world where everything is about art. Magora is every young and old artist's dream!

"The struggle to balance fantasy and reality is part of learning that the two can’t exist without each other. Reality is fantasy and fantasy is reality. It all depends on the viewpoint. And the line becomes unimportant."

Overall rating: 10 stars

Add Magora: The Gallery of Wonders on Goodreads.

Check out Nadaness In Motion's five-star book review of Magora: The Golden Maple Tree (Book 2) and Magora: The Bridge in the Fog (Book 3), Magora: The Uprising (Book 4)

About the Author:
Marc Remus has been a full-time painter for 20 years, which has prompted him to come up with Magora.
"I always wondered what it would be like to fall into one of my paintings," he says. "I have also painted the covers for all the Magora books, designed the logo, and did the interior layout."
You can check out his artwork at his websiteYou can also connect with Marc via FacebookTwitter and check out his TV documentary.

Magora: The Gallery of Wonders is currently under translation to both German and Spanish.

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