Author: Lisa McMann
Format: ARC from Simon and Schuster Galley Grab
Pub Date: August 30th, 2011
Publisher: Aladdin (Imprint of Simon and Schuster)
Rating: 4 Birds
Every year in Quill, thirteen-year-olds are sorted into categories: the strong, intelligent Wanteds go to university, and the artistic Unwanteds are sent to their deaths.
Thirteen-year-old Alex tries his hardest to be stoic when his fate is announced as Unwanted, even while leaving behind his twin, Aaron, a Wanted. Upon arrival at the destination where he expected to be eliminated, however, Alex discovers a stunning secret - behind the mirage of the "death farm" there is instead a magical place called Artime.
In Artime, each child is taught to cultivate their creative abilities and learn how to use them magically, weaving spells through paintbrushes and musical instruments. Everything Alex has ever known changes before his eyes, and it's a wondrous transformation.
But it's a rare, unique occurrence for twins to be separated between Wanted and Unwanted, and as Alex and Aaron's bond stretches across their separation, a threat arises for the survival of Artime that will pit brother against brother in an ultimate, magical battle.
I’ve read quite a few other books by Lisa McMann, so I opened this one knowing that whatever the story it was, it would be amazing. And it really is.
As a kid some of my favourite books were written by Enid Blyton, C.S. Lewis and of course, J.K. Rowling. This one is like a combination of all of them but unique in its own right, and a Dystopian too. Although aimed at Middle Grade readers, I didn’t notice this at all and I doubt other readers my age and older would either. I sincerely wish I had this when I was a kid because I would have read it so much that the pages would have fallen apart! You can definitely see the similarities between this and Harry Potter but as I mentioned, it’s completely unique. A magical castle, statues that move and talk (I loved Simber, the talking stone Cheetah who guards the castle), talking blackboards (my favourite was Earl) and many interesting magical spells.
Dystopian themes are strong in this - you have two worlds, one truly Dystopian and one Magical, which is a really strange idea but it works. Quill, the Dystopian world has strict rules where all creativity is banished, even dreams and drawing. There’s a Purge each year, choosing who is Wanted, who is Necessary and who is Unwanted. The Unwanteds are sent to their Death in The Lake of Burning Oil, a horrifying prospect for any 13 year old kid. But hang about; it’s a Middle Grade book so they’re all fine! They are rescued by the leader of Artime; an awesome guy called Mr. Today and they learn whichever creative pursuit they wish, as well as Magical Warrior Training, just in case the leader of Quill finds out about them.
The story itself is pretty fast paced, which is a shame as I wanted to see the characters developing and learning new skills properly. But I can see why it was fast paced, managing to stuff a year into 400 pages – it may have ended up like Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix if it hadn’t! Lots going on though, Alex is coping with being separated from his brother Aaron, who has become a Wanted. He believes his brother would want to come to Artime if he knew about it, which may or may not lead to some silly decisions later on in the book – you’ll have to read it to find out! The side stories were fantastic in this, instead of having a silly amount of different thoughts and switching constantly between them, you occasionally get a glimpse of what the other characters are thinking, without it being too much. I particularly liked Lani’s story and would have liked to have known her character better. Fingers crossed for a sequel!
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