Title: The Spectaculars
Written by: Jodie Garnish
Cover by: Nathan Collins
Published by: Usborne
The Spectaculars is the first in a series of books about a group of magical performers with gifted special powers from the stars.
I was enticed to read this book by the beautiful cover illustrated by Nathan Collins. However, it took me a while to get into the story and feel any rapport for the main protagonist, eleven year old Harper Woolfe, but after the first three chapters I was hooked.
When three figures arrive at Harper’s window in a flying canoe, informing her that she is due to start her apprenticeship, Harper discovers she is a Spectacular. Harper is transported away in the canoe, from the rundown Theatre Borough of the Smoke to the amazing magical world of The Hidden Peaks, dressed only in her pyjamas and dressing gown. She arrives at a magical travelling theatre and boarding school, called the Wondria, which is in a tram and has a multitude of floors, an attic and a giant glass dome.
Like her mum Harper has a love of mechanics but has inherited her dad’s magical abilities to control stardust. One of the mysterious figures is blue-haired Trick who was her best friend before the ‘accident’ that killed her father but her mother had convinced her he was imaginary to spare her the truth of what she had lost. Trick is my favourite character and in a lot of the ways he carries the book. He comes across as mischievous, but he also has a calm and reassuring side to his nature. He is always very supportive of Harper.
She learns that on the day her dad died and the Spectaculars arrived through the Gateway, thirteen stars fell from the sky and were lost. These stars are being hunted for their magical powers.
This well-crafted story reminded me in places of Neil Gaiman’s Stardust and J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series but instead of a sorting hat there is a teapot, which brews the perfect tea for their character and instead of the fallen star being human they are animals.
This novel is a fascinating look at how superstition can lead to dramatic over-reactions. Harper is convinced by the spoilt Althea Reed that she is responsible for bringing Misfortune to the Wondria. The accidents and mysterious disturbances to theatre life continue until they threaten to close down the theatre for good. With Trick and new friend Thief the magician, Harper fights to save the theatre and help the fallen stars return home.
Jodie Garnish shows a real talent for creating imaginative worlds as well as some incredible, unique magical creatures, such as a ‘kobold’ called Helja, which can shape-shift into a broom and a mangle. Her world building is elaborate and impressive. One of my favourite settings is the ingenious magical library where the bookshelves look like they are suspended in the air high above their heads.
The Spectaculars is a fantastic amalgamation of the world of theatre with the world of magic. This is a boarding school story with a difference containing some exceptional twists. I particularly enjoyed the excellent twist at the end when the real antagonist is revealed with a surprising secret.
Ideal for readers 8+. This book would be a beautiful addition to libraries and school bookshelves.