Last Week on Inked Brownies

Review: Rebel Genius by Michael Dante DiMartino


Kindle Edition, 384 pages
Published October 4th, 2016 by Roaring Brook Press

To be completely honest here, I initially went for this book because the author’s the co-creator of Avatar. Simple as that. I devoured Avatar and The Legend of Korra and am desperately hoping for a third series about the next (or preferably one of the previous) avatar(s). Even though it looks a little like there’s some airbending taking place on the cover up here, Rebel Genius has nothing to do with the Avatar world. For this book, the author was inspired by a wholly different concept: art is magic.


A new fantasy-adventure series from the co-creator of the hit animated shows Avatar: The Last Airbender and The Legend of Korra!

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 punished 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.

Blurb (1).png

The Story

After just having read (and reviewed) Magonia, this is the second book in a row which has bird familiars in it. The birds in this one, who are called Geniuses, are definitely a lot more believable than the birds from Magonia.

In Latin, a genius meant a guardian spirit, either of a person or a place, and was credited with an artist’s remarkable creative powers.

The birdlike appearances of the Geniuses were inspired by the Hindu and Buddhist imagery of Garuda, a divine human bird that is often depicted with a jewelled crown.Thai_Garuda_Emblem_(Government_Gazette_Ver.)_002.jpg

The Geniuses here don’t have any physical human traits, though; they’re ‘simply’ birds. With integrated jewelled crowns. And when they grow up, they get to be the size of a modest dragon. Yeah, I thought that was pretty neat as well. Oh, did I mention they can shoot stuff with laser beams from their crowns? Even neater huh?

Now that we’ve dealt with the concept of the Geniuses, let’s take a closer look at the storyline.

Giacomo is an orphan, living in the sewers of the capital because he doesn’t want to end up in the orphanage. The realm he lives in is being ruled by a female dictator who calls herself The Supreme Creator. All Geniuses, apart from her own, have been hunted down and destroyed because she saw them as a threat to the realm. Because each Genius is spiritually connected to a human, we can see a similar thing happening here as in Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials series. When the connection is broken (in this case, by killing the Genius) the human will mentally wither away until there is nothing left but an empty shell. Kind of a zombie if you will, without the being hungry for brains part.

When Giacomo gets a Genius all of a sudden, he knows he’s in even more trouble than before. Until he meets three other children who also still have their Geniuses.

At the same time, there’s another villain (besides The Supreme Creator): Ugalino, who is on a journey to find three Sacred Tools to take over The Supreme Creator, with the intention of becoming the next dictator himself.

The four children set out on a quest to be able to find the Sacred Tools first and bring back peace to the realm by taking down both of the villains.  

I told myself not to make any Avatar comparisons here, but…I never listen! The children each have their own special power and can defeat many foes by combining their strengths. Just like the original Avatar group. Giacomo is the special one because he’s able to tap into a source of power that’s basically impossible to tap into, let alone without years of training.

The World Building

A fantasy version of Renaissance Italy where art is everything. An interesting concept but I don’t care a lot about art history or paintings myself, so *shrugs*.
Then there’s the question of how there can still be so many citizens if the extermination of the Geniuses should be equal to that of the humans eventually. These people who are walking about simply never had a Genius to begin with? Or were they taken away at a very young age, so it would have less of an impact?

The Magic System

I had some issues with the paint brushes and other artsy equipment being used as a magic wand. I have to hand it to the author that it’s certainly creative, but it just sounds like so much work! You have to draw the right lines or play the right notes and hope your Genius picks up on it and transforms it into something useful by using the diamond in his crown.

The Characters 

The character I liked best is Zanobius, a Tulpa created by Ugalino. He’s created after the likes of Da Vinci’s Vitruvian man.Zanobius has four legs, four arms, and is almost indestructible. He has been designed to follow direct orders from Ugalino, but has a mind of his own as well. Zanobius and the children are all main characters in this book.

The children were alright, if not a bit flat. Giacomo was a bit of a grumpy, can’t-make-up-his-mind-character during the first half of the book, but luckily this changed later on. If I had to compare these kids to the ones from Avatar, these are even ridiculously dull. But I wouldn’t do that now, would I?

The Writing

The writing is alright, though I did get bored a couple of times and had to put the book away to read something else instead. I sometimes felt like it would serve a better purpose as a TV-script instead of a book. Some of the descriptions did, at least.

The Plot

Several puzzles must be solved to find the Sacred Tools. There are illustrations in the book to help the reader with solving these puzzles as well. Like a game of Professor Layton, but easier. Or well, I sometimes couldn’t follow it entirely but that might just be me being stoopit. The ending was alright, yet the quest has definitely not ended yet for the children, meaning this is the first book in a series. 


A fun book for Middle-Graders with nice illustrations. Magic, art, science, and religion are all intertwined which is a cool idea but didn’t always do it for me. I’m giving it three brownies because I liked it, but wasn’t swept off my feet.


Thanks to the publisher for providing me with a copy of the book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest opinion!

Links to the book:

Amazon US
Amazon UK
The Book Depository (Dutch Retailer)

About Anne (231 Articles)
Dutch book reviewer who reviews in English. Grammar nazis beware!! I like brownies. And chamomile tea.

42 Comments on Review: Rebel Genius by Michael Dante DiMartino

  1. When you mentioned paint brushed and magic, I kept thinking back to an old film, the “Peanut Butter Solution”. Thanks for that being in my head! Have you heard of it? Not many have. It sounds like this is a very original idea that may have fell a bit short on execution? I am admittedly still curious though. I like the concept with the Geniuses. Did it take long to read?

    Liked by 1 person

  2. katelynnhillier // 18/10/2016 at 22:54 // Reply

    Co-creator of Avatar and the Legend of Korra?! fans self Ooh man, admittedly I haven’t yet finished The Legend of Korra but I’ve seen Avatar at least three times – that show was my childhood! No Sailor Moon for me, Avatar all the way!
    I’m definitely getting behind this book. It sounds so cute and would be a perfect anime! And illustrations? Mmmm, yes please!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Avatar was better than Korra anyways ;). I didn’t like the whole industrial setting in Korra very much (still a great series, though!). Hahaha, I believe this is his first actual book, so yes, excitement all the way! XD

      Liked by 1 person

  3. That’s a crazy concept! And I love art and art history so this sounds awesome to me 😍 awesome review 🙌!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. My son (9) was just asking me about this book today. He showed me a flyer for it and said the teacher was talking about it. They get new release lists every month.
    Rebecca @ The Portsmouth Review
    Follow me on Bloglovin’

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Wonderful review, Madam! Odd book, huh? I definitely don’t think this one is for me by any means, but what an interesting world.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Merci! 🙂 Definitely, I like odd usually, but it doesn’t always work as well as one would hope. No, you should probably stay away from it :D. If I got bored, then so will you, and a lot more as well most likely, lol.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Is it okay that I haven’t watched Avatar or should I hide far away? xD
    I like the concept, even though I could not care less about Renaissance or paintings. I am so impervious to art my aunt thinks I’m a monster.

    Liked by 1 person

    • It’s okay XD I didn’t watch it until about 4 years ago either, until my husband was gasping at me for never having watched it yet…^^ It’s pretty damn awesome though! Hahaha, same here! Like, what if we have a war and go into starvation mode or something. Who cares about paintings then? You can’t eat those now can you?! XD

      Liked by 1 person

  7. rashthedoctor // 19/10/2016 at 20:29 // Reply

    Despite the fact that i liked Avatar , I’m not sure I’d like yet another grumpy Ang or other similar character /plot , that said this does sound good

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Ah I’m sorry it wasn’t great all the way through! The premise and the world sound incredibly interesting actually – I love the concept of the geniuses and that without that creative spirits the respective human turns into an empty shell. I also love that whole Renaissance Italy vibe ❤

    Liked by 1 person

  9. The cover looks cool but from your review, sounds like the read was just alright.. were the puzzles interesting at least? Somehow the cover doesn’t have a picture of the human bird.. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • It was nice to read before going to bed. I believe they were but I just read on instead of trying to solve them myself. Lazy arse XD. No, they’re regular birds, except they grow up to be HUGE. Which is what you see on the cover 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  10. The Last Airbender is a feat that means a lot to me, as it does for you and so many others! This seems like a book founded upon pure imagination. Your in-depth take on it made for a really interesting read. Thanks for sharing! I’ve just subscribed.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Lovely review, Anne! I’m not much of a Middle-Grade reader, but I like the synopsis for that one, it’s too bad it ended up just being an okay read.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Thanks for the review. I am going to pass on this one. Ha ha.You are right though, those groovy laser beam crowns make it perfect for a Saturday morning kids’ cartoon.XD Do you have Saturday morning cartoons in The Netherlands?

    Liked by 1 person

    • YES! Or well, I used to watch them every Saturday morning when I was still a wee one. Sadly, the quality of the cartoons has gone down like a clown ever since. I like my cartoon characters to look like the ones from Disney movies; not like they were drawn by a junkie toddler!

      Liked by 1 person

  13. Sounds like a cute and colorful read for the wee ones…which I don’t have,
    So for now, going to skip…(not literally. That would be weird).
    Thanks for the extra brownies…they’re always stale by the time I get them. Please fix that. 😂
    End transmission. 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hahaha, without any children to cover up the fact that you’d enjoy skipping, yes, it would be weird. What a crazy society we live in where we can’t act like an 8-year-old without being frowned upon!! 😉 D’awwe!! Dunk them in a bucket of water and then throw’em in the oven (all metaphorically of course)


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