Review: The Spectaculars

Written Jodie Garnish
Cover Illustration, map and chapter head illustrations by Nathan Collins
Published by Usborne

The Spectaculars is a spectacularly dazzling showstopper of an adventure:  thrilling, magical and mesmerising. 

Eleven-year-old Harper Woolfe is living in the Smoke in the almost deserted, rundown Theatre Borough with her mum, a mechanic, who runs a Fix-It Shop.  She has little recollection of the first six years of her life, a life before a terrible tram accident in which she lost her father.  Imagine her surprise when she is shoved into a flying canoe, and sees a blue-haired boy who her mother has always told her is just an imaginary friend.  As her memories return, she learns that she is a Spectacular:  a magical performer gifted with special powers from starlight and stardust, one of a group who were forced to leave the Smoke and seek a new home in the Hidden Peaks, a refuge from persecution for magical people.

The Spectaculars have been looking for Harper for the last five years, and have come to offer her an apprenticeship at the Grand Wondria Music Hall and Theatre, a travelling theatre and boarding school.  With her mother’s encouragement, Harper is excited to begin a new life in the hope that she will no longer feel so alone …

But it is not long before she finds herself, alongside her friends Trick and Thief, on a mission to save her school as it is threatened by superstition and a terrifying creature which is not meant to exist.  Could Harper be responsible for bringing the ill-luck that has beset the Wondria?  Could the Four Curses – Death, Discord, Malady and Misfortune – be more than just a children’s rhyme and have they returned to torment the theatres? 

Oh my goodness!  If ever there was an adventure to bring the house down, then this is it, and I’m just so excited that there is going to be an encore!  I was completely gripped by the frisson of excitement and danger, the revelations and the unexpected twists that left me open-mouthed. Be prepared to be shocked and surprised, astounded and amazed, as you venture with the Wondria through the Hidden Peaks, seeking to solve a mystery with Harper and her friends.

The world-building is breath-taking and a real explosion of imaginative delights!  And there’s an intricate and gorgeous map!  I loved that the Wondria converts to a tram as it travels around the different districts of the Hidden Peaks putting on spectacularly effervescent performances for its magical patrons, including fae, witches and kobolds as well as other Spectaculars.  The onstage performances are enhanced by the performers use of Star-Stuff which allows them to duet with their own reflection, transform their appearance when acting and so much more.  This is the Theatrics branch of Spectacular magic, but there is also the behind-the-scenes Mechanics branch which allows Spectaculars to create magical lighting, costumes and objects.  I loved that there is a real appreciation of the whole theatrical experience which feels joyous and such an integral part of the story. 

This adventure has the most wonderful cast of characters from the tea-loving, kind-hearted Chief Spectacular, Fletcher to the shape-shifting kobold Helja and Lori (who I won’t say anything else about!) but who I’m desperate to find out more about (maybe in the next book!).  

Harper is a wonderful protagonist:  bold, clever, determined and courageous in facing her fears.  She has a love for the Mechanics branch of Spectacular magic and proves to be a talented apprentice.  She forms a close friendship with both Trick and Thief, working together as a team when trying to save the Wondria.  She is not scared to break the rules and fight with her heart when she is angered by the treatment of others.

The Spectaculars is a sparkling, enchanting adventure which celebrates the magic and wonder of the theatre, perfect for readers of 9+.

Thank you to Fritha Lindqvist and Usborne for providing me with a proof copy in exchange for my honest opinion.

5 thoughts on “Review: The Spectaculars

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