Warrior Genius: Raises the stakes

Warrior Genius by Michael DiMartino science fiction and fantasy book and audiobook reviewsWarrior Genius by Michael DiMartino science fiction and fantasy book and audiobook reviewsWarrior Genius by Michael Dante DiMartino

Warrior Genius (2018) is the sequel to Rebel Genius, the second in a planned trilogy by Michael Dante DiMartino, one of the co-creators of Avatar: The Last Airbender. There are plenty of similarities between the two tales: a gang of four precocious kids and their exotic pets, a richly imagined historical/fantasy setting (though one based on Renaissance Italy instead of Medieval Asia) and a complex set of rules that makes up a quasi-magical system of power wielded by a chosen few.

In this world artists (whether they’re sculptors, painters or musicians) each have a Genius that acts as their muse: an animal through which they can channel their talent to create works of art. They’re a little like the daemons in Philip Pullman‘s HIS DARK MATERIALS trilogy, but their forms are decided by what country they’re born to, and their bond with an artist must be carefully nurtured in order to master the art of creation.

But in recent years the Empire of Virenzia has been ruled over by Supreme Creator Nerezza, a cruel and vicious woman who has outlawed Geniuses and eradicated anyone who stands against her. Twelve-year old Giacomo Ghiberti is one of a band of young rebels in search of the Sacred Tools: a Compass, Straightedge and Pencil, which might just turn the tide against her.

After their adventures in Rebel Genius, Giacomo and his friends Milena, Aaminah and Savino discover that the next Sacred Tool is hidden in Rachana, an empire that has long been at war with Virenzia. The Geniuses there take the form of winged horses (as opposed to birds) and are sickly and weak with some strange malady.

As well as this, they have to figure out what to do with Zanobius, a golem (or Tulpa) that has recently been freed from the control of his evil master, but still unsure what his purpose is. Giacomo feels a kinship with Zanobius, but the others find him more difficult to trust.

As a direct sequel to Rebel Genius, it’s not a good idea to read Warrior Genius without having gotten through the first book, as there’s little exposition given. We’re straight into the action and the second part of Giacomo’s quest, with relationships already established and several twists revealed.

It’s definitely an expansion of the first book, with points-of-view extending to Giacomo’s companions and a journey to another country entirely, but Warrior Genius doesn’t have the same thrill of discovery as the first book did. It’s full of good ideas and intriguing world-building, but the prose is sparse and the characters a little one-dimensional.

But I’m enjoying the ride, and hopefully we won’t have much longer to wait until the third and final book GENIUSES is released.

Published in 2018. In Warrior Genius, author Michael Dante DiMartino delivers rich settings, memorable characters, and edge-of-your-seat action, just as he did in his hit animated show Avatar: The Last Airbender. Fans will be thrilled with this new adventure! For years, Supreme Creator Nerezza has used fear and violence to rule her empire, seeking to eradicate anyone with a Genius. Then, twelve-year-old Giacomo emerged from hiding and joined a young generation of fellow artists paired with Geniuses. Together, they began a rebellion against her. Now, Giacomo has something Nerezza desperately wants — the Compass, one of three powerful objects known as the Sacred Tools. Possessing all three would allow Nerezza to spread her tyranny worldwide. After a near-fatal showdown, Giacomo and his friends escape to the empire of Rachana, a society long feared for its mighty warriors and their horse-Geniuses. But a dark and ancient force threatens the horse-Geniuses with extinction, and Giacomo discovers he is the only one who can stop it. With the help of his Genius and great friends, Giacomo struggles to keep the Sacred Tools from falling into the wrong hands and find a way to protect the Rachanan people — before Nerezza finds him.

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REBECCA FISHER, with us since January 2008, earned a Masters degree in literature at the University of Canterbury in New Zealand. Her thesis included a comparison of how C.S. Lewis and Philip Pullman each use the idea of mankind’s Fall from Grace to structure the worldviews presented in their fantasy series. Rebecca is a firm believer that fantasy books written for children can be just as meaningful, well-written and enjoyable as those for adults, and in some cases, even more so. Rebecca lives in New Zealand. She is the winner of the 2015 Sir Julius Vogel Award for Best SFF Fan Writer.

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