Genre: Children/Middle Grade/Fantasy
Publication Date: January 22, 2016
Story Perspective: Third-Person
Themes: Friendship, Confidence, Bullying, Self-Esteem
This book was given for free, courtesy by NetGalley
and Misty Moon Books.
Losing her grandfather, Holly feels sadness and lost. Then, living with the Smoralls isn’t easy as they treat her as more of a maid than a child. However, one day, she finds a box of things her grandfather left behind.
Rummaging through his belongings, Holly stumbles upon a magical world where her and her friends enter through a painting. There are exciting happenings in this new world: paintbrushes are used to create objects, magic is used on a daily basis, and the Cliffony Art Academy mixes magic with art. The only problem is the voice that Holly continues to hear. Who is that voice? Will she be able to figure it out and fulfill the role that she’s been given?
This was an interesting book to read, and I had mixed feelings throughout. I first saw this book via the OnlineBookClub’s Book of the Day program. The cover looked fun and the premise intrigued me. Though when I first began, I was a bit leery on how similar Holly’s situation was to Harry, in the Harry Potter series – an eleven-year-old who lost both parents and living with people who really dislike and mistreat her. However, I decided to continue reading, and I found the similarities to be fairly unoriginal and bothersome to read.
In general, the children in the book are likable, but aren’t very developed. For the most part, the characters are one-dimensional and hold one purpose. The “smart one” always has an answer usually coming from a book, the “unkind one” has superficial things to say (she changes a bit toward the end), and the “generic friend” is just that – a generic friend. I didn’t feel as if I really got to know anyone.
The plot was just a bit too odd and unrealistic for me to believe. Yes, this is fantasy, but there’s a way to make the fantasy world seem natural and not forced. Falling into a painting for a whole year without a care in the world and the loved ones they left behind just seems too odd. There was kind of an explanation given at the end, but it wasn’t very satisfying. Though this is a children’s book, I felt there wasn’t a lot of substance here either.
Now, the biggest pet peeve of mine is the unoriginal take on the book. There were too many similarities to Harry Potter for my liking. Here are some of the ways that the two are similar:
- an orphaned eleven-year-old lives with people who mistreat her and she enters a magical world
- goes to a magical school, away from home for a whole year
- using a stick-like object to create magic (Harry Potter – a wand; Magora – a paintbrush)
- a brainy friend who always refers to a book for answers
- students/people prejudiced against those who aren’t “full” (Harry Potter – Muggle-born; Magora – Unfinished ones)
- a teacher who seems evil and distrustful, who ends up being okay
- performative tests in front of others to prove how much students are capable of
- a street of shops full of magical objects and food
- Holly is the only one who is able to hear a seemingly bodiless voice in her head
I could be overly sensitive toward this as I am a Harry Potter fan. After all, Harry Potter is the reason I love reading and I grew up with him. However, I couldn’t look past on the parts that seemed to have been pulled right from Harry Potter.
Overall, if a child read this before reading Harry Potter, they might fall in love with the concept of traveling to an unfamiliar world. Perhaps, it would be a place that they’d want to visit if they could. Also, the concept of using art in this fashion could easily pull some children into the world of Magora. For me, though, The Gallery of Wonders did not leave a very good first impression.
I would perhaps recommend this to children who would like to visit a new world, which mixes art with magic.
Was this a book of my choosing or one for review?
21 out of 50 books for review for 2018