Cover Image: The Marvelwood Magicians

The Marvelwood Magicians

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When I saw there was a new book from Diane Zahler available I had to jump atthr opportunity to read it, or in this specific case, listen to the audio book.  I thoroughly enjoyed this narrator, Sarah Zimmerman, and the occasional background circus music that really added to the atmosphere.  This was five hours that I split into about three readings and enjoyed thoroughly as the action was fast paced and the characters were just complex enough. My girls overheard bits of the story as I was listening and have asked to be able to get it for us to listen to again and again.  As I know how they feel about "Sleeping Beauty's Daughters," I am not surprised. This was quite the cast of characters and I think many good discussions and parallels to life can be found in this middle grade fantasy.
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I received a complimentary digital and temporary audiobook copy of “The Marvelwood Magicians" direct from the publisher Live Oak Media via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. I did not receive compensation for my opinions or thoughts shared herein. 

About the audiobook: 

How the story sounded to me as it was being Read: (theatrical or narrative)

I felt this was a spoken narrative production with lots of lovely characterisations and performance with secondary and supporting characters. Each new person who came into the story had their own voice as well as the fact Ms Zimmerman used a regular 'narrative' voice as well when she out of character to where you could see how she moved betwixt and between different portions of the novel. You cannot help but feel the growing climax of the mysterious bits behind the performances and of course, the heart of what is the fuller message of this story. It is a very emotional read - it takes you by surprise and grips your soul in the process. I credit this to how Zimmerman narrated Zahler's story and how she was able to deepend the joy for me as a reader.

Regards to Articulation & Performance of the story:


I loved how Ms Zimmerman articulated the different words and phrases in the novel - she took time to ensure you heard every word especially when she was voicing a character with a heavy accent like Mattie's Mum Maya and her father as well. Master Monroe had an equally difficult accent to pull off and then, of course, the dexterity it takes to trick the listener to believe there are a set of quints in the story, too! They were cheeky brilliant in their own right - only I couldn't sort out how to spell their last name! This is why I wish audiobooks came with 'cast' listings - so we could understand not just who is who in the characters but how to spell their names (ie. spelling is not my friend as a dyslexic reader!) which would be lovely as a book blogger who loves to champion and converse about the stories she's reading and/or listening, too.


I felt Zimmerman performed through the narration - giving us a wonderful display of characters and voices throughout the novel. She didn't just say the words - she evoked so much depth out of how she approached voicing the characters themselves. Each of them, unique in personality and in expressive mannerisms had something to add and give to this world of travelling artistes - the circus might have been their venue but this was a vagabond family united in their joy of performance and in the life one leads on the road. I was so caught inside the story through how Zimmerman narrated it - I felt like this was the best way to experience the story Zahler gave us.

The SINGING! Ohh! What a special surprise to find in Section 6!! I loved how Ms Zimmerman approached singing this song - you felt the song as it was sung and how the timbre of the song was meant to feel especially emotional. It was just the start of a musical interlude with the characters and I felt singing one of the songs brought it fully into focus for us as listeners. It was here where we learnt Maya's family is from India and Mattie's Da is from Scotland.

Even the part where Zimmerman mimicked the voices the girls' used whilst watching John Wayne movies was another special part of the atmosphere and experience of living inside this story. The circus music at the start and ending was a special added pleasure, too and it helped signal the start of your journey and the conclusion where you knew you left a part of your heart with the Marvelwood's!!

Preference after listening to re-Listen or pick up the book in Print?

At first I felt I might prefer to listen to this audiobook and read the story in print in tandem as that sometimes is a preference of mine. However, once I fell into sync with Zimmerman's voice, I felt the narration took me off into this wonderful journey into Mattie's life and I decided right then and there, this is one audiobook which worked well for me as a reader. All those characters she brought to life added to the dimensional space of where Zahler was leading us to traverse.

My second experience with this story will be reading with my eyes in the print edition and listening again to the beautiful canopy of voices by Zimmerman through the audiobook. It is a treasured story now for me and I cannot wait to give it praise and cheers of JOY this #WyrdAndWonder! As well as months/years thereafter as it truly should be a fixture in ANY reader's library who is as captured by worlds of Fantasy as much as I am myself.

In closing, would I seek out another Sarah Zimmerman audiobook?

Ooh, I definitely shall! I liked her vocal range and the depth she adds into her narration as a narrator. You truly feel as if both the world behind the characters and the story itself were lit alive by how she approached narrating the book. It is a pleasure of joy to find such a narrator and I love to follow a narrator's career once I find one I enjoy hearing such as Ms Zimmerman. I wasn't sure if this was the first novel in a series - if it were, I hope she'll continue to give voice to the characters and the installments of the series therein.

For me, what truly anchoured me into this story was her sensibility when it came time to choosing different accents for the characters. The adult character I loved listening to was Da - Mattie, Tibby and Bell's father. He had such a kind spirit in his voice and even though I'm not a fan of villain's, I must admit Master Monroe was executed brilliantly! She gave a performance as if this was an eclectically cast stage production - with multiple voice actors all taking their cues and entering/exiting through the scenes. Even the tigers (wish I could spell their names!) were delightful - not that they were voiced but it was how she implied their thoughts and captured our hearts as we heard about their plight in the story. I could not love this story more -- I can only hope my words did it justice and INSPIRED others to seek this lovely out for themselves!!

About "The Marvelwood Magicians" the book:

Being a Middle Grade novel, I knew there would be some cleverly disguised life lessons threading into the background. I was happily surprised though to see how Zahler wanted to offer two different perspectives on a travelling life of artistes - wherein Selena and Mattie both were envious of their lives - from how Selena lived a more normal life with school and a permanent house where her family went home as a 'base' vs the travelling life Mattie had with her family. It showed how sometimes when you appear to have 'it all' sometimes you're missing something someone else has themselves.

When it came to 'seeing' The Marvelwood's act for the first time - wow, was I impressed! Each of the Marvelwood's have such an individually distinct talent - Zahler does well in giving her readers such a wondrous of JOY in reading about this circus and the magical family at the centre of it! It brought back wicked wonderful memories of my own childhood attending the circus and being lost in the magic of the events and shows therein. There is something about a circus - about the unexpected and the impossible merging together to create this 'othersphere' of action and intrigue which captivates you into this world of where everything seems a bit larger than life and you can't help but feel pulled into that environment. Zahler pulls you into this world as soon as you begin listening to the story but she dazzles you further by how she showcases the circus and the acts involved.

Zahler remained true to how she set the foundation of the story - she let her young heroes and heroines take the lead when it came time to formulating a plan of action but she also encouraged younger readers to beware of the smaller details. To take stock and notice revelations which at the time they were being shared might not paint the picture for everyone but it would give a lot of clues towards where she was wanting us to seek out the answers for everything that was happening at the Monroe circus. She was encouraging younger readers to question and become inquisitive about things they had both overheard or observed - to seek their own answers and to contemplate the fuller conclusions she was guiding them towards accepting.

There is a wonderful act of sacrifice (not a violent one, to say more is to spoil it but its a self-sacrifice) whilst there is also a gesture of conspiracy to save the greater good by the acts of the few. This is a plot I can always stand behind because sometimes it does take a small army of courageous persons to overturn adverse circumstances and situations. It is here where there is a bit of a division of sorts - between the adult and children characters, where they are each choosing to act in different ways but sorting out a way to bridge those actions into a conclusion that would benefit everyone. Again, trying not to get spoilery here!

The most heartwarming part of the story for me involved Ahmod and his tigers; as he was the tiger's keeper and they had all journeyed so far from home! He hadn't even seen his own family in more years than what were warranted. But its the fate and plight of his beloved tigers which was the most gutting to me. There is a bit of wildlife conservation and preservation peppered into the background as well as a lighter spin on the conversation about animal acts in circuses - which I felt was well-presented especially for the younger readers of this story. It is a conversation worth having with children - to help them understand the cycle of life as much as the reasons why we need to do no further harm to wildlife and be kinder on our footprints on the world.

For me, the greater theme appeared at the ending - the sense of restoration and redemption. It is best seen through Mattie's Mum and Da - of how their own story is threaded into Mattie's and how as a family there is a lot of personal growth happening outside the context of the suspense and the main story's central arc. By the time I reached the conclusion, I admit, I wasn't ready to say 'goodbye' as this had become an #unputdownable read of mine this #WyrdAndWonder! I wanted to hug the book not depart the lives of the Marvelwood's! It is so sombering to let yourself detach from characters you've become so attached too - which is why I was hoping this might become either a series and/or a duology. Where there could be another installment featuring this family and the rest of the characters who became dear friends on this journey with us!?
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This was a book that centered on a family of 5 travelling performers, but this group really does all process super-natural powers. It was really interesting to listen to the story and I love books centered around a Circus theme. 

The heart of the book for me was Maddie, but she probably knew that. She can tell what people are thinking, quite a skill to process. However, Maddie yearns for a normal existence and wants to go to school and have friends her age and not just be a circus act. I wanted this many times for her to. 

I enjoyed this and it is entertaining.  It is a really fun read and the family looks out for each other. As an adult loved it, but think it is appropriate for the Young Adult audience as well. 

So, definitely recommend for and fast and entertaining read that has a lot of heart to it. 

My only complaint would be I put in for the Book, too and never heard back for months. I sometimes like both audio and reading the book, and that made me start the audio, but wait to see if I got the book. 

Thank you NetGalley, Diane Zahler, and Live Oak Media for an ARC copy of this book.
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"The Marvelwood Magiciians" audio format brings out the best if Zahler's book.  The narration of the story brings the characters to life and helps build the suspense higher than the written word ever could.  Bringing each character to life with individual voices creates a suspenseful and believable story about a young woman with the ability to see and do things that isn't always what she wants for her future.  

Zahler's wove a story of teen rebellion, family dynamics, life in a carnival, and the challenges of living with and without  paranormal powers that are the best and worst parts of the characters' lives.

I loved this story with its twists and turns and honestly, did not see that ending coming.  Brava to the author and narrator.
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I really enjoyed this book. I didn’t realize I requested the audio version, but the narrator was masterful in her del wiry of the material- and the story is fantastic!
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Like the circus itself, this book is an exciting adventure for all ages! 
The Marvelwoods are a family with special powers.  From Da all the way down to little Tibby, everyone has a talent.  But Maddy finds herself wishing more and more that she wasn't always so "different".  Her talent of mind-reading is a double edged sword.  Not like her brother's ability to disappear or her little sister's ability to levitate.  
When the Marvelwoods land a position in Master Morogh's Circus of Wonders, it seems like things could finally be looking up - until it becomes clear that Master Morogh is more than he appears to be, and is out to become even more by stealing talent from other people.
In the battle to stop Master Morogh, Maddy learns the importance of family, the strength of true friendship and what it means to belong.   I recommend this book for any fans of circus fiction, young adult fiction, and books about family ties.  
My favorite character was Tibby.  For anyone who's ever had a much younger brother or sister, Tibby's personality quirks are so real and recognizable.  She's absolutely adorable.  
I received an audio copy of this book, and thoroughly enjoyed the narrator.  She gave unique voices to all the characters, and did an excellent job with the accents for various nationalities.
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Special thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for an ARC of this book received in exchange for an honest review.

Marvelwood Magicians is the perfect book for a young teen. The book is told from the perspective of a young teenage girl, who travels with her family and works at a fair.  Her whole family has unique abilities, which allows them to participate in fairs and circuses alike.  After leaving their last job, they are welcomed into a circus with a very talented ring leader.  Everything seems to be going perfectly for Mattie until Master Morogh steals her brother's talent. 

Honestly, I'm glad I didn't really read the description for the book until after I read it.  The description is pretty much 80% of the story.  It was nice to not know where the story was headed or what Master Morogh was doing.  This book was recommended to me by a friend, which is why I didn't read the description.  If I had, this might have left to a lower rating on my end.  As I was reading it, the only thing keeping me involved was trying to figure out how the story would unfold. 

The author did a great job writing from the perspective of a young teen!  I'm not sure any teen wants to feel out of place or different, so that was spot on. I did also appreciate the family dynamic and how nicely it wrapped up.
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This book was so cute. I love the idea that this magical family travels around performing under the guise of magic not being real. 

The Marvelwood family is the kind of family I'd love to have--and not because they can do cool stuff, but because they're close. They are everything to each other and have a hard time letting in outsiders. 

When they stumble upon a circus, they find themselves in danger, but they also find themselves surrounded by an entire crew of special people. 

The Mravelwoods learn many lessons in this book. 

I think this book is great for children looking to fit in because they're different from others. It helps show how our differences can be special--and important to others. You'll find friendship, family, love, and justice in this fun story. 

And for those audio people, this is a great audio. The performance is spot on and I loved it!
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Charming Audiobook

Even though I am far older than the middle graders this book is intended for, I found it charming and a lot of fun. It has magic and suspense that kept me wanting to listen to find out what happened to Mattie, her family, and the members of the circus troupe they had joined up with early in the story. Mattie is a relatable heroine for middle graders, as she sometimes feels at odds with her family—though she clearly loves every member of it—and desires to have connections to her peers and more normalcy in her life. The Marvelwood family, of which Mattie is a part, has real magic. The powers they exploit at fairs and in the circus are real, not illusions. The suspense has to do with a person who can take powers from people who honestly have them. What can Mattie and her new friends do about it? I did have issues with the narrator of this audiobook. Especially at the beginning, I thought she confused a Scottish and Irish accent for Mattie’s father, and her Indian accent for Mattie’s mother wasn't as crisp as it should have been. Despite these flaws, this was a fun book to listen to.
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The Marvelwood Magicians by Diane Zahler is Excellent! Written for young readers! You’ll go on a journey with this fantastical family. Experience their failures, triumphs, dangers, and fears. learn what is really important. Narrated by Sarah Zimmerman, the reader will not be disappointed by her portrayals of such a broad cast of characters, starring Mattie Marvelwood. 

I highly recommend it for grades 3-5. The main character is a young girl, so boys may have a hard time relating to Mattie, but if they are into magical stories they will most definitely enjoy this!
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This was a very fun and adventurous middle grade book.  I loved the atmosphere of this book.  I definitely felt like I was at the circus.  The characters were wonderful and I loved Maddie and her family.  They are a close knit family and the message about family, community and friendship is beautiful. ^_^

I would love to see a sequel to this book sometime.  Highly recommend to middle grade lovers.

I received a copy of the audiobook from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
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I love books set in the circus, travelling carnivals, and the likes. This was a cute book about accepting differences and acknowledging the powers we have inside of us. Mattie and her family are travelling performers, and while they are like their companions in many ways they differ in the fact that their talents are real. I felt the book was lacking a bit of development in the world building and was highly focused on characters which took a little bit of the magic out of it for me, But overall I enjoyed it.
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What good fun! This is what a middle grade should be. It’s a book of adventure, friendship, and family with main characters that are courageous and kind but still sometimes make mistakes. I adored this story and can’t wait to read more from this author. 

I listened to an advanced copy of this book. The narrator did a great job bringing the characters to life and I highly recommend it.
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A pleasant listen, featuring a sweet main character who so badly wants a home, stability and a friend. Mattie can read minds and her family all has special talents too. They're always on the move and join up with a traveling circus and shenanigans and some chaos ensue! 

It's a sweet story to listen to with kids and the ending was very gratifying. I appreciate the full circle moment with Mom and how the book touched upon sensitivity around the word "gypsy" in an authentic way.

The only part I didn't care for was how the tiger story resolved. No spoilers, but I will note, if you're sensitive like me, that they don't get hurt. I just wanted something different for them!
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This was a really great story about family, friends, trust, and loving all of yourself. Each of the characters are developed enough that they feel largely three-dimensional with clear motives. There is enough action, mystery, and drama to keep most readers eager to read/hear more. Additionally, the narrator portrayed the emotion It'd be a great addition to collections!
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I have read a bunch of circus books this year and I don’t think this will make it as one I need to have on my shelf. I couldn’t really get interested in the characters or the story line. I don’t know if I was having a bad time or what was happening but I should note this also took me 11 days to listen to....
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Many thanks to Netgalley and Spotlight Audio for a free copy of this audiobook in exchange for my impartial review. I loved this one so much, as it had so many beautiful elements that just worked so well together.

The Audiobook Narration: The narrator was so amazing, and she made the book a lot more enjoyable for me. She gave the best rendition of the characters, their voices, and their emotions. She carried me along every step of the way, and I felt so immersed in the story.

The Characters: The characters, especially Mattie the main character, made me love this book so very much. I enjoyed reading about them and their ordeals in the book. They were loveable and interesting, and I love the author's writing as well.

The Villain: I feel like the only problem I have with the book is the villain. While he was a formidable foe, there was little backstory or justification for why he was the way he was, IMO.

The relationships: This book explored relationships on a really interesting level. The scene where Mattie read the 3 friends, for instance, showed the complicated nature of friendships. Mattie and her mom also had a really rocky relationship and I loved seeing how that evolved.

This is one book I really loved and highly recommend.
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Thank you to NetGalley and Publisher Spotlight Audio for this audiobook in exchange for a review.  This book was INCREDIBLE!!!  I am an absolute sucker for anything having to do with magic or the circus.  This books combines incredible magical talents, like mind reading and disappearing, with the extraordinary circus acts of acrobatics and tiger training, into an unforgettable middle grade novel.  The narrator for the audio version is amazing with all the different accents and dialects you know when each character is talking as if there are 7 different narrators!  All of the characters are dynamic and captivating in a way that makes you unable to put it down, or in my case unable to stop listening.  This book is filled with adventure and mystery and it's also packed with emotions and kindness.  Overall this is a five star book about acceptance and friendship and most of family.

This review will be available on my blog and my Instagram feed 10.12.20
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Thank you to the publisher and to Netgalley for the advance copy of this book!

I loved this book. I had no issues following the story at all. I loved the plot and storyline in the book. I loved the characters in this story. It gave me all the feels I was looking for when I started reading this. I highly recommend this author. I loved the writing. I will be looking for other works in the future from this author.
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What a delightful middle grade adventure! There's a functional family, a strong female protagonist, a realistic conflict, and a bit of magical realism thrown in for fun. Mattie Marvelwood, age 11, and her family all have "talents." Mattie can read minds, her mom can tell the future, her brother disappears, etc. When they join the circus and the ringmaster steals her brother's talent, Mattie realizes that she has to find a way to get it back. Despite the number one family rule that we never tell anyone our talents are real, Mattie knows that she can't do this alone. But when it turns out that Mattie's talent is the one the ringmaster is really after, will her plan still succeed, or will it put everyone, including her new friend Serena, in danger?

The narrator was wonderful - excellent pacing and accurate accents. 

Disclaimer: I received a free audio book copy of this book from the publisher through in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.
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