'The Marvellers' Book Club: Day 1

By: Shanleigh Klassen Photo By: @jakes.books

“It’s a huge responsibility to be the first.
You don’t just represent yourself, but all of us.”


Hello, everyone! It’s time for the OwlCrate Jr read-along book club for our May 2022 book, The Marvellers by Dhonielle Clayton. Featured in our SCHOOLS OF WONDER box, this story follows Ella Durand, the first Conjuror to attend the Arcanum Training Institute. Dive into this rich, immersive fantasy story to discover a brilliant world of enchantment, intrigue, and adventure!

Our reading schedule for this book will be as follows:

  • June 13 ⁠— Chapters 1 - 7
  • June 15 — Chapters 8 - 17
  • June 17 — Chapters 18 - 31

The Marvellers is a bit of a longer book so this averages out to about 80 pages per day from now until Friday. If this is too much to fit into your day, no need to fret! Feel free to read at your own pace and come back when you're ready to discuss.

Discussion questions are listed below, and anyone who participates in the comments will be entered to win a free OwlCrate Jr box, one per post! This read-along is open to comments until Friday, June 24.

Just a reminder that this will be a spoiler discussion for pages 1-126 of The Marvellers, so beware!

The Story Begins . . .

Ella Durand is the first Conjuror to study at the Arcanum Training Institute for Marvelous and Uncanny Endeavors and become what she’s always dreamed of being: a Marveller. Marvellers are born with light inside them that allows them to perform magical feats, while Conjurors are born with deep twilight, allowing them to tend to the dead in the Underworld. No Conjuror has ever been allowed at the Arcanum Training Institute until now.

Ella’s parents support her decision to attend but are wary of how Marvellian society will treat her ⁠— especially since her mother’s twin went missing years ago in a Marvellian city. On their journey, Ella and her family meet Headmarveller Paloma Rivera who welcomes the Durands warmly and escorts them through the institute. As Ella unpacks, she meets her three roommates: Samaira, Siobhan, and Lian — a girl from a prestigious house who instantly dislikes Ella.

Meanwhile, a prisoner has been following Ella’s arrival at the Arcanum Training Institute with rapt attention. Her dinner arrives with a brass skeleton key stabbed through the middle, and she laughs.

Ella remains optimistic throughout her awkward and rude interactions with her fellow classmates until it’s finally time for orientation. But as Ella and the other Level Ones make their way through the Arcanum, Ella feels a sensation, similar to how she feels when she crosses over into the Underworld, tugging her to an elevator that says “Restricted Lift.” Her mentor, Masterji Thakur, brings her back to the midnight assembly, but when Ella looks again, the lift is gone.

Back in the courtyard, Headmarveller Rivera and Headmarveller MacDonald welcome the new students to the Training Institute. Lian and her friend Clare start to pick on a girl for not wearing the uniform and for carrying around a clown doll. Ella tries to intervene, but the girl doesn’t appreciate the help. Ella then meets Jason who has agreed to be her guide.

To her surprise, Ella wakes up the next day in a new room with Brigit, the girl from the night before, as her new roommate. In Ella’s first class of the day, her instructors show off their various marvels. When her godmother (and the new Conjure instructor) Aunt Sera conjures a massive canopy of lavender, the students are shocked as Marvellers can’t make things grow. Though Masterji Thakur continues to defend that Conjurors are part of Marvellian society, many of Ella’s classmates start linking Conjurors with a criminal group known as the Aces.

The prisoner named Gia, also known as the Ace of Anarchy, has been strengthening her newly returned marvel and remembers how her particular gift had been labeled dangerous because it didn't neatly fit into the Paragons.

Ella heads off to the massive Aracanum Library in the hopes of finding out a bit more about the Aces, but every book she reads suddenly redacts any information about the group. Brigit, who had been hiding in the library knitting, appears close by and Ella catches her in a sort of trance. Ella tries to get to know Brigit a bit more, but Brigit doesn’t make it easy: She hates the Institute, hates magic, and wants to go back to New York City.

Ella tries befriending her classmates, but besides Jason, sometimes Siobhan, and eventually Brigit, no one else is willing to get to know her. As the days go on and despite her classmates’ ongoing hostility, Ella loves the Arcanum. One day as she, Jason, and Brigit are heading to the menagerie, Ella again feels a crossing tug and leads the others to the Restricted Lift. They enter and the elevator whizzes off in impossible directions and brings them, puzzlingly, to the Founder’s Room. But then Jason mentions the menagerie again and off the elevator goes.

In the menagerie, Jason introduces Ella and Brigit to the wombies, and also — to Ella’s surprise and suspicion — a baby deathbull, one of the pit bull guardians of the Underworld. Deathbulls never leave the Underworld, so how did one end up here and how did Jason find it?

Gia makes her escape from prison, using her marvel to manipulate the threads of the universe to create a door. Opening the door, Gia steps into the Underworld, free at last . . .

Discussion Questions:
  1. Which of the Paragons intrigues you the most?

  2. Why do you think so many of the Arcanum Institute students are afraid or untrusting of Conjurors?

  3. The Marvellers is positively filled to the brim with wonder. What magical elements so far presented are your favorite and why?

What are Jason and Brigit hiding from Ella? What does the Ace of Anarchy have in store? Join us again on Wednesday as we discuss chapters 8 - 17 of The Marvellers to find out! See you then.

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