Review: The Marvels by Brian Selznick

themarvelsThe Marvels by Brian Selznick

My Rating: 4.5/5 TARDISes

Series: Standalone

Date Published: September 15th, 2015

Publisher: Scholastic Press

Pages: 665 pages

Source: Library

Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository

Synopsis: Two seemingly unrelated stories–one in words, the other in pictures–come together. The illustrated story begins in 1766 with Billy Marvel, the lone survivor of a shipwreck, and charts the adventures of his family of actors over five generations. The prose story opens in 1990 and follows Joseph, who has run away from school to an estranged uncle’s puzzling house in London, where he, along with the reader, must piece together many mysteries.


This is a spoiler-free review.

The Marvels was an absolutely beautiful gem of a novel that ended up taking me completely by surprise in all the best ways. An intriguing, thought-provoking, and magical tale full of unexpected twists and turns, it captivated me from page one. I am a massive fan of Brian Selznick’s work and have read both of his other novels, The Invention of Hugo Cabret and Wonderstruck. His stories, and the way he tells them with alternating pictures and text, are incredibly unique and gorgeous pieces of art. And though I utterly adored both of the others, The Marvels has surpassed them all.

The format of this novel was quite different from the previous ones. The others had alternating drawings and text, where the drawings either continued where the text left off or told a story in themselves that intertwined with the written story by the end. In The Marvels, Selznick tells two separate stories that take place multiple centuries apart. He begins with nearly four hundred pages of drawings telling one story, followed by two hundred pages of text telling the other. Though this strayed from his usual layout, it served to make the novel even more powerful as a whole.

I was worried at first about the picture aspect of it not being interspersed with text, feeling like it might end up being a bit confusing. However, this was not at all the case, and it was as equally coherent and as emotionally powerful an experience as the actual text itself. There is something very cinematic about that portion, very much like watching a silent film, which tied in brilliantly with the focus on acting and literature in the plot.

This novel is packed with a well-portrayed and memorable cast of characters, all of who are very easy to connect with and feel for. In just a short amount of time, I felt that I had become very attached to them, and was eager to find out how things turned out. This is also a very intelligent read, filled with references to theater and great works of literature, primarily works by Shakespeare and Yeats. A major theme of this novel is how life inspires art, and how art can make aspects of life a bit clearer to us all.

The visual portion of the novel tells the story of a family of actors growing up in the theater and on stage between 1766 and 1900. The text portion begins in 1990, and tells of a young boy named Joseph Jervis, a lover of fiction who is searching for his own real life adventure. Joseph runs away from boarding school to London in order to visit his uncle, Albert Nightingale whom he has never met, and request his help in locating his best friend. When he arrives, he is transported back in time by stepping into the house of a man who lives as if he is from the 1800s. The adventure begins, as Joseph attempts to piece together his family history and see why his uncle is living in such a way.

Going in, I did not know very much at all about this story aside from the relatively vague synopsis provided, and this turned out to be the absolute best way to read it. I was incredibly surprised by the twists and revelations in the plot, and that kept me on the edge of my seat, intrigued to find out the answers to the many mysteries.

This is not a good vs. evil story, not a story with any sort of antagonist. It is a story of people finding their place in the world, writing the story of their own lives and their own futures. It is about love, acceptance, and learning to be patient, with others and with life itself. Most importantly, it is about seeing; looking deeper into a world, fictional or factual, and perceiving that which matters the most.

Selznick sends the reader on a journey of their own, opening a door into the past and inspiring them to take each new fact they learn and explore what they see to decipher the mystery of how the two narratives relate to each other. All of his novels have a winning combination of stunning artwork and skillful writing. He is a magnificent storyteller through both words and images. The drawings allowed me to become fully submersed in the story and the world right from the start. I felt completely transported back in time, and his spot on descriptions of Albert Nightingale’s house made me occasionally forget that we were in the 1990s and not actually the late 1800s.

The pairing of these two mediums, as well as how he weaved the two tales together, made for a thoroughly rich and memorable experience. The story itself and the distinctive way that it is told makes this novel unlike anything I have ever read before. Through his novels, he has created a style that fully immerses the reader in the lives of his characters, and this fresh take on his usual format makes that experience all the more vivid. It was a stunning and breathtaking work, one that fits its title well. This was a truly wonderful journey.

“Aus Visum Aut Non. You either see it or you don’t.”

4.5 TARDISes


The Creative Blogger Award


I was nominated by the awesome Rachel over at (bargain)bookbliss! Thank you so much for the nomination, Rachel. She is a fantastic book blogger so if you haven’t already checked out her blog, be sure to head on over there! 🙂


creativebloggeraward1The Rules:

  1. Thank the person who nominated you and include a link to their blog.
  1. Share 5 facts about yourself.
  1. Nominate some bloggers in return and notify them about their nomination.
  1. Keep the rules in your post to make it easy for everyone to know what to do.


Random Facts About Me:

  1. Along with writing, reading, and film, art is one of my biggest passions. I’m not particularly good at painting or sculpting, but I love drawing/sketching and graphic design.

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  1. When I am not writing or reading, I am probably doing something musical. I have been singing for over 15 years. I also have played four instruments (piano, violin, guitar, and recorder) and I plan on starting electric violin sometime in the near future.
  1. I desperately want to become a writer and filmmaker, and one day move to London so I can work there.

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  1. I am pretty much obsessed with anything to do with superheroes/super villains/comic books, particularly if it has to do with Marvel. I own far too many comic book related items, and the next story I plan on writing is all about super villains.


  1. I love anything to do with color and creating designs and patterns with it, which partially explains my recent obsession with adult (theoretically, I am one now) coloring books. Seriously, they are the best!

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I Nominate:

Kayla @ bookedsolid1989

Jessica @ Mud and Stars

Ana @ Ana Reyhs

Michelle @ Mishi-Reads

Rachel @ One Little Bookshelf

Nick @ The Paper Dragon


Top 5 Wednesday – October 7th, 2015


Top 5 Wednesday was created by Lainey at Gingerreadslainey. Every week, book reviewers all over the world are given a bookish topic and respond with their top 5 books (or elements of books) that relate to that topic. Click here for the Goodreads group if you would like to learn more about Top 5 Wednesday and join in!

This week’s Top 5 Wednesday topic is your top five favorite graphic novels. I have been a massive fan of superheroes/super villains, particularly those of Marvel, ever since I was a little kid (I blame my dad!). So, over the years, I have read my fair share of comic books. Graphic novels, on the other hand, I’ve only just begun to read in the last year or so. However, in that short time, I have already read some absolutely stellar ones that have made me very excited to delve further into the world of graphic novels.

As both a writer and an artist, I have a huge appreciation for all aspects of comics and graphic novels and the work that goes into creating a good visual narrative. Here are the top five graphic novels I have read so far that I feel have a fantastic combination of textual and visual story.

  1. The Homeland Directive by Robert Venditti and Mike Huddleston


I haven’t heard a lot about this graphic novel and, going into it, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. However, I ended up really loving this story. The synopsis led me to believe that it would be your typical zombie story, but it turned out to be so much more than that. It’s a thriller about biology and government conspiracies, and is full of twists and turns that keep you on your toes until the end. Along with the great plotline, the artwork had a beautiful color scheme and was masterfully drawn, fitting the tone of the story perfectly.

  1. The Gigantic Beard That Was Evil by Stephen Collins


This is another one that I was extremely surprised by. To be honest, I picked it up solely because of the title. And while that is not always the best way to choose something to read, I was not disappointed. It was so weird and unique, and I truly enjoyed it. While it is a very humorous story, there is a more serious and thought-provoking underlying message that I had not expected to get from the novel. Collins’s black and white, cartoon-like art style was very fitting as well. Overall, this ended up being a lovely read.

  1. Seconds by Bryan Lee O’Malley


I have been working my way through the Scott Pilgrim series, so I’ve read a few of Bryan Lee O’Malley’s graphic novels, but this one has been my favorite by far. This story was so unique and captivating; it has a great mixture of humor and a deeper, more serious message. I love his art style as well; it’s quirky and colorful and so fun to look at. I secretly dream about being able to write and draw my own comic or graphic novel, and his work just inspires me further.

  1. Nimona by Noelle Stevenson


This is one of my most recent reads and is really more of a tie for first place than second place among my favorites because this graphic novel was absolutely fantastic! It is centered on a notorious super villain and his shape-shifting sidekick, so I knew instantly that this would be right up my alley. The story is hilarious, sad, and heartwarming, and a complete joy to read. On top of that, Stevenson’s colorful and whimsical artwork is spot on and fits the feel of the narrative perfectly. She is another author/artist who has become an inspiration for me in my own work. I very highly recommend checking this story out.

  1. Saga by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples

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Solid and engrossing narrative. Absolutely stunning artwork. This graphic novel series really has it all! I had been hearing people rave about this series for a long time, so I was eager to pick it up, and I ended up loving it even more than I thought I would. The art style is beautiful and complements the strong, well-told storyline. It’s full of vivid characters and each volume leaves you needing more. Volume three is my favorite so far, but every single one is an incredible work of art. If you haven’t given this series a try yet, you definitely need to!

What are your favorite graphic novels? Which ones would you recommend checking out? Let me know in the comments!