Goodreads: The Manifestor Prophecy
Series: Nic Blake and the Remarkables #1
Age Category: Middle Grade
It’s not easy being a Remarkable in the Unremarkable world. Some things are cool—like getting a pet hellhound for your twelfth birthday. Others, not so much—like not being trusted to learn magic because you might use it to take revenge on an annoying neighbor.
All Nic Blake wants is to be a powerful Manifestor like her dad. But before she has a chance to convince him to teach her the gift, a series of shocking revelations and terrifying events launch Nic and two friends on a hunt for a powerful magic tool she’s never heard of…to save her father from imprisonment for a crime she refuses to believe he committed.
I love Angie Thomas’ work, so was excited to see her move into middle-grade fantasy (one of my favorite age ranges and genres!). Like many YA authors, however, she seems to have found the transition a little bumpier than expected. While The Manifestor Prophecy is a solid read and will likely please the tween crowd–especially those who love mythology- and folklore-inspired series–it does not quite seem up to Thomas’ typical level. The characters seem more one-dimensional than is typical for her work, and the book does not particularly stand out from similar titles such as Amari and the Night Brothers or The Marvellers. Still, fans can afford to be picky since Thomas’ standards are usually so high. The target audience will probably care less and simply go along for a magical ride with Nic and her friends.
It is difficult for me to pinpoint exactly why The Manifestor Prophecy feels a bit off, or more forgettable than similar titles, but I think perhaps it is the transition to fantasy that proved difficult. The book takes inspiration from Black history and folklore, and even the Bible, and that is all fantastic. Folklore-inspired tales are definitely trending in this age category, and this book brings another perspective and culture to the market. Still, the worldbuilding does not feel especially cohesive or immersive. But this is something that very well may change as the series continues and Thomas gains more experience with a new genre.
Characters are often where Thomas really shines, and she tries once more to bring a certain complexity to them here–but I think only to some and not always successfully. Nic and her neighbor/friend seem particularly one-dimensional; most of the complexity centers around her father. But his actions and his backstory feel a bit…weird to me. Almost like they do not really make sense, but, hey, they provide drama for the storyline. As for the rest of the characters–we are told a lot about them, but not necessarily shown. For instance, I never really got best friend vibes from Nic and her best friend. I am still puzzling out some of the other characters, who sometimes explain themselves out loud or describe other characters so readers can learn about their personalities–but again, it is often told and not shown.
I appreciate that Thomas is clearly trying to do a twist on the Chosen One theme here by showing how shouldering the expectations of others can affect a person. And I enjoyed the incorporation of Black history and folklore. I do think, though, that the series is still trying to find its feet. The sequel might feel more polished than this first installment.
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