A #WyrdAndWonder Audiobook Review | “The Marvelwood Magicians” by Diane Zahler, narrated by Sarah Zimmerman; courtesy of #NetGalley

Posted Sunday, 2 May, 2021 by jorielov , , , , 2 Comments

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Acquired Book By: In late Winter 2020, (February) I joined NetGalley for the first time as they finally announced they were going to be offering full-length audiobooks for reviewers. I was never able to join NetGalley due to having chronic migraines and being unable to read ebooks. I started requesting audiobooks to review as soon as they opened their audiobook catalogue in July, 2020. I am an eclectic reader and thereby, you will see all genres in Fiction explored from both markets of interest: mainstream and INSPY as well as from Major Trade, Indie Publishers & Press and other routes of publication, too. There might be the occasional Non-Fiction title appearing in my NetGalley queue of reviews as well. This marks a new adventure for me seeking stories for review consideration and I look forward to seeing where the stories lead me to venture.

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. All audiobooks via NetGalley are able to be heard via the NetGalley Shelf which is why I was thankful to be gifted an android tablet by my parents to celebrate my 7th Blog Birthday on Jorie Loves A Story. I did not receive compensation for my opinions or thoughts shared herein.

NOTE: As a new reviewer on NetGalley, I’m sorting out how to get the Press Materials for each of the audiobooks I’m reviewing when I share them on my blog Jorie Loves A Story. When I contacted NetGalley Support they informed me that if a separate Press Kit is not included on the audiobook’s book page we’re allowed as reviewers to use the book cover and synopsis provided when we go to share our review of that audiobook on our blogs; as long as we give attribution as I have done at the bottom of this review in “Sources”. Those materials are provided with permission of the publishers to be used by reviewers via NetGalley.

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Why I wanted to read &/or listen to “The .Marvelwood Magicians”:

I have had a certain attachment to circuses ever since I was a young girl who attend the Ringing Brothers circuses. This was during the age of Gunther Gebel-Williams. Beyond the excitement of the shows under the big top and the ways in which the circus can ignite the imaginations of anyone who attends them, part of me was concerned about the conditions of the animals and the treatment of them before and after the shows themselves. In time, I came to appreciate zoos more than the circus but only the ones who had the best interest of the animals at the heart of their mission, not the bottom-line when it came to selling tickets and/or earning profit.

Through the years, you might have noticed I RT and support The Australian Zoo – which is one of the zoos and wildlife outreach organisations I’ve come to appreciate as I spent years watching Steve Irwin and his family through their docuseries long before tragedy struck his family.

However, when it comes to ‘fantasy’ side of the ledger in literature – there is just something interesting about how writers are taking our love & excitement for performance art and close encounters with animals to a new heightened level of interest!! You might have first seen this coming across in my readings of the first bits of the Magical Midway series – and it continues this year, as I was unexpected surprised to find my copy of “The Marvelwood Magicians” was still on my NetGalley shelf waiting for me!

It was the best surprise – as it helped me move past the health woes of April (which let’s face it were adversely difficult) and re-settle myself into listening to audiobooks (its been terribly long since I could last listen to a story in full!) as well as finding my JOY again as a book blogger which is something I’ve struggled with since January, 2021. (you might have seen the reduction in posts every month!? the archives tell tales!) This became my segue novel – as much it became the novel my bookish heart wanted to HUG outright for the HAPPINESS it gave me as a reader!

Every night this week, I’ve been pulled into the throes of the Marvelwood’s — bit by bit and eagerly hopeful I might get ‘further’ into the story. Some nights I could barely keep my attention focused past a half hour but on our first day of #WyrdAndWonder *before!* midnight marked the second day, guess what?! I learnt how it ENDS. It was bittersweet for me, too, as I didn’t want to ‘let go’ of the Marvelwood’s!! Who would!? I felt such a kinship with this family!! Now, I can look forward to gathering this on audio & print and adding both to my personal library. Not sure when I can do that — but when I can, you can bet I’ll be tweeting my glee about bring this family HOME!!

The key reasons I wanted to listen to this lovely were due to the setting (ie. circus & travelling performers!) AND the fact this was a story set in a Fantasy world but dearly focused on family & community. Two of my favourite themes across the genres I regularly read. I wish I had a preteen to give this audiobook too – to see if they delight in the joys I had hearing it myself and to talk about it afterwards.

Read my review and see if this might fit into your #WyrdAndWonder plans – for this year or next – or any month betwixt and between! I appreciate you visiting with me as I’m just getting started – I’ve planned a whole literary holiday for myself where everyday I’ll be reading and/or listening to Fantasy stories and taking everyone on my readerly journey! Come back and see what I’ve discovered each week. For now,.. let the Marvelwood’s entice you into their world and find the JOY of the circus anew,.. .

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A #WyrdAndWonder Audiobook Review | “The Marvelwood Magicians” by Diane Zahler, narrated by Sarah Zimmerman; courtesy of #NetGalleyThe Marvelwood Magicians
by Diane Zahler
Source: Audiobook Direct from Publisher via NetGalley
Narrator: Sarah Zimmerman

Eleven-year-old Mattie Marvelwood comes from a family of traveling performers. Her dad is an illusionist; her mom is a fortune-teller; her brother has a vanishing act; and she herself is a mind-reader. But the Marvelwoods have a deep secret.

The acts they perform at carnivals, fairs, and circuses are not just acts. Their powers are real. In all their wanderings, the Marvelwoods have never met another performer with gifts like theirs—until they join Master Morogh’s Circus of Wonders! But it turns out that Master Morogh’s true talent is stealing the gifts of others. When he steals Mattie’s brother’s vanishing ability, the family has a big decision to make. Do they run, leaving Bell’s gift behind to save the rest of them, or risk exposure by trying to beat the duplicitous ringmaster at his own game?

Genres: Children's Literature, Middle Grade, Middle Grade Fantasy, Urban Fantasy

Places to find the book:

Borrow from a Public Library

Add to LibraryThing

ISBN: 9781629797243

ASIN: B0815B761C

on 1st October, 2019

Format: Audiobook | Digital Review Copy (NetGalley)

Length: 5 hours and 19 minutes (unabridged)

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Published By: Live Oak Media (@MediaLiveOak)

Converse via: #KidsLit, #MGLit or #MiddleGrade, #Fantasy and #Magicians OR #Magic
and  #audiobook or #audioreads as well as #TheMarvelwoodMagicians
and especially #WyrdAndWonder !!

Available Formats: Trade paperback, Audiobook and Ebook

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?✍ Follow the author: @dianezahler

?? Visit the narrator: Sarah Zimmerman

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a few extra notations about this world:

The ambiance is set as soon as you begin listening to this lovely audiobook – from the music overtures to the effect of how the narrator introduces you to the names of the writer and narrator. You immediately know this is a story rooted in the world of a circus and for anyone who grew up going to the circus (like I had) – there is a certain kind of curiosity lit anew.

Zahler brought to life the travelling life of a family of performers – from what their lives were like on the road to how they had to set-up at each new venue. She also took time to paint the details of the venues themselves – what was inclusive of a fair vs a circus and how those environments altered per venue with both the people the Marvelwoods were meet and/or find as colleagues and those of whom attended the events themselves. There is even the lingo they use on these venues peppered into the dialogue as if we were walking amongst them ourselves.

This is definitely an Urban Fantasy and Magical story set in our own timeline of contemporary America where the sights and sounds and familiarity of our modern world can be seen in the pages of the story. I questioned which category of Fantasy this story might fit inside – I felt it was a cross between Urban Fantasy (ie. real world anchoured) and Magical Realism; but what constitutes each is still a bit fuzzy for me. I also know its open to interpretation which is why I said “magical” rather than adding the ‘realism’ at the end as I tend to attribute those stories a bit differently than this one – especially if they involve the Jinn. Or a story where the real world as we know it fades away – there weren’t any instances of that in this novel – hence the Urban Fantasy labelling by me – and I hope knowing its walking the line between those two genre niches, readers might be further encouraged to seek this out for themselves.

Even the fact the Marvelwoods are travelling on secondary highways and moving state to state is something most of us can understand as taking road trips in America are a heap of fun. Especially the ones where you do go off the map so to speak and not take the major arteries which link major cities together – to get onto the back roads and secondary highways is quite a lovely treat for the traveller and it was lovely how Zahler embraced this in her storytelling style.

my review of the marvelwood magicians:

Mattie has become a bit disillusioned by the circuit her parents worked (ie. circuses, carnivals, fairs, etc) – especially of how she felt she could see the place as it truly were rather than the magical landscape it once felt like it conjured. She makes a faux pas by expressing a hidden truth in front of someone whose temper angered as fast as lightning. She had been entertaining Bell’s affection for the silly games which yield yet another stuffed animal as a prize. But when she spoke aloud what she should have known would gain her trouble more than mirth – she realised this environment they were accustomed to living inside as a travelling performance family could have its darker edges and dangers. Not to mention she had a true hankering for an ordinary life outside the life she led wherein she would do normal things like attend the events rather than perform inside them. You truly felt for her – how she felt trapped inside this life she hadn’t chosen for herself and the ways in which she had to make peace with it, too.

Being eleven can’t be easy for someone like Mattie but doubly so when other schoolgirls find out she’s performing at one of the local events she’s featured. As soon as I saw the girls’ trying to bully her whilst she was out with her brother Bell, I had a feeling she would see them again. Sure enough they became the first people we see Mattie reading – as her gift is telepathy and the ability to see people’s thoughts. Of course, being immature they’re not the best to read because they won’t play fair and do what is honourable with one’s thoughts when someone is about to read their minds. I had a good chuckle at their absurdity and how calm Mattie staid to deal with them. Those kinds of girls never learn – or least, it takes longer for them to walk their path in life. They’d rather take short-cuts and do ill will towards others than learn the better way to live whilst their young enough to change their habits.

This is quite the extraordinary family! I loved the whole sequence of their schooling in the car – how they took homeschooling to a new level of wicked fun! As Maya spoke about History, their Da illustrated those stories with his illusions – as he had quite the interesting gift himself. It was a burst of joy to listen through the narration as you could visualise the scene so well by how Zimmerman projected those images in her voice. I would imagine all children would love parents who could bring to life their school lessons in this way because it was part audible learning intermixed with visual representations of those subjects and topics; which in effect, would make learning more engaging on several levels!

The owner of the diner (Audra) left such a keen impression on you. She was the kind of diner owner who liked feeding people – you could tell by how she approached the diners who walked in her doors and how she tried to make everyone feel right at home even if it was their first time at the diner itself. Quite fruitiously it was also the opportunity for Mattie and her family to find a new opportunity to work. Those are the moments in stories you know aren’t a coincidence but it has such a lot of positive karma about how their circumstances are changing for the better, you simply go with the flow of it. Audra would also become a mainstay character of whom I was grateful was given more interaction with the Marvelwood’s!

Ever meet a character in a story you instantly felt the shivers? Master Monroe (the Ringmaster) is that kind of character for me! I had a feeling there was something sneakingly sinister about this character and yet I couldn’t quite put my finger on what he was after – but anyone who unexpectedly knows a family on arrival without ever meeting them before is a character to keep tabs on! Part of me questioned for all their secrecy about their gifts and talents (as a collective family) if perhaps someone ‘out’ there knew about their gifts and were after them because of it. It would make sense – a family who had so much talent would be bound to draw people’s attention and not for the right reasons either! Part of my suspicions seemed well-founded when Master Monroe’s mind couldn’t be read by Mattie. She definitely was picking up on his creepiness in-line with me as it was hard not to notice he was definitely the sort you knew you couldn’t trust but then, were constantly questioning their motives at the same time!

Mrs Silva (one of the circus families; aerialists) was the first person who welcomed the Marvelwood’s to the circus – with her kind way of making all of them feeling as if this was a reunion rather than a first meeting. Selena (Mrs Silva’s eleven year old daughter) was wicked happy at the joy she was given in a new friend – as both she and Mattie weren’t used to having too many friends’ as their families travel to often for keeping friendships. Whilst they were exploring the circus, I was most delighted by the scene with the tiger – where Mattie took a step outside her comfort zone and decided to read the tiger’s mind. There was a thoughtfulness here – how Zahler dealt with the scene and how she let Mattie (as an eleven year old) share her own reactions as you might have felt an eleven year old would. The tigers became a fixture in the story and took up a happy niche in my heart as I’ve appreciated tigers since I was a very young girl – seeing them in this story felt fittingly real and honest by how Zahler portrayed them.

Even how Selena reacted to what she observed Mattie doing with the tiger was a touching sequence of the story. It showed how two young girls were trying to put together a friendship built on trust and communication. I had a feeling this is why Mattie shared a confidence with Selena. She wanted to have a true friend; not someone who would force her to be a fraction of herself but a friend who knew the whole truth about her and accept her without conditions or judgement. It was another one of those life lessons Zahler put into the story and taught a lesson without it feeling as if that was what she was doing as everything fit so well into the context of the story.

Quintuplets. I was just as shocked as Mattie! Imagine finding quints at the circus who are all IDENTICAL! I had a right good chuckle over these brothers! They were personable and friendly but it was quite ironic that only Selena could tell them apart and know whom she was speaking to whenever she said one of their names. Mattie was truly smitten with them – especially as it was a rare treat to see five different people all of whom looked alike. I felt Zahler really gave us a delightful sequencing with this scene – between the brothers and the young girls’ everything in this sequence just ‘worked’ and it was brilliant because of how incredibly diverse a circus can be and how interesting the acts are to meet.

As the Marvelwoods get further acquainted into the culture of the Monroe circus, the more you start to see past the veils of the circus itself. There was the horrifying moment the canary singer lost her voice and then, there were the not so subtle warnings for not becoming hypnotoised by Monroe himself. The foreshadowing Zahler was laying down in the background was quite brilliant because she did it in small subtle ways where anyone reading this story (or listening to it as I had myself) would be caught inside the suspense of it without truly knowing the fuller scope of what was happening to everyone involved. She builds this climax brilliantly, too. Allowing us to take the ‘journey’ with Mattie, Bell, Tibby and Selena – as they become the eyes and ears of the circus, allowing us this interpersonal access to both the circus and the conspiracies therein.

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.

It was Audra who taught the most about ‘gratitude’ but it was this community where the circus wa set which sought to teach the most about life and how to live it. I personally love stories where the community behind the characters’ lives are just as important as the centre of focus within the character’s journey. It gives credence to how community is meant to be both supportive and intuitive to newcomers as much as a welcoming embrace of the diversity of persons who live amongst the residents.

One of the hardest sections of the story for me was the tragedy of ‘loss’ but not in the physical sense as we might expect it to be spoken about but rather in a more intangible way and without being attached to death. There are a lot of different kinds of losses in life and Zahler spoke on those layers as well but it was a particular kind of loss in this story which affected more than one character which pulls your heartstrings. It also makes you feel as anxious as the characters to see what will come next and how this loss or series of losses will have an overwhelming after effect on them all.

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!?

Small fly in the ointment:

The only time I felt it might have become too much for a young reader is when there was a scene which was flashing back to how a character loses some of their fingers. The details were, eh, accurate? And, although I felt it was handled well by Zahler part of me felt squeamish a bit and that surprised me – so I’m thinking I was channelling my younger self and her reactions. So, that was only a small note of warning if a younger reader doesn’t like medical details to beware of those small inclusions but overall, it didn’t affect me to where I couldn’t move past it. I wish instead some of the words might have been different as they would have had the same effect without being more pointedly detailed.

on the fantastical styling of Diane Zahler:

Per my readings of Leanne Leeds Magical Midway series (see also my Reviews for the Magical Midway series) and a few other stories set during carnivals and/or circuses as well as my viewings of the series The Mentalist – I have a particular interest in the subjects and artful trades explored in this story. I felt the introduction Zahler gave us into this particular story was quite brilliant. She lets you walk beside Mattie and Bell – giving you the illusion of their safety and the innocence of the carnie world itself. Then, as you start to peel back the layers of what she’s set down as the foundation of the story and the world therein, you start to notice how untamed this world is and how tricky it would be to navigate as a child performer.

Although this is a Fantasy novel, what I loved about the recognition about certain aspects of this world is how Contemporary it fits into our world. How the story parallels if you will as the Marvelwoods live their lives next to our own – which you observe as Mattie talks about why she loved reading about the Ignalls and how their family life was part of the longing she felt inside her heart to live a regular ordinary life rather than the one she was bourne into living herself. This definitely had an Urban Fantasy vibe about it – how the fantastical bits were parlaying themselves into an alt. viewing of our modern world and how in this veil of time and place, the Marvelwoods were living out their days as we went about our own.

When it came to explaining where the Marvelwoods fit into travelling families – I appreciated the time Zahler took to explain the differences between: Artistes vs travellers vs Gypsies. The Marvelwood’s themselves feel they are Artistes who travel from venue to venue rather than the other two labels which might be better suited to others. There was a lot of thoughtfulness taken to knit out the details of this novel and to give us such a convicting dramatic story.

I appreciated her turns of phrase, too. She had a way of developing this visual awareness of what was happening in-scene by cleverly phrasing what she was referencing. For instance, how she took to describing the family’s mode of transportation and why it was an older model for its kind. Those little nuanced touches of expression added to the joy of listening to the narration. Especially as Zimmerman had such a clean delivery – you could tell she loved the source material as it reflected in how she narrated the novel.Fun Stuff for Your Blog via pureimaginationblog.com

Fantastical elements:

→ Invisibility

→ Telepathy

→ Illusionary Magic

→ Interspecies communication

Realistic threads of story:

→ Travelling family

→ Secrets and what to do about them

Part of the story explores how Mattie is torn about the secrets she finds out about people as a mind reader. She can find out information others might not want revealled and sometimes she finds out information that could affect someone else – information that might be better shared than stored or cast aside. She is in the process of sorting out what to do about those situations and whom she should trust to confide those situations whenever them might happen as we read the story.

Equality in Lit:

→ Multicultural characters

→ Inclusivity

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In regards to the audiobook directly:

I am appreciative of Ms Jess providing a cursory outline of how best to articulate my listening hours on behalf of this audiobook and the others I shall be blogging about or reviewing in future. I’ve modified the suggestions to what I felt were pertinent to respond too on my own behalf as well as keeping to the questions I felt were relevant to share.

Number of Times I’ve heard the Narrator(s):

This is my first time listening to Sarah Zimmerman.

Regards to the Narrator’s Individual Character performances:

Mattie: She had a maturity in her voice which showed how much trust her parents put on her shoulders. I gathered the feeling that Mattie would have preferred to have more of a childhood than the role she had in the life she was living. Almost as if she had grown-up too fast.

Bell: His voice was decidedly younger than Mattie’s which made sense since he was her younger brother – but his vocalisation also denoted that he was a bit ahead of his peers.

Maya and Da: Mattie, Bell and Tibby’s mother and father had this wonderful thick accent. I loved how Ms Zimmerman characterised the parents as they stood out from the children. In some regards, I was surprised the children themselves didn’t have any accents I could decipher through the narration as with their parents, their voices were so distinctively accented, it would have made sense the children would have taken on that lint in their own voices? That was the only questionable question I had as I listened to the audiobook as children learn vocabulary and spoken words through those who raise them and with parents such as theirs who had such heavy accents, it would have made sense some of those inflections of speech would have passed to the children?

Master Monroe: If a villain had to be picked for the Marvelwoods, I felt he was an equal match for them to have as a villain as had all the components you’d expect out of someone with sinister plans. He was purposely evasive in answering their questions and he seemed to find out more information about others than he wished to reveal about himself. I liked how Ms Zimmerman made his voice sound different from Da – you could easily tell the person who was in-scene from both of the men and that was a good thing because this character was the kind of person you wanted to give a wide berth!

Secondary characters:

Selena: She had such a youthful voice – compared to Mattie. She didn’t seem to have all the weight Mattie had on her shoulders and that gave a lightness to her voice. She was definitely a bit more free to live her life than I felt Mattie did herself as Mattie was constantly feeling the pressure to live up to the expectations of her parents. Selena on the other hand still seemed to be positive about life and the possibilities therein.

Audra: She worked in the diner and whenever you heard her voice, you knew she was going to be quite maternal and offer ready advice to anyone she felt needed it. She was the first to welcome the Marvelwoods to towne and continued to support them once it opened.

Ahmod: (I could be spelling this character wrong) He had such a wonderful voice – his character had an older and wiser sound to his voice as he had the most to lose and the most to gain. He had a paternal instinct through him and it was lovely to have him as the critical resource for Mattie, Selena and Bell.

The characters in the background:

There were so many wonderful voices knitting out the background of the story – you truly loved hearing how Ms Zimmerman was interpreting these people and how she voiced them. Some of them were a bit more fierce than others, but overall they became the canopy of characters who rounded out the background of the novel.

Dane – the person Mattie inflamed for sharing the truth aloud what she shouldn’t have known without her gift. Zimmerman wonderfully shifted from voicing Mattie and Bell for giving voice to a burnt-out character like Dane who felt breaking the rules was well within his rights given his circumstances. You could definitely envision him by how he was voiced.

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!!

I cannot wait to own a copy of The Marvelwood Magicians in audiobook!

Ideally, I’d LOVE to own a copy in hardback AND audio!!

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This book review is courtesy of:
Live Oak Media via NetGalley

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 I look forward to reading your thoughts & commentary!
Especially if you read the book or were thinking you might be inclined to read it. I appreciate hearing different points of view especially amongst readers who gravitate towards the same stories to read. Bookish conversations are always welcome!

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I am grateful for NetGalley
for audiobook readers
who love seeking out the audio stories
which might not be available to them to listen
otherwise whilst increasing their
Literary wanderings with #newtomeauthors!

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Reading this story contributed to my #WyrdAndWonder Year 4:

IMAGE CREDITS: images by Svetlana Alyuk on 123RF.com


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Enjoying my fantastical reviews about the worlds of Fantasy?

Ever since the beginning of Jorie Loves A Story, I have embarked on a Quest to seek out stories within the worlds of Fantasy which would heighten my awareness of the genre and give me wicked good reads – across the subniches of a genre I’ve loved since I was seventeen. Every May, I happily co-host @WyrdAndWonder – whilst throughout the months of the year, I regularly read & discuss the Fantasy reads I am discovering.

Visit my full archive for ALL my #EnterTheFantastic wanderings! As well as take a walkabout through my archives for #WyrdAndWonder – or take a walkabout through my archive for everything deemed wickedly fantastical!

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This audiobook review is cross-posted to LibraryThing.

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{SOURCES: Book cover for “The Marvelwood Magicians” and book synopsis were all provided by the publisher via NetGalley and are used with permission of the publisher and NetGalley. Wyrd And Wonder banner 2021 (Pegasus) provided by Imyril and is used with permission. Wyrd And Wonder banner 2021 (Pegasus) Image Credit: by Svetlana Alyuk on 123RF.com. Post dividers badge by Fun Stuff for Your Blog via Pure Imagination. Tweets were embedded due to codes provided by Twitter. LibraryThing banner provided by librarything.com and used with permission. Blog graphics created by Jorie via Canva: #WyrdAndWonder Book Review Year 4 banner, #Audioreads banner and the Comment Box Banner.}

Copyright © Jorie Loves A Story, 2021.

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About jorielov

I am self-educated through local libraries and alternative education opportunities. I am a writer by trade and I cured a ten-year writer’s block by the discovery of Nanowrimo in November 2008. The event changed my life by re-establishing my muse and solidifying my path. Five years later whilst exploring the bookish blogosphere I decided to become a book blogger. I am a champion of wordsmiths who evoke a visceral experience in narrative. I write comprehensive book showcases electing to get into the heart of my reading observations. I dance through genres seeking literary enlightenment and enchantment. Starting in Autumn 2013 I became a blog book tour hostess featuring books and authors. I joined The Classics Club in January 2014 to seek out appreciators of the timeless works of literature whose breadth of scope and voice resonate with us all.

"I write my heart out and own my writing after it has spilt out of the pen." - self quote (Jorie of Jorie Loves A Story)

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Posted Sunday, 2 May, 2021 by jorielov in #JorieLovesIndies, #WyrdAndWonder, Audiobook, Book Review (non-blog tour), Brothers and Sisters, Bullies and the Bullied, Children's Literature, Clever Turns of Phrase, Coming-Of Age, Compassion & Acceptance of Differences, Conservation, Content Note, Equality In Literature, Fantasy Fiction, Fly in the Ointment, Folklore and Mythology, Good vs. Evil, Indie Author, Invisibility, Juvenile Fiction, Middle Grade Novel, Mother-Daughter Relationships, Multi-cultural Characters and/or Honest Representations of Ethnicity, NetGalley, Parapsychological Gifts, Parapsychological Suspense, Preservation, Siblings, Small Towne USA, Speculative Fiction, Supernatural Fiction, Telekinesis, Telepaths & Telepathy, Twitterland & Twitterverse Event, Urban Fantasy, Writing Style & Voice

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2 responses to “A #WyrdAndWonder Audiobook Review | “The Marvelwood Magicians” by Diane Zahler, narrated by Sarah Zimmerman; courtesy of #NetGalley

    • Ooh my!! You’ve made my DAY!!

      Thanks for such a wonderful reaction to this review!! (big smiles) This is AWESOME as I am thankful you were honest this wasn’t a genre you usually read and you were inspired by what I shared!! If you do read it – please come back and let me know your impressions. I truly hope you feel as captivated by this story as I had myself!! Wow. What a lovely note to receive!!

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