Nevermoor: The Trials of Morrigan Crow
by Jessica Townsend
Morrigan Crow is cursed. Having been born on Eventide, the unluckiest day for any child to be born, she’s blamed for all local misfortunes, from hailstorms to heart attacks–and, worst of all, the curse means that Morrigan is doomed to die at midnight on her eleventh birthday.
But as Morrigan awaits her fate, a strange and remarkable man named Jupiter North appears. Chased by black-smoke hounds and shadowy hunters on horseback, he whisks her away into the safety of a secret, magical city called Nevermoor.
It’s then that Morrigan discovers Jupiter has chosen her to contend for a place in the city’s most prestigious organization: the Wundrous Society. In order to join, she must compete in four difficult and dangerous trials against hundreds of other children, each boasting an extraordinary talent that sets them apart–an extraordinary talent that Morrigan insists she does not have. To stay in the safety of Nevermoor for good, Morrigan will need to find a way to pass the tests–or she’ll have to leave the city to confront her deadly fate.
Well, this was a delight!
I’ve heard nothing but praise for Nevermoor since it took the world by storm back in 2017, and my copy has been waiting patiently for me to pick it up for quite some time. I strongly believe that we pick certain books up when we need them, like those people we sometimes meet right when we need the lessons they have to teach us, and I was very much in the need for a book just like Nevermoor when I picked it up.
I’ve seen Dini, Annemieke and Natalie raving about it – in fact earlier this year Nat gave me a direct order to pick it up – and now I’m thrilled to be yet another reader who’s going to rave about it!
I’m always a little nervous when a book is as hyped as this one. What if I’m one of the few people who doesn’t like it or, even worse, what if I think it’s just ‘fine’? For lack of a better word, however, Nevermoor is simply charming. I can’t remember the last time I read a Middle Grade that swept me away and made me feel as welcome as this one did.
Morrigan Crow is a cursed child, loathed by her family and feared by her neighbours, who is doomed to die on her eleventh birthday. At least that’s what she’s always believed, until her eleventh birthday arrives and a man named Jupiter North arrives with it to sweep her away to Nevermoor, where he believes she’ll be able to join the Wundrous Society. To join the Wundrous Society, though, Morrigan needs a knack—and she doesn’t have one.
In Nevermoor, Morrigan makes friends for the very first time and meets people who don’t immediately act like she’s walking bad luck. There’s her patron, Jupiter, who takes Morrigan to live in the magical hotel he runs with rooms that change the more they get to know their occupants; Fen the Magnificat; Frank the vampire dwarf; and so many other characters, both good and bad, who bring Nevermoor to life in such a way that I’m waiting for my invite to Jupiter’s next party.
Yet for all its whimsy, Nevermoor isn’t afraid to be dark and it doesn’t talk down to its intended audience. Morrigan has a brilliant, rather dry sense of humour and she’s been insulted in so many different ways that, for the most part, cruelty is something that glides off her like rain off a wing. This isn’t the kind of thick skin that anyone should have had to develop before they turn eleven, though, and it’s what makes Nevermoor such a brilliant read for all ages. We can all be swept away on an adventure, but the older a reader is the more emotional nuances they can pick up on, which means this book is going to be a wonderful book for children who love it to keep re-reading as they grow.
I also love the way it plays around with the chosen one trope. I wouldn’t actually call Nevermoor a chosen one story – in fact Townsend does a brilliant job at highlighting how all of the children in Nevermoor, including the ones who don’t make it into the Wundrous Society, are still brilliant and worthy – but Morrigan is perhaps the villain’s chosen one, and I love tales that show how characters walk a very thin line between being the protagonist or the antagonist of their own story.
What can I say? The writing is brilliant, the world is enchanting, and the characters are so welcoming you could warm your hands on them. Bring on Wundersmith!