Nevermoor: The Trials of Morrigan Crow – Jessica Townsend – Nevermoor #1 – Hachette – Published 31 October 2017
The book tells the story of Morrigan Crow, a girl born on Eventide, who’s fated to die at midnight on her ninth birthday. She is spared when rescued by a mysterious stranger ,and after they are chased by black-smoke hounds and shadowy hunters on horseback, they escape to a secret city called Nevermoor. Morrigan’s rescuer, Jupiter, owns the eccentric Hotel Deucalion and has chosen Morrigan to contend for a place in the city’s most prestigious society. The young girl must compete in four difficult and dangerous trials against hundreds of other children, each boasting an extraordinary talent.
A delightful, whimsical and purely imaginative fantasy, Nevermore is sure to capture the attention of readers of all ages. Nevermoor is reminiscent of Harry Potter, The Chronicles of Narnia and The Unwanteds, and yet has a quality that is unique to this charming story. I was captured by the very first chapter, enchanted by the mysterious and colourful Jupiter North, and intrigued by the magic of Nevermoor, but it was the brave heroine of this story, Morrigan Crow, who truly won my heart.
Morrigan Crow is a cursed child, doomed to die on the last night of the age, Eventide. But before she can meet her untimely end, she is whisked away by the strange and colourful Jupiter North, who takes her to a magical, secret city called Nevermoor. Here she discovers that Jupiter has put forward her name as a candidate for the illustrious Wundrous Society – but to gain entry she must first pass four trials. However, Morrigan soon realises that while the other competitors each have a special talent (from dragon riding to magical singing), she herself does not (being cursed doesn’t count). Morrigan must discover her talent and pass each trial if she is to stay in Nevermoor.
Nevermoor is so well written. It was a delight to read and fun to read aloud (I read the first few chapters to my middle-grade book club and they loved it. They are also slightly mad at me because now they have to wait ages until they can read the entire book for themselves.) Nevermoor also has superb world building. It is the kind of magical and quirky place where umbrellas assist in transport, vampire dwarfs sulk in smoking rooms (never used for actual smoking, of course), and children compete in dangerous trials to gain entrance into the Wundrous Society. There are magical creatures, some familiar like unicorns, vampires, and dragons, and some quite new, like the Magnificat (a giant, talking cat) named Fenestra. Wunder is the magic that powers both Nevermoor and the world from which Morrigan first came, and there is so much more to learn about Wunder and what it can do.
The characters in Nevermoor are just as bright and detailed as the magical setting. Firstly, Morrigan, with her strange black eyes and propensity for wearing black. She has been raised knowing she is cursed, that she must die on her ninth birthday and that her curse impacts all those around her. For these reasons she has never known love from her family or friendship. Being rescued by Jupiter and starting a new life in his magnificent hotel, The Deucalion, gives Morrigan her first chance to make friends. Morrigan is brave despite her fears, kind despite the treatment she has received all her life, and has a wonderful sense of both imagination and humour, making her an immediately likeable character. I believe both boys and girls will connect and empathise with Morrigan. Jupiter North is an amazing character. With his bright red hair and beard and colourful choice in clothing he pops right out of the pages. He is an explorer, member of the Wundrous Society, magnificent hotelier, and a bit of a trouble maker. He too is exceedingly kind and makes a fantastic mentor for Morrigan (even if he is a bit vague sometimes). There is a also whole host of fantastic characters in Nevermoor, from Morrigan’s new friend Hawthorn the dragon rider, to the gleefully evil singing Noelle, not to mention the Wundersmith.
I know readers will love and delight in this magical story – I certainly did. I predict great things for its future (it will make the most amazing inspiration for Book Week costumes), and I can’t wait to read the next book in this series.
The publishers provided an advanced readers copy of this book for reviewing purposes. All opinions are my own.
Category: Children’s fiction – middle-grade fiction.
Themes: Magic, curses, children, belonging, hotels, gifts and talents.
Reading age guide: Ages 8-12.
Published: 31 October 2017 by Hachette.
Format: Hardcover, paperback, ebook, audiobook. 480 pages.
ISBN: 9780316508889, 0316508888, 9780734418074