One average day at work there appeared a box on the staff room table. And in that box was bounty of proof copies of new children’s books. And among that plethora was a midnight blue book with golden foil stars. And I thought ‘ooh pretty’ as I hissed like a cat at all the other clamouring booksellers and claimed it as my own. The book I had picked up was Jessica Townsend’s debut novel NEVERMOOR: The trials of Morrigan Crow. I judged a book by its cover and boy did it pay off.
Morrigan Crow is a cursed child, destined to die on the eve of her eleventh birthday. But her passing will not be mourned, as her curse has brought misfortune and calamity upon her family and to the general public of Jackalfax. However, just as the hunt of smoke and shadow arrives to claim Morrigan into their slobbering jaws, she is whisked away by an eccentric stranger who calls himself ‘Jupiter North’, to the fantastical land of Nevermoor. Here she is to be his protégée in competing to become a member of the illustrious ‘Wunderous Society’. But here’s the catch, if she does not win one of the nine available slots against five-hundred other talented children, she will be kicked out of Nevermoor and left to her fate at the claws of the Hunt of Smoke and Shadow. High stakes am-I-right?
I loved this book. I had a jolly old time reading this fantastic romp of an adventure. So much so, that whenever I recall my personal reading experience when recommending it to other people I can’t help but smile. This is a big deal. It takes something special to warm my icy cynical heart and something even more special to make me (accidentally) express it on my face.
I will admit – this book shares some similarities with other successful children’s classics. It has the hidden ‘What? Oh? Magic exists? Oh golly!’ of Harry Potter. The nonsensical wonder of Alice in Wonderland. The high stakes trial element of Hunger Games. And our whacky mentor reminds me more than a little of my favourite skeleton detective: Skulduggery Pleasant. But I say stink away sister, because there is a reason that these elements work so well and are cherished. In my (humble) opinion, it takes a fantastic writer to use those well beloved components to create something that is still wholly original and unique, which stands strongly with other established and popular works.
When it comes to Townsend’s writing style I don’t have any complaints. One of my huge bugbears when it comes to children’s writing is when it is dumbed down and patronising. All you need to do is look at His Dark Materials or Redwall to see that just because a book is written for children to read, doesn’t mean it needs to be simplified beyond measure. They’re children. Not monkeys. Which is why these series are hugely successful and enjoyed by people in all walks of life. Anyway, my point is, that this is not the case with Nevermoor. *phew*. The story is told in a straightforward way, that allows the reader to clearly picture what is happening. Extremely important, when you are dealing with a brand new universe and really rather eccentric characters….which brings me onto…
*announcement trumpet* CHARACTERS. As I mentioned before, Morrigan’s sponsor Jupiter reminds me of my beloved Skulduggery Pleasant from Derek Landy’s Skulduggery Pleasant series. I have no problems with this. None. He simply REMINDS me of him. Now if he were a rip-off then I would feel justified in raising my pitchfork and seeking plagiariser blood. But as it stands, it just means that I have another dry-witted and cheerfully sardonic rogue to love. In fact this is a book that has a whole cast of kooky and loveable characters. One of them is a giant talking cat. Thumbs up from me. And of course our leading lady, Miss Morrigan Crow. Unfortunately I’ve encountered a few people recently who will not buy books with female protagonists for themselves or their sons on fear of the books being ‘girly’. This is frustrating and quite simply offensive. Morrigan is a fantastic young protagonist for ANY young reader of ANY gender.
Morrigan Crow teaches us that sometimes stepping boldly can lead to wondrous (or ‘wunderous’) things. That putting your trust in another person can be difficult, but can sometimes reward you with unbreakable friendships. That being truthful and open about your fears is sometimes the only way to face them and that it is okay to be afraid. Morrigan shows that once you have found the place where you belong and people that make it feel like home; there is nothing more important than to fight for them.
Now if you don’t think those are important lessons that any young person should learn…then fight me, bitch.
There are witches and dragons. There are characters who are not as they seem. There is humour and whimsy. There is jelly (albeit a minor part of the book concerns jelly but jelly is always worth a mention). There are out-of-this-world contraptions. There is a magical hotel that bends itself to the guests’ personal preferences. There are umbrellas, challenges, friendships and foes…and I cannot wait until book two comes out October 2018.
If waiting for my Hogwarts letter wasn’t bad enough, I am now also waiting for my invitation to join the Wunderous Society. Gods damn it.
I rate Nevermoor: The Trials of Morrigan Crow a ‘wunderous’…
Step boldly my friends – and read this book.
BONUS TIP if you are picking up a copy of the Hardback edition; slip off the dust cover for a truly stunning piece of illustrative art.
P.S I loved this book so much that I dressed up as Morrigan Crow for World Book Day 2018 – Check it.
(Originally posted 2nd March 2018 on former blog)
Quote © Jessica Townsend 2017