Nevermoor: The Trials of Morrigan Crow by Jessica Townsend, narrated by Gemma Whelan
Published by Hachette Australia on 10 October 2017
Length: 11 hours
Source: Free download via Audible
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.
I was initially really reluctant to read this – it has been getting so many comparisons to Harry Potter, and I’m always wary of books who are touted as the next Harry Potter. And this book had a fanfare surrounding its publication. There was a fight to publish this book at Frankfurt Book Fair, with eight publishers bidding on the MS. Fox had purchased the film rights before it was even published. Dare I say it? The comparisons are right. Nevermoor is really good, striking that balance of whimsy and realism found in Harry Potter.
Jessica Townsend has a gift for characterisation. I think that Morrigan Crow is going to be up there with Hermione Granger and Matilda Wormwood in beloved heroines and female (fictional) role models. She is courageous, tenacious, and kind and while she makes some questionable choices… she’s 11. I’ll be interested in seeing how she ages and grows throughout the series. She’s really a heroine you can get behind: you become excited for her when she accomplishes something, and feel for her when she’s crushed.
My personal favourite was Cadence Blackburn, who is kind of set up as an antagonist, but mostly came across as Hermione pre-troll attack in Philosopher’s Stone: desperate for a friend. My other favourite was Fen, a very sassy wildcat (yes, you read that correctly). I’m sure Jupiter North and Hawthorne will be fan favourites, they’re full of life and jump off the page.
Also the villain of the series… strap yourself in, folks. It’s going to be a doozy. I don’t want to give anything away, but he’s fantastic. Unusually for a children’s villain, he appears to have a few shades of grey (I mean, it’s upfront that he’s a murderer. His interactions with Morrigan intrigue me though).
The book is well-plotted and quite engaging, with the events centred around trials for the Wundrous Society (think the Triwizard Tournament, with 500 11-year-olds and no death). For Morrigan, the stakes are a little higher: as a child on the Cursed Register, she was supposed to die on Eventide. Her choices are to win a place in the Wundrous Society, or return to the Republic and die. The tasks were unusual, and actually revealed quite a lot about Morrigan’s character.
I listened to the audiobook and I really enjoyed it. It was quite atmospheric, and Gemma Whelan’s performance was incredible! She has a knack for accents and voices, and her performance really set the tone for the book.
If you have a child who is just getting into chapter books, this will be perfect for them. However, it’s a book that has appeal for adults and children alike, and will remind older audiences of what it’s like to be captivated by a book for the first time. It is the first in a nine-book series, and I cannot wait to see where Townsend goes with this story.
Recommended for: fans of Roald Dahl