‘Nevermoor: The Trials of
Morrigan Crow’ by Jessica Townsend
is the first in the Nevermoor series of YA/children’s author, Australian
Jessica Townsend. It has won many awards and commendations, including: Winner,
Dymocks Book of the Year 2018, QBD Children’s Book of the Year 2018, Book of
the Year for Younger Children, ABIA 2018, Indie Books Awards 2018, Aurealis
Awards 2017, Waterstones Children’s Book Prize (UK) 2018, a CBCA Notable Book.
I don’t read a lot in the fantasy
genre nowadays, but this book was recommended to me by a friend. It is a
rollicking tale of magic, centred around the adventures of young Morrigan Crow,
who lives an unloved life in a drab and predictable town. Marked at birth as a ‘cursed
child’ along with others born on Eventide,
held to be an unlucky day, Morrigan is blamed for all the misfortunes of
others, and doomed to die on Eventide when she turns eleven.
Enter Jupiter North, her
mysterious rescuer, who whisks Morrigan away from the threat of the Hunt of
Smoke and Shadow and brings her to the magical city of Nevermoor. Here Morrigan
is ensconced in the Hotel Deucalion, which magically changes the shapes of its
rooms and fittings, and she learns that she must pass a series of trials if she
is to be allowed to remain…
I liked several things about this
book. One is the humour that imbues every chapter. Despite some scenes that are
a bit scary, even younger readers will appreciate the insouciance of Jupiter,
the mild cynicism of his nephew Jack, the daredevil nature of Morrigan’s new
friend Hawthorn, and especially, the sarcasm and bossiness of Fenestra, the
giant Magnificat in charge of hotel housekeeping.
Another is of course, the magic. Occasionally
reminiscent of the brilliant world building to be found in the Harry Potter novels by JK Rowling, Nevermoor’s
magic is nonetheless unique, surprising and sometimes laugh-out-loud funny.
Morrigan is an endearing
protagonist. Smart and brave but full of self- doubt and uncertainty, she
yearns for friendship and belonging, both of which she finds in Nevermoor.
There are plenty of heart-warming moments, along with the magic and quirky humour.
And speaking of heart, a real
theme of the novel is exactly that. There is a strong element of exploration of
what it means to belong. Because Morrigan has not yet successfully completed
the trials which will allow her to remain in Nevermoor, she is dogged by the
City’s police force for being a ‘filthy illegal’. Inspector Flintlock berates
Jupiter North for not handing Morrigan over for immediate deportation: reminders
of the decidedly unmagical and unsympathetic scenes being played out in real
life, all over our globe. So, while Nevermoor
is a fantasy novel, it manages to hold within it messages to us all about
caring, humanity and belonging.