“Morrigan let Jupiter’s overcoat fall in a pile at her feet. Climbing onto the balustrade, she opened her new oilskin umbrella with shaking hands.
Don’t look down don’t look down don’t look down.
The air felt thin. ‘Step boldly,’ Morrigan whispered.
Then she closed her eyes.
– Nevermoor The Trials of Morrigan Crow
November was a tough month with a very sad loss for our family. So I spent some time away from the blog and work to be with family. Even though I only reviewed three books in November, I am pleased to report that they were all books I enjoyed. For now, I’d like to talk about a new release that I’ve been waiting to read since early fall – Nevermoor: The Trials of Morrigan Crow.
Trying to decide where to start when talking about Nevermoor is difficult. First of all, look at that cover! It screams magic with the blue/white sparkles, the colorful umbrellas, and what appear to be flying children. The whole flying with umbrellas thing is reminiscent of Mary Poppins and I imagine evokes feelings of nostalgia for many readers. It certainly did for me. I also love the look on Morrigan’s face as she watches the others fly away with their umbrellas. She has a look of complete shock, which tells me that Nevermoor must be a place of magic and surprise. Upon reading the book, I was pleased to find that the chapter illustrations were equally gorgeous. They were clear and detailed and looked just as I had pictured each particular object or scene. I truly hope that Jim Madsen, the illustrator, gets the recognition he deserves for this project as well as Little Brown’s art department. They all knocked it out of the park with this one!
Now to the story. In Nevermoor, we meet Morrigan Crow, who is cursed. She gets blamed for everything that ever goes wrong, and her family isn’t thrilled to be related to her. Her father is a politician and has a certain image to uphold. Her stepmother isn’t shy about measuring Morrigan for her coffin and making the arrangements for her funeral – not that she’s looking forward to it or anything. Morrigan has little to do but wait for midnight on her eleventh birthday, when she is doomed to die. Except, instead of death coming to take her away, a strange red-haired man by the name of Jupiter North appears and takes her away to Nevermoor, a magical land where Morrigan is able to stay alive.
While taking up residence in the Deucalion Hotel with several interesting characters, including a giant cat (a Magnificat) and Frank (a vampire dwarf), Morrigan finds herself settling into Nevermoor and even makes an enemy as well as her first real friend there. What Morrigan learns is that in order to stay in Nevermoor (and alive!) she must compete in four trials against hundreds of other children for a chance to join the Wundrous Society. Membership in the Wundrous Society means Morrigan can stay in Nevermoor forever. But if she fails the trials, she’ll have to return home, where death is waiting for her.
I breezed right through this book, which is saying something as it is long for the middle grade genre (approx. 450 pages). But the action kept me turning the pages as well as the mysterious goings on in Nevermoor. There is a lot in this book that is left unexplained until the very end and even then we still don’t know what’s to come. But that’s what sequels are for, right? (fingers crossed!)
I wish I could visit the Hotel Deucalion and witness the rooms that change throughout the day, adjusting to different moods and seasons and holidays. I wish I could observe all of the interesting characters coming and going, especially Jupiter North. As frustrating as his character is at times (he disappears a lot with no explanation – til later in the book that is), I have a soft spot for him. What an odd, yet lovable, fellow. He is the first and only person to truly care about Morrigan and her welfare. He takes on a very big brother/ fatherly role, guiding her through the trials and trying to convince her that she is not, in fact, cursed.
There were some good lessons for middle graders in this book, including lessons about bullying, having differences, and judging books by their covers, so to speak. I think kids would relate to Morrigan Crow and her friend, Hawthorne. I think they would also enjoy the idea of escaping to somewhere magical and learning that there is something special about them. I wouldn’t be surprised if this new world Jessica Townsend has created becomes the next craze in middle grade fantasy fiction. Have we finally found the next Harry Potter? Only time will tell…but I’m anxious for Morrigan’s next adventure. Until then, step boldly!