A marvellous and magical story that’s reminiscent of the Harry Potter series. I’d highly recommend that you step boldly into the world of Nevermoor.
Morrigan Crow is a cursed child. Everyone in Jackalfax where she lives believes she is responsible for all the things that go wrong in their life. And, if that’s not bad enough, the curse means she will die on her eleventh birthday. Morrigan believes there is no escape from her fate until a mysterious man appears and offers her a new life in the secret city of Nevermoor. There is only one problem – to stay in Nevermoor she needs to gain a coveted place in the Wunderous Society by competing against hundreds of other hopefuls to pass four seemingly impossible trials.
This is a book that grips you from the first line of the prologue: The journalists arrived before the coffin did. The idea of a cursed child who is held responsible for everything that goes wrong in the town around her is positively inspired and we immediately sympathise with Morrigan, especially when we read the apology letters that she is forced to write. It’s, therefore, not surprising that we are on the edge of our seats and cheering her on when her new patron – Jupiter North – appears to help her escape.
The structure of the story is reminiscent in many respects of the Harry Potter series – a child (approaching their eleventh birthday) has lived a miserable existence and is offered a chance to escape to an unusual and magical world: for Harry this is Hogwarts while for Morrigan this is Nevermoor and the Hotel Deucalion. Both Harry and Morrigan have to cope with taunts and competition from the other children they meet but both form staunch friendships for the first time in their life. Both must also use their intelligence, integrity and bravery to succeed and ultimately to face the new world’s most feared man (Voldemort in Harry’s case and the Wundersmith in Morrigan’s). There are other similarities but to say more would risk spoiling your enjoyment of this book.
Despite – or perhaps because of – the similarities, this is a thoroughly enjoyable read. The characters are on the whole well-rounded (my personal favourites are the cat Fenestra and Morrgian’s wayward friend Hawthorne) and the plot gripping. It is, however, the setting and world-building that makes this story so special. Debut author, Jessica Townsend, skilfully introduces us to each new aspect of life in Nevermoor in a way that has the reader both enthralled and ready to accept even the most bizarre of concepts. Not once to do we question whether it’s realistic to be able to scale a building in an arachnipod, jump from a thirteen story building supported only by an umbrella, or separate your consciousness from your body to travel through Gossamer. Instead, we simply sit back and enjoy the ride.
This is, to use the quote on the front cover, a marvellous and magical read. I can’t, however, finish without adding a final note on the production of this book. If you’ve read some of my other reviews, you may already know that I usually have a real issue with paper dust jackets on children’s books. This is largely because they inevitably become tatty in young hands, too frequently leaving the reader with a plain (often black) book. For this first UK edition of Nevermoor, I was, however, thrilled to find the truly most beautiful and glittering design of the city of Nevermoor hidden beneath the equally attractive dust cover. Instead of feeling short-changed, I felt like I’d been given a special secret present.
If you enjoyed this, you would also enjoy the Harry Potter series – start with Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. Or, if you’ve already read those, I’d recommend you try Beetle Boy by M G Leonard.
Publication date: October 2017
Publisher: Orion Children’s Books
Review first published on The Bookbag