Nevermoor: The Trials of Morrigan Crow by Jessica Townsend

‘The journalists arrived before the coffin did.’

Clad in black, Chancellor Corvus Crow reads a statement to the journalists. He advises that his daughter Morrigan is dead and now there is ‘nothing to fear’. Poor Morrigan: one of the cursed children, born on Eventide, doomed to die at midnight on her eleventh birthday. That’s when all the cursed children die.

And, having remarked Morrigan’s death, the story opens three days earlier:

‘The kitchen cat was dead, and Morrigan was to blame.’

Morrigan is blamed for all local misfortunes: it’s the fate of the cursed children. But worse than that, at least from Morrigan’s perspective, is the knowledge that she will die on her eleventh birthday, just three days away.

Just before midnight on her eleventh birthday, as Morrigan awaits her fate, the enigmatic Jupiter North appears. Jupiter, with his fiery red hair and clad in a brightly coloured suit, has come to take Morrigan to safety. Jupiter is hotly pursued by black-smoke hounds and hunters on horseback, but manages to transport Morrigan to the secret, magical city of Nevermoor. Her family believe that she is dead.

Morrigan discovers that she can only stay in Nevermoor if she wins a place in the Wundrous Society. Five hundred children are competing for the nine places available, and the competition will involve four difficult trials. Morrigan is the first child Jupiter North has ever sponsored in these trials, and everyone is interested in why. Morrigan is sure that she doesn’t have the extraordinary talent required, but if she can’t stay in Nevermoor then she will be sent home where she will die.

I loved this novel. I’m recommending it to all of my friends and family members with children, or with an inner child who’d enjoy Morrigan’s journey. Morrigan is a special hero: a cursed and unwanted child, facing both a dangerous competition and at least one secret enemy. But she finds friends as well, in the Hotel Deucalion, so brilliantly managed by Fenestra the Magnificat. Meet Frank the dwarf vampire (the only one in Nevermoor) as well as some of the other children (both nice and awful) with whom Morrigan is competing. There’s so much to like about this novel: the world is nicely imagined – ‘Step Boldly!’ indeed. I’m looking forward to reading the second instalment later this year.

Jennifer Cameron-Smith