Move over, lame Harry Potter play, I’ve found a much better cursed child!
In Jessica Townsend’s book Nevermoor: The Trials of Morrigan Crow, we follow the titular Morrigan. She was born on Eventide, the unluckiest day, and is therefore considered cursed and is blamed for all misfortune in her community. She is also fated to die soon, and she thinks nothing can be done to prevent that. But on Bid Day, an occasion for wealthy patrons to sponsor the education of promising children, a mysterious man called Jupiter North bids on Morrigan. He then sweeps her away to a place called Nevermoor, and if she completes the trials to join the Wundrous Society, she will not have to die.
It’s strange to read a book you’ve never read before, and yet experience nostalgia. But that’s what happened when I read this. Nevermoor feels like reading Harry Potter or The Mysterious Benedict Society or A Series of Unfortunate Events, while being original and so much fun! There’s magic and whimsy and adventure, not to mention great characters and an engaging plot! This is easily one of the best middle grade books, and also one of the best debut novels, that I’ve read in a long time!
Morrigan as a protagonist and narrator is excellent. She’s sweet and witty, and you root for her easily. I also love Jupiter and Hawthorne, but the side characters are wonderful as well.
The world-building and setting are both strong; places like Crow Manor and the Hotel Deucalion are vividly drawn and tangible. Nevermoor overall feels fully realized and full of slightly spooky charm. I loved discovering this world along with Morrigan.
The plot was intriguing from the first scene, and navigates through mystery and adventure, humor and danger, with skill. There are a couple twists, only one of which I saw coming. And no matter what, I was having fun the entire time!
I only have a minor criticism, which is that I wish the minor characters could have been developed more. However, since this is the first book in a series, there is plenty of time to learn more about them. And what we do learn is interesting and allows each character to have a distinct personality and voice. So clearly, this is not a major problem I had.
In the end, Nevermoor is a fantastic story. As a debut, as a series opener, as a middle grade fantasy, it succeeds. I’m so impressed, and invested, and I’ve already started the second book. This is a story that will appeal to not only kids, but to adults too (present company, obviously, included), and I highly recommend this!
Overall rating: 9/10