Book Review | Hollowpox

So I guess this is the part where I declare my eternal, platonic love for Captain Jupiter North. I’ve managed to hold off for two books, but I give up. I just adore him.

(I’ll be avoiding spoilers for Hollowpox as best I can, but as this is the third book in the series, there will be some spoilers for the first two books.)

Hollowpox: The Hunt for Morrigan Crow is the third book in Jessica Townsend’s Nevermoor series, and finds Morrigan starting to learn a bit more about her abilities and the history of the other Wundersmiths. But there is something else happening in Nevermoor—a strange change is coming over the Wunimals, making them more feral and dangerous than talking animals with the intelligence of any other person should be. This change starts to sweep over the population like an illness, and soon conflicts arise surrounding how to deal with it. Morrigan starts to suspect this “illness” is related to magic somehow, and if she can do anything to stop it.

Morrigan continues to be a strong protagonist. She’s sweet and smart, but also tends to be a little impulsive, a little naive about the world at times. I really wanted her to succeed in everything she did, and, like Jupiter, I want to protect this kid.

Speaking of Jupiter, have I mentioned I love him? He’s so flamboyant and fun, but also caring, protective, intelligent, and a little mysterious. He’s also the best mentor/guardian/father figure character I can think of in middle grade, and that’s largely due to his ability to actually communicate with Morrigan. When he has to keep things from her, he always explains why, apologizes, and does his best to keep her in the loop of things that affect her. He never manipulates her, but instead sees that she is a child and therefore should not have the responsibility to save the world. (Dumbledore would scoff at this, but Jupiter is better than Dumbledore. I said it. I’m not taking it back. Don’t fight me on this; you’ll lose.)

Anyway, the other characters like the rest of Unit 919 are still awesome and fun. I loved seeing a bit more of Miss Cheery, too. And the new characters like Sofia, Roshni, and President Wintersea added layers to this cast, as well as allowing for new plot points. The cast is pretty diverse, too, which I love.

As usual, Townsend creates a fantastically entertaining story with whimsy, magic, and excellent characters. The events of the previous two books are built on here, and this time we get a deeper look at the magical creatures of this world, the Wunimals. I hadn’t given them much thought before, but they are center stage now with the introduction of characters like Sofia and De Flimsé.

Also, Morrigan’s powers continue to develop as her education progresses, allowing us to dive deeper into the many facets of Wunder. The magic system is really cool, and I enjoyed seeing some of the lore behind it, especially Inferno. And the scenes in which magic is done—the Christmas showdown, shadow hours, and of course the climactic scene—are vivid and exciting.

Sometimes, this story struck me a little like Zootopia meets Wicked, with a bit of good ol’ 2020 pandemic fear thrown in. The latter made it a little too real, but there’s enough difference between the Hollowpox and real life that I didn’t feel too upset. And the tension that Townsend developed between the human and Wunimal populations perfectly echoed the recent events in America. I half expected to see the phrase “Wunimal lives matter” in this book, but that might have been made the real issue seem parodied. In fact, Townsend presents racial issues, particularly the problems that arise when racism is so systemic in a society, in a truly engaging way that is easy for middle grade kids to understand, and opens the door for them to have further discussions about it.

In the end, Hollowpox is a fantastic installment in the Nevermoor series, with great characters, a gripping plot, and important and timely themes. A lot more reality crept into this one for me, and some of the themes I’ve seen dealt with in similar ways before, but I still enjoyed this story, and I’m intrigued to see what comes next for Morrigan. The ending left me ravenous for more, and I’m sad I’ll have to wait for the next book!

Overall rating: 8.8/10

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