Saturday 4 May 2019


Oh, isn't it just so great when a really hyped book lives up to that hype? And Nevermoor certainly does. Nevermoor made a huge splash when it was released in late 2017. I was a bit interested at the time. I liked the cover initially, but shrank away a bit from the Harry Potter-esque buzz. I've only ever read the first Harry Potter, way back when- gasp! about 20 years ago I guess, but never continued on with the series (and I'm a really, really bad series reader). But then recently I came across the audiobook of Nevermoor narrated beautifully by Gemma Whelan, and on a bit of a whim I picked it up for #MiddleGradeMarch. I didn't finish in March, but I did manage to finish it in April, and so can call it an #AussieApril read. Although now of course I'm blogging about it in May....

Nevermoor is the story of Morrigan Crow. Morrigan is a cursed child, born on Eventide, and due to die on her 11th birthday. I was in from the very first words of the prologue. 

The journalists arrived before the coffin did. They gathered at the gate overnight and by dawn they were a crowd. By nine o'clock they were a swarm.
Morrigan's father Corvus Crow is the Chancellor of Great Wolfacre, and as such her death is big news. The main story then starts three days earlier in the final days of Morrigan's doomed life. As a cursed child Morrigan has been blamed for every unfortunate incident, near and far, over her lifetime. 
Morrigan hurried into the house, hovering for a moment near the door from the kitchen to the hallway. She watched Cook take a piece of chalk and write KICHIN CAT - DEAD on the blackboard, at the end of a long list that most recently included SPOYLED FISH, OLD TOM'S HEART ATTACK, FLOODS IN NORTH PROSPER and GRAVY STAYNES ON BEST TABLECLOTH. 
Morrigan has been seen as a burden by her family, brought out for photo opportunities to aid her father's career, an only child unloved within her own family. The cursed child is not quite the classic orphan of children's literature but Morrigan feels alone, and her fate is sealed. Her mother is dead, and her pregnant stepmother Ivy is already growing her replacement sibling.
Morrigan sat up straight. This should be good. Maybe Ivy was going to apologise for making her wear that frilly, itchy chiffon dress to the wedding. Or maybe she was going to confess that although she'd scarcely spoken a dozen words to Morrigan since moving in, truly she loved her like a daughter, and she only wished they could have more time together, and she would miss Morrigan terribly and would probably cry buckets at the funeral and ruin her makeup, which would streak ugly black rivers all down her pretty face - but she wouldn't even care how ugly she looked because she would just be thinking about lovely, lovely Morrigan. 
Morrigan manages to cheat The Hunt of Smoke and Shadow on the date of her scheduled death (this bit is actually quite scary!) and escapes from Jackalfax to Nevermoor, the city. Nevermoor is somewhat based on London, as Jessica Townsend was living in London when she wrote a lot of this story in her early 20s. Morrigan makes a new home at the Hotel Deucalion, a fantastical residence complete with a talking cat who just happens to be the Housekeeper, and a Smoking Parlour- not a Victorian style saloon with old men smoking on overstuffed lounges, but a room that generates different coloured, scented smokes to evoke different moods and atmospheres. 

While Nevermoor is aimed at middle grade readers there is much here for adult and teenage readers. Nevermoor is such a generous, warm and beautiful story, told with delightful humour. You have to love an author who describes Santa as "a morbidly obese home invader and enslaver of elves"! As an adult reader you can see Jessica Townsend taking shots at the world of politics and commerce. There are some great Mean Girls vibes but also obvious references to more serious current world problems. 

' ..... The Free State has strict border laws, and if you're harbouring an illegal refugee you're breaking about twenty-eight of them. You're in a lot of trouble here, sonny. Illegals are a plague, and it's my solemn duty to guard the borders of Nevermoor and protect its true citizens from Republic scum trying to weasel their way into the Free State.'
Jupiter turned serious. 'A noble and valiant cause, I'm sure,' he said quietly. 'Protecting the Free State from those most in need of its help.'
I don't like Adult Fantasy as a rule, but I'm quite content in the magical, fantastic worlds of middle grade fantasy. I'm not exactly sure why that should be, but it is. I know enough of Irish folklore to know that (the) Morrigan is a famous figure of Irish mythology. This can be no coincidence. I don't want to know more at this stage, and have resisted googling Morrigan, for fear of spoiling the story to come. Also, Corvus is the genus name for crows, ravens, rooks etc, so I'm attuned to the many references to black clothing and circling birds. 

I listened to the audiobook so masterfully narrated by Gemma Whelan, who I've never heard of before given my prodigious aversion to Game of Thrones. Gemma did such an incredible job with the voices and accents of Nevermoor that I found myself taking the dog on very long walks to keep listening to her reading. A beautiful experience. 

Nevermoor is Jessica Townsend's debut novel. The first of a series sold as a trilogy, Nevermoor had such a long incubation period that Jessica has the plot of nine Nevermoor stories up her sleeve. I'll definitely be continuing on with the audiobook series, and already have Wundersmith ready to go on my phone. Thankfully Gemma Whelan is again our narrator. I can't imagine anyone else doing it. 

Teacher's Notes


NancyElin said...

This is an absolutely wonderful review!
I've seen this book on the 'Australian Books Radar'...but never really thought I would enjoy middle-grade books.
Now, I listened to a sample of the audio book and ....I was sold!
Perfect listening for bedtime...of a bike ride!
Thanks to much for bring this book to my attention! said...

This sounds really good. I've actually just read my first Harry Potter- in Spanish no less- and enjoyed it much more than I thought I would. I wonder if this is in Spanish??!!

Sue Bursztynski said...

Sounds good! And isn’t it nice when something lives up to the hype?

ClaireLouisa said...

Great review, I loved this book too. I'll link your review in the spec fiction round-up for AWW out on Wednesday.