Nevermoor: The Trials of Morrigan Crow by Jessica Townsend review – a magical debut

This enchanting adventure of a ‘strange little girl with black eyes’ more than holds its own against a certain H Potter. Roll on the franchise

A barrage of hype accompanies this magical debut: a film deal, a storm of foreign editions and Harry Potter comparisons galore. Happily, this supremely entertaining adventure deserves the attention. Fans of the boy wizard will find much to love here, but Nevermoor has its own charm in spades.

Morrigan Crow, a “strange little girl with black eyes”, is a cursed child, blamed for her town’s every misfortune and doomed to die at midnight on her 11th birthday. Enter the enigmatic Jupiter North, a mysterious benefactor who plots her escape from the murderous Hunt of Smoke and Shadow, whisking Morrigan to the city of Nevermoor. There, Morrigan discovers that she must compete in a series of trials for a place in the prestigious Wundrous Society, pitted against hundreds of children with exceptional talents. Morrigan, however, has yet to discover her own.

Don’t be fooled by the gothic opening chapters. Once the mist rises over Nevermoor’s silver gates, a Wizard of Oz-style technicolor transformation takes place. And what a world it is: from the surreal Hotel Deucalion to giant Magnifi-cats and the Tube-inspired Wunderground transport system, Townsend’s vibrant world-building is what really sets Nevermoor apart. Spectacular set pieces like the Fright Trial and the Battle of Christmas Eve lend a deliciously cinematic feel to her writing. Add to this clever plotting, irresistibly quirky humour, a truly treacherous villain, and real heart in Morrigan’s quest for courage, hope and identity. It’s very firmly the first in a series – readers finish the book with as many questions as they started – but few will be disappointed: there’s still a whole Wundrous world to discover in future books.

Nevermoor by Jessica Townsend is published by Orion (£12.99). To order a copy for £11.04 go to guardianbookshop.com or call 0330 333 6846. Free UK p&p over £10, online orders only. Phone orders min p&p of £1.99

Contributor

Fiona Noble

The GuardianTramp

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