Jessica Townsend – Wundersmith

I discovered the Nevermoor books through Booktube and I am so grateful that I have this fun, quirky Middle Grade series in my life. While I don’t think comparisons to that most famous of teen wizards are quite fitting, these are books that you can just fall into. They are feelgood books that I highly recommend, especially for people who aren’t as lucky during these trying times as I am and need something to lift their spirits. Warning: Big SPOILER for the first book below!

Wundersmith: The Calling of Morrigan Crow Nevermoor, Band 2: Amazon.de: Townsend, Jessica: Fremdsprachige BücherWUNDERSMITH: THE CALLING OF MORRIGAN CROW
by Jessica Townsend

Published: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 2018
eBook: 545 pages
Series: Nevermoor #2
My rating: 7/10

Opening line: Morrigan Crow leapt from the Brolly Rail, teeth chattering, hands frozen around the end of her oilskin umbrella.

Wunder is gathering in Nevermoor …
Morrigan Crow may have defeated her deadly curse, passed the dangerous trials and joined the mystical Wundrous Society, but her journey into Nevermoor and all its secrets has only just begun. And she is fast learning that not all magic is used for good.
Morrigan Crow has been invited to join the prestigious Wundrous Society, a place that promised her friendship, protection and belonging for life. She’s hoping for an education full of wunder, imagination and discovery – but all the Society want to teach her is how evil Wundersmiths are. And someone is blackmailing Morrigan’s unit, turning her last few loyal friends against her. Has Morrigan escaped from being the cursed child of Wintersea only to become the most hated figure in Nevermoor?
Worst of all, people have started to go missing. The fantastical city of Nevermoor, once a place of magic and safety, is now riddled with fear and suspicion…

Morrigan Crow is back and this time, we get to follow her to magic school! It’s a trope many readers love, me among them, so I was looking forward to this book a lot. Turns out, things don’t go exactly according to Morrigan’s (or my) plans but that just makes the story more exciting.

Morrigan is now a member of the Wundrous Society and, together with the rest of her unit, she will learn to use her Knack for the benefit of Nevermoor. Or so she hopes. Things start going downhill when her Knack is revealed to her unit and their mentors – people who have sworn an oath to each other, to keep each other safe, to be a found family, to always look out for each other. But Morrigan being a Wundersmith complicates matters and makes her very much an outsider in the group that was supposed to be her home.
Add to that the fact that, unlike the others in her unit, she only gets to go to one class, dealing with the history of Wundersmiths. While her best friend Hawthorne gets to ride dragons, learn their language, and acquire all sorts of useful skills, Morrigan reads endless passages about the terrible deeds of all the Wundersmiths that came before her. Oh yes, and lets not forget that people are mysteriously disappearing all over Nevermoor and nobody seems to have any idea what’s happening…

The magic school trope usually works really well for me and Jessica Townsend did not disappoint when it comes to originality. All the little rules and quirks of Morrigan’s new life made me smile and appreciate this magical world all the more.  Whether it’s the small W appearing on Morrigan’s index finger, the door that leads to her unit’s very own Wunderground station, or the school Mistresses, there is something fun and quirky to discover on every page.
But at the heart of this story is Morrigan’s relationship to the people around her. Jupiter is super busy and rarely has time for her, Hawthorne sticks to her no matter what, but the rest of the unit are not big Morrigan fans. When a blackmail letter arrives at their station, forcing one of Morrigan’s friends to do something terrible in order to keep her secret (about being a Wundersmith), this doesn’t exactly help her grow closer with her unit.

Nevermoor series author Jessica Townsend on crafting diverse characters, comparisons to JK Rowling - Living News , Firstpost

In this second instalment, you’ll meet all your favorite (and not so favorite) characters from the first book as well as some new ones. Morrigan’s classmates may not like her very much, but I liked them a lot as a reader. There are also tons of new things about the city of Nevermoor that were so much fun to read. Tricksy Lanes were probably my favorites, but Morrigan’s Knack slowly coming to life also kept things interesting. And learning about old Wundersmiths – while super boring for Morrigan – helped flesh out the world building and give us more background on why Wundersmiths are so feared. Not to forget the subplot about people going missing. That was my least favorite aspect of this book and although things come together at the end, I didn’t feel like this thread was needed for the larger story. Then again, I have no idea what Jessica Townsend plans for the next book so I might be completely wrong here.

Morrigan spirals lower and lower during this book and ends up feeling almost as lonely as she did before she ever came to Nevermoor. But this being a Middle Grade novel, albeit a darker one than the first volumen, you can rest assured that things will turn out mostly alright by the end. You can also expect some twists and turns along the way, as well as the trademark heartwarming love between Morrigan and Jupiter (and all her friends). I loved this book. It’s a fun adventure story but it has so much heart that it makes you all warm and fuzzy inside. The third – and final, at least for now – book will come out later this year and I’ll be very surprised if I don’t pounce on it the moment it is out.

MY RATING: 7/10 – Very good

What adorable fun: Jessica Townsend – The Trials of Morrigan Crow

This book and its sequel appear to be all the rage among the BookTube community, which is how I found it. After many, many recommendations, I finally caved and got myself a copy, only to devour it within a matter of days. I get it now, guys. While I think the comparisons to a certain boy wizard aren’t appropriate, Morrigan Crow and the world of Nevermoore certainly have enough charm of their own. I will gladly continue reading this series and hope we’ll get many more adventures in this irrisistible world.

THE TRIALS OF MORRIGAN CROW
by Jessica Townsend

Published: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 2017
Ebook: 513 pages
Series: Nevermoor #1
My rating: 8/10

Opening line: The journalists arrived before the coffin did.

A cursed girl escapes death and finds herself in a magical world – but is then tested beyond her wildest imagination
Morrigan Crow is cursed. Having been born on Eventide, the unluckiest day for any child to be born, she’s blamed for all local misfortunes, from hailstorms to heart attacks–and, worst of all, the curse means that Morrigan is doomed to die at midnight on her eleventh birthday.
But as Morrigan awaits her fate, a strange and remarkable man named Jupiter North appears. Chased by black-smoke hounds and shadowy hunters on horseback, he whisks her away into the safety of a secret, magical city called Nevermoor.
It’s then that Morrigan discovers Jupiter has chosen her to contend for a place in the city’s most prestigious organization: the Wundrous Society. In order to join, she must compete in four difficult and dangerous trials against hundreds of other children, each boasting an extraordinary talent that sets them apart – an extraordinary talent that Morrigan insists she does not have. To stay in the safety of Nevermoor for good, Morrigan will need to find a way to pass the tests – or she’ll have to leave the city to confront her deadly fate.

I don’t read a lot of middle grade books because I’m just not deep enough into books for that age group to know what would be for me and what wouldn’t. But reading The Trials of Morrigan Crow reminded me why I absolutely love middle grade and why I should read way more of it. I believe the best kids’ books are those that offer you so much to discover, while following a maybe simple plot line on the surface. All the best stories hide depth under what first meets the eye and I cannot wait to see where Morrigan’s story goes next. But let’s start at the beginning.

Morrigan Crow is a Cursed Child. That means she will die on her eleventh birthday but before that horrible fate arrives, everything that goes wrong in her home state is her fault. Or so people say at least. Being cursed, she is considered bad luck. If there’s a car accident, it’s because Morrigan looked at the driver funny. If an elderly lady breaks her hip ice skating, it’s becaues Morrigan said the weather is nice… To sum it up: It’s no fun being Morrigan Crow, especially since her parents are just as annoyed by her existence as everyone else. Enter Jupiter North, a character whom I immediately liked. He whisks Morrigan away just before midnight on her eleventh birthday and helps her thus escape her prophecied death.
Now Morrigan lives in his hotel in the city of Nevermoor and, for the first time, learns what it’s like to belong somewhere. Although, if she doesn’t succeed in the four trials ahead of her to become a member of the Wundrous Society, then she’ll have to go back to her old home where death still awaits…

There was so much to love in this book! Morrigan is a lovable protagonist, Jupiter North is a slightly chaotic father figure, Morrigan makes some wonderful friends and I loved all of them dearly. Of course since she’s competing against other children in the aforementioned trials, there are also some characters who aren’t so nice. But what could have been a younger version of high school drama with the Queen B as the evil antagonist actually turned into a charming adventure. I won’t tell you anything about the actual trials because you should all have the pleasure of discovering them for yourselves. Let me just say that only one of them was somewhat predictable but still so much fun to read. And the other three were all brilliant, surprising, exciting and so original.

The world building was also spot on. There are still many, many questions I have about this magical world hidden within another magical world but Jessica Townsend gave us just enough to look forward to the next book but still be satisfied with what we got in this one. You see, the world seems to run on something called Wunder – electricity is Wunder, the trains run on Wunder, you get the point. Wunder is controlled by a large company owned by a very rich man and lately, weird things have been going on with Wunder…

This book is about many things, but most of all it is about found families. While much time is spent following Morrigan on her discovery of this magical new place Nevermoor, the character developments and relationships happen almost imperceptibly. The bright, wonderful world of Nevermoor with all its new rules and traditions was fun to read, but my heart grew warmer every time Morrigan made a friend or got a nice word out of the giant talking cat (yes, this book has a giant talking cat, do you really need to know more?).

It was also beautiful that – while Morrigan fully embraces her new home where she is finally loved for who she is, curse and all – she doesn’t just forget about her old family. Having grown up the way she did left its mark and it shows in the trials, it shows in the way she behaves, and she has to start learning from scratch that she is a valuable person who deserves to be loved! I have read some critique about this book having too much. Too much information, too many ideas, but I disagree! Sure, there are a lot of small asides about all the crazy stuff that goes on in Nevermoor but the plot is pretty straight forward. The extra ideas are what make this book so much fun for adults as well as children. Just like all the best middle grade books, this one can be read simply for plot – and the plot is super exciting – or, if you’re an older reader and expect a little more from your fiction, there are all the beautiful relationships, the character growth, and the world building.

I cannot say enough how much I enjoyed this book. The pages turned themselves, I felt like a kid again, and I will probably pick up the next book very soon. The third book, Hollowpox, comes out in August 2020 and I already have it preordered. Give me all the Wunder!

MY RATING: 8/10 – Excellent!