Publisher: Little Brown Books for Young Readers
Number of Pages: 545
Published: November 13th, 2018Source: Library
Nevermoor: The Trials of Morrigan Crow is the first book in the Nevermoor series by Jessica Townsend. It won the 2018 Cybils Award for elementary/middle-grade speculative fiction. Here's a blurb from the second round judges:
"Morrigan has grown up believing she is cursed. Then, on her eleventh birthday, her luck changes when she’s whisked off to the magical city of Nevermoor, and invited to compete to be a member of the Wundrous society. Readers will assume she makes it through the trials, but Morrigan’s low self-esteem means she herself is doubtful, and so it’s not just her external triumph that makes readers cheer for her. Thought the good vs. evil plot might seem familiar, there are plenty of unique twists. The zany world of Nevermoor is wildly original, and the characters are vivid and three-dimensional. Fantasy-loving kids will be hooked by this memorable, magical story, and want the next book right away!"
Nevermoor was one of my top selections for the Cybils finalist's shortlist, so when I saw that Wundersmith (book 2 in the series) was available at the library I didn't hesitate to check it out. I do however suggest starting with Nevermoor: The Trials of Morrigan Crow first otherwise you'll miss out on too much of the plot and well book one is fantastic! So before reading any further, go back and read book one, cause SPOILERS ARE POSSIBLE IN THIS REVIEW!!
Opening Lines: "Morrigan Crow leapt from the Brolly Rail, teeth chattering, hands frozen around the end of her oilskin umbrella."
After having proved themselves in the Trials, Morrigan and her fellow competitors were inaugurated into the Wundrous Society (Wunsoc) and together became Unit 919. As the newest scholars, they recited an oath to be true and loyal to one another, to see each other as brothers and sisters or family. Morrigan was thrilled with the prospect of having a family, that is until her "knack" or powers were disclosed and a huge rift developed between the Elders and their Patrons. The Elders left the decision about continuing as a Unit up to the scholars with the warning that they must not reveal Morrigan's powers, even the Patrons and her teachers had to keep the secret. Elder Quinn basically told the patrons that their scholar was free to go but to leave their pin at the door. All nine members decided to stay, not for Morrigan, but rather because they'd worked so hard to get into Wunsoc.
The story moves to Unit 919 starting their classes at the Society, yeah magic classes, I'm so in for that. There are fun names like Opening a Dialogue with the Dead to Stealth, Evasion, and Concealment. Unfortunately, poor Morrigan gets stuck with taking only one class the History of Heinous Wundrous Acts from Professor Onstad, a half human and half tortoise. Morrigan spends most of the first part of the story left feeling like the other students don't trust her or are afraid of her and also a bit jealous of their schedules. And maybe somewhat concerned that she's still cursed. Professor Onstad's assignments make her feel like she is evil, that she's like Ezra Squall (the last living Wundersmith and villain in the first story). There was a huge part of me that kept wishing for more interactions with the other members of the unit, their abilities sound really cool. Cadence is a mesmerist, Hawthorne rides dragons, Anah is the healer, Archan's a pickpocket, Frances a gastronomist, Lambeth a short-range oracle, Mahir's a linguist and Thaddea's the fighter. Don't get me wrong, some played an integral part in the plot, while others (Archan and Frances) seemed to take the back burner. I'm hoping in the next book we'll get to see them interacting more as a team or family unit and less untrusting of each other.
I must admit I also found myself getting kinda annoyed with Morrigan's patron, Jupiter North as all the events were unfolding in her class. He can be supportive, but also tends to give Morrigan half answers or put her off and it's irritating. I know as a Witness he has access to all her thoughts, but it seemed he gave her information in piecemeal bits, between running errands and helping out the Society. I really felt bad for Morrigan, she seemed so isolated and down on herself and disliked how the class made her feel bad about herself. But Jupiter did completely redeem himself with his pinky promise to find proof for Morrigan that Wundersmith's couldn't have been all bad. And the conductor, Miss Cherry, and Jack seemed to fill in the blanks for me for Jupiter's absences during the story. Miss Cherry was a delightful addition, she seemed really sweet, knowledgeable, motherly, kinda protected her cubs and genuinely cared about wanting the kids to be successful. And who couldn't love the way Jack lends a sympathetic ear and gives Morrigan a means to call on him in an emergency?
Morrigan is finally allowed to take another class somewhat later in the story with Unit 919, Decoding Nevermoor: How to Successfully Navigate the Free States Most Dangerous and Ridiculous City. This is such a cool class. Love it! There's a map or 3D version of the city with all the moving parts you would see in a city including miniature moving people. Their first task involved determining a route from point A to point B in the city while avoiding and including certain parts of the town. I loved this because you start to see exactly how whimsical, mysterious and dangerous Nevermoor can be. There are silly things like the Brolly Rail system and dangerous places like the Ghastly Market to explore.
Within the story, there's also a mystery, well two. The first when each member of Unit 919 starts getting notes demanding they complete a specific task, which if they refuse to comply with will risk having Morrigan's powers exposed to all of Wunsoc and get them thrown out. Each task seems to be designed to either make the whole group look bad, is slightly dangerous, humiliating or quite possibly risks fracture them even further. Yep, the stakes are getting even higher. The second part of the mystery is the disappearance of a Magnificub, members of the Wundrous Society, and who the mastermind is pulling the strings. Which all ties back to the Ghastly Market in a scary way. And lest we forget, there is the villain, Ezra Squall who's intentions have me conflicted, and whose actions can be unsettling, but who I'm still curious about learning more about.
So yeah, I quite enjoyed Wundersmith, pretty close to my enjoyment of the Trials in the first book. This one just seemed to really open up the world of Nevermoor and gave Morrigan the opportunity to show off her powers which made me just enjoy her character that much more. Plus, I liked the connections she made with Cadence and of course her continued friendship with Hawthorne. I'm certainly vested in knowing what happens next.