Middle Grade Reviews

Nine Places. 150 Applicants. The Trials of Morrigan Crow by Jessica Townsend

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Extract:

Nevermoor stretched out for miles in every direction. Morrigan she was imagined she was on a ship, sailing an ocean of buildings and streets and people and life.

A thrill crept down her neck. Leaving a trail of gooseflesh. I’m alive, she thought, and the idea was so absurd, and so wonderful that a laugh spilled from her mouth, cutting through the quiet. Morrigan didn’t care. She felt expansive, bursting with a new joy and termerity which could only have come from cheating death. 

It’s a new age, she thought with disbelief, and I’m alive

(The Trials of Morrigan Crow by Jessica Townsend. PP. 80 -81.) 

breakbirdSynopsis:

Morrigan Crow has an unfortunate reputation for making unlucky things happen. A reputation which is damaging her father’s political career, and costing him a fortune in compensation. As far as her family are concerned, there is one small blessing: cursed children die on Eventide, so Morrigan won’t be around much longer.

At the age of eleven, children in the Republic find out whether they have any bids. It’s too expensive to educate every child properly, and there needs to be an underclass. After all, that’s where the servants come from. Only the best and the brightest, and those with well-connected parents receive bids. Morrigan isn’t expecting any bids. After all, she’s on the Cursed-Children Register. Imagine her surprise when more than one person bids.

There’s strange Mr Squall, who is in charge of the energy supply. Then there is Jupiter North from the Wundrous Society, who says Morrigan doesn’t have to die. She can follow him to the free state of Nevermoor, and cheat death.

If she passes three difficult trials, she can stay in Nevermoor as a member of the Wundrous Society.

Why is Jupiter North so convinced Morrigan has a knack – an impressive talent she can demonstrate at the final trial? What does he know that he won’t tell her?breakbirdReview:

I read this with the same rapt delight with which I first read Harry Potter 20 years ago. Jessica Townsend has created something special – a special world, special characters, and a plot which will keep you turning the pages.

I love the voice in which the story is told. Some serious observations are made in a witty asides. It’s like real-world issues hyped up. Children cherry-picked at eleven? Stand them in a hall, while they watch half their classmates receive ‘bids’. Christmas has become commercial? Let’s play off the traditions of the seasons against consumerism in a battle between ‘consumerist fat cat’ St Nick and The Yule Lady, bringer of snow. What I love is, having thought up the most exaggerated scenario, Townsend works it into the narrative in a really subtle way. The plot kept moving, and everything felt like a credible part of the world.

I adored Morrigan. People have been telling her she is cursed, and doomed to die, and she’s so afraid of being forgotten. She is quite low on self-belief. She’s the cursed-child, not someone with an extraordinary gift. Even so, she keeps going through the trials because there is more to her than a special talent.

The folksy touches were great, from the names (Morrigan Crow. Corvus Crow. The Wundersmith) to the measures of time, (Eventide,) to traditions like Hallowmas and the Christmas fight. Townsend has taken pre-existing ideas and reworked them into something new and exciting. She’s also thrown in plenty of totally new things, like a transport system based on umbrellas, and the Magnificat who oversees room service in Jupiter North’s hotel, the place which becomes Morrigan’s home.

I liked the relationship between Morrigan and Jupiter. It showed how difficult it is for children to trust adults blindly, then to discover those adults don’t always have the answer. Another theme was the arrival of new siblings. Morrigan literally becomes invisible to her family, a poignant metaphor for how some children feel at the arrival of a new child.

This will be a real winner, with teachers, librarians, and young readers, but I can see it being popular with readers of all ages. It has the magic and gentle wit which makes a children’s book a classic.

Huge thanks to Hatchette Children’s for giving me a chance to read this ahead of publication via Netgalley. This does not affect the honesty of my review.

5 thoughts on “Nine Places. 150 Applicants. The Trials of Morrigan Crow by Jessica Townsend

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