Middle Grade Reviews

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




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.) 


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.

waiting on wednesday

Waiting on Wednesday – The Trials of Morrigan Crow by Jessica Towns

Synopsis (from GoodReads) –

61xijy9q4blMorrigan 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


Why I can’t wait to read The Trials of Morrigan Crow:

  • Morrigan Crow is blamed for all Misfortune. This reminds me of Peg O’Nell, the ghost said to haunts Waddow Hall in Lancashire, (no idea whether anybody told the Girl Guide Association when they took the property over.) Having listened to songs about Peg O’Nell, it will be lovely to read a book which thinks about what it might be like to be the person blamed for all misfortune, and what sort of trouble might come of it.


  • It’s folksy. This is a continuation of my first thought. It is lovely to see more books which either draw on folk legend, or have a folksy atmosphere. Previous authors who have done this well include Alan Garner, Marcus Sedgwick and Michelle Harrison. 


  • The Wundrous Society trials set a specific objective. If Morrigan Crow fails, she will have to go back and confront her fears. I have a hunch that Morrigan will learn something about herself in Nevermoor which she will take back to her old life. I am intrigued about Morrigan’s connection to Nevermoor. Is there a past connection she is unaware of?


  • Nevermoor and The Wundrous Society remind me of the quirky worlds of Sibeal Pounder. I like it when a magical world isn’t what we typically expect of magic. The front cover of the US edition shows people floating beneath umbrellas. I have a feeling the world will be a quirky, original take on magic.


  • The book has been sold in multiple regions, everybody’s talking about it on Twitter, and it looks set to be all round wonderful. What can I say? I’m excited. 



The Trials of Morrigan Crow

October 2017

Orion Publishing (UK)