Nevermoor: The Trials of Morrigan Crow

Author: Jessica TownsendThe Trials of Morrigan Crow

Publisher: Hachette Children’s Books Australia

Published: 10 October 2017

Rating: 5 stars

Professional Reader

‘A tornado of questions swirled in her head, and all she could do was try to grab them as they flew by.’

I will start by saying that I was given an ARC copy in exchange for an honest review. These opinions are my own.

Miss Morrigan Crow has known since she was born that she will die on Eventide. Although she is the daughter of the distinguished Chancellor Corvus Crow the people of Jackalfax, her family included, will not mourn her passing. Morrigan is wonderful and whimsical eleven-year-old girl, who is desperate to find family and appreciation, all the while resigned to accept the responsibility for all bad luck that plagues Jackalfax. This is the dark reality of being a cursed child. On the eve of Eventide Morrigan receives an invitation to the Wundrous Society sponsored by a man named Jupiter North. Survival and Nevermoor await her.

Morrigan Crow is a fantastic character. She finds herself as the blame of all kinds of disasters from a burnt batch of jam to a boy losing the spelling bee to the Crow’s gardener’s heart attack. But thanks to Jupiter she finds herself living in a hotel that adapts to its guests’ needs and mingles with a cast of crazy characters. She finds out that for her to stay in this wonderful world she must get into The Wundrous Society and in turn face four trails which aren’t what they seem.

This is why I love middle-grade fantasy. I flew through this. It was so much fun and at times suspenseful. There something about this genre that allows the worlds to be innovative, creative and refreshing. Cursed children, brolly rails, secret societies, giant talking cats, magic trails and my new favourite holiday, Hallowmas. Townsend has mixed the whimsy of worlds like Wonderland and Whoville with the dark humour of Lemony Snicket. The Trials of Morrigan Crow is a wondrous adventure, which will ignite the imagination of any reader.

Townsend hasn’t only created a relatable protagonist and an amazingly creative world; she also created a cast of amazing secondary characters. These characters are all well rounded and aren’t just there as props to support Morrigan. Jupiter North is really the child at the heart of this story. He is a mysterious man who is an explorer, hotel proprietor, member of the Wundrous Society and Morrigan’s Patron and guardian. I adore Morrigan and Jupiter’s friendship, mostly how the roles seem reversed with Morrigan being the reserved and sensible one. Along with Jupiter, we have, Fenestra the talking Magnificat, Jupiter’s broody nephew, Jack, a vampire dwarf, an opera singer whose voice summons woodland critters and Hawthorne, Morrigan friend and fellow competitor in the Wundrous Society trials. I adore all these characters and they have—Hawthorne and Jupiter especially—become some of my all-time favourite characters.

I have a feeling this book is going to create a new generation of readers much like Harry Potter did when I was a kid. Please, pretty please can we have some kind of TV or film adaptation! I need to see Nevermoor in Technicolor! All I can say is it’s going to be a long wait for the squeal and my Wundrous Society Invitation.

The Hate Race

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Author: Maxine Beneba Clarke

Publisher: Hachette Australia

Published: 9 August 2016

Rating: 5 stars

 

‘The margins between events have blended and shifted in the tell of it. There’s that folklore way West Indians have, of weaving a tale; facts just so, gasps and guffaws in all the right places — because, after all, what else is a story for?’

Maxine is hands down one of my favourite authors — I will seriously pick up anything this woman writes. The Hate Race is her third book and her first memoir. It was just as beautiful as her short story collection, Foreign Soil.

Clarke has a magical writing style. Being a poet, her prose has an innate rhythm and melody that grabs your hand and guides you through the narrative. Within the pages of this book, she shares what it’s like growing up in suburban Sydney as the only black family in their town. And just after Australia had dismantled The White Australia Policy—this was a policy that up until the early 70s barred people of non-European heritage from immigrating to Australia.

This book is heartbreaking. It highlights and showcases all the casual and everyday racism, which is embedded in our culture. From people contently question Clarke where she’s from, even though she was born in Australia, and then telling her where she’s from; to PE teacher assuming you’ll be good at track and field because of your skin colour; all mix with that desperate need to fit in at school. The most shocking element wasn’t the playground bullies but the teachers, kids parents and councillors who sat back, excused and at times defended horrible racist behaviour and taunts thrown at Clarke.

It made me angry, it made me cry, it made me laugh at times at all the 90s books, music, shows and toys I also grew up with. It scared me that this wasn’t all that long ago. But ultimately it’s made me hopeful. Having this book is an invaluable insight into an experience I am fortunate enough to never have. It’s through people voicing their experience that our culture can learn and think before making any vaguely offensive comment.

I highly recommend. This book is significant in the fight against racism and a move towards an accepting and inclusive future.

Cassandra

Cassandra

Author: Kerry Greenwood

Publisher: Mandarin (imprint of Reed Books Australia)

Published: 1995

Rating: 5 stars

 

 

“It was not a vision. I smelt sweat, grease, salt, men and burning. Always the burning reek of wood and flesh which soured my nostrils and seared my throat.”

Cassandra is based off the prophecy cursed character from the Greek Myth of The Trojan War. Along with Cassandra, we have a second protagonist Greek healer Diomenes. Both characters are pawns for two of the Gods – Apollo and Aphrodite – as they see whose power is stronger.

This is an incredible retelling. I’m in awe of the way Greenwood is able to balance the fantastic elements of the Gods with the historical setting and culture of the ancient world. All the characters feel very grounded in a real historical setting. And the Gods feel like accurate representation of what the Ancient Greeks believed them to be.

The story doesn’t stray too far from the major plot points in the myth. And even though these events are prescribed they don’t feel out of place in the context of the story and they still pack an emotional punch. While reading it at work I was on the verge of crying three times — if I was home I would have been a sobbing mess!

I enjoyed learning about the differences in the Greek and Trojan cultures — how they celebrated the Gods, which Gods they favoured, women’s roles and healing practices.

I highly, highly recommend for any one interested in myth retellings or who is a fan of books set in antiquity.

Skylarking

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Author: Kate Mildenhall

Publisher: Black Inc.

Published: August 2016

Rating: 4 stars

 

 

‘I remember the way Harriet turned, breathless, laughing, a strand of her golden hair caught on her bottom lip. 
After that, I try not to remember’

Skylarking takes place on an isolated Australian cape in the 1880s. It follows Kate and Harriet, the daughters of lighthouse keepers. The pair grows up together and consequently shares everything until fishermen, McPhail, moved into their tiny community.

Mildenhall has created a beautiful and immersive novel. It’s hard to believe it’s her debut! After a while you can hear the waves crash against the cost and feel the salt brine on your skin. Skylarking is based on true events. Mildenhall has done a beautiful job of bringing the story to life and showing all the complexities of a tight knit friendship.

I highly recommend and am looking forward to Mildenhall’s next novel!