When you hear of a children’s book exploding onto the scene like those whizz-bang fireworks that keep on sparkling (complete with everyone going ‘oooh’ and ‘aaah’) what you absolutely want to find out is HOW DID THEY DO IT?
‘Nevermoor: the Trials of Morrigan Crow’ by Jessica Townsend is one such delightful explosion. It’s surrounded by stories of bidding wars and movie rights that make me happy-sigh, because stuff like that is still possible, and books are still awesome and kids still love reading, and more will love it after reading this book.
And that’s all awesome!
So, how did Townsend do it?
What is so delightfully scrumptious about her book?
- A huggable world you get immersed in
- The laughs and clever whimsy
- The intricate extras in the story.
Firstly, let me remind you all that it took her 10 years to write. This is an exceedingly comforting thought to many writers still tap-tapping away night after night, wondering whether it might be prudent to start a quicker hobby – cross-stitch for example – and just think of stories in their heads rather than trying to write the blasted things down.
Writing is rarely fast. So… keep at it people!
The world is something that works so well in ‘Nevermoor’. Not only is it detailed and real, it’s also very alluring. I WANT to live in the Hotel Deucalion. I WANT to relax in its Smoking Parlour. Nevermoor isn’t a safe airy-fairy place, there’s well-balanced darkness, but it is still definitely somewhere you’d love to be.
And yet, how does Townsend set this world up in the all-important first chapter? By not mentioning it at all, of course!
The first chapter
I know, I know, there’s a Prologue in the book too, but the first chapter is what I decided to dissect. And neither mention Nevermoor at all, rather starting in the dismal Republic and giving us a fabulous and funny insight into the sad state of Morrigan Crow’s life. Classic. Think ‘Harry Potter’ before Hogwarts, ‘The Hunger Games’ before Katniss goes to the Capitol, ‘Clockwork Angel’ before Tessa escapes with Will. There are a lot of super books that start a little dark.
Here are the stats for the first chapter’s world-building:
- 20 people mentioned
- 9 different places or organisations
- 5 new terms.
This is a lot of new stuff to absorb. Sometimes I feel like I’m wading through new language and names in a book’s first chapter. <So hard> <Take a break and forget it all>. But with ‘Nevermoor’ the mentions were lighthearted – somehow I knew I didn’t need to remember them. They’re setting the scene.
Morrigan’s eyes doubled in size. ‘All I did was wish him luck!’
‘Precisely, Miss Crow,’ the caseworker said as she handed the list over to Corvus. ‘You should have known better. ‘
Only <ahem> three out of the 20 people mentioned are important characters to the main plot – Morrigan, Ezra Squall and Mr Jones. (Who gets the inside joke there?).
None of the places really matter, because they’re all in the Republic.
However most of the terms do continue – like Wunder, Age and Eventide. But you can see that a lot of the world-building was just that – foundations that were never seen again.
My first meeting with this book was reading an excerpt available at my local bookstore. It was a gob-smackingly good intro to the book. Out-of-this-world amazing. Intros to Jupiter and Nevermoor and the Hunt. But, interestingly, it was actually Chapter 3 of the real book. Go figure.
Humour and whimsy
Not enough of this in books! Heaps and piles of it in ‘Nevermoor’! Hurrah!
It makes the book superb – the writing stands out. There’s a quote on p378 that I love. Morrigan is feeling pretty darn bad and it’s getting explained wonderfully, faultlessly, but also in a way that doesn’t stand out from other wonderful and faultless books. And then the whimsy takes hold and the writing comes alive:
The certainty of it took her breath away, just as if a big, depressed elephant had sat on her chest.
Hawthorne seemed to know what she was thinking. (Maybe not the depressed elephant bit.)
This, for me, is a fab example of where great writing takes a backseat to a compelling voice.
More than one mystery
This is a recurring theme for my deconstructions, but there is more than one thing to read for in ‘Nevermoor’. We’re not just reading to find out whether Morrigan gets into the Wundrous Society, we’re also reading to find out her knack, figure out what Mr Jones is doing, discover what the deal is with Cadence, and why Jack has an eyepatch. To name just a few.
There is significant depth to the storyline.
So, should you read it? YES! It’s inspiring, filled with diverse characters and magic that will draw you in.
Should you keep writing and hoping? YES!