Nevermoor: The Trials of Morrigan Crow by Jessica Townsend (9780316439954)
Morrigan has grown up apologizing for her existence because she is a cursed child. Her lifespan is shortened, and she knows she is doomed to die on the midnight before her eleventh birthday. But when that night arrives, Morrigan is rescued and taken away to Nevermoor. There she lives in a vast and magical hotel powered by Wunder with her rescuer, Jupiter North. Jupiter enters Morrigan into a series of trials to gain entrance into the Wundrous Society, but everyone who competes and gets accepted must have a knack. The only knack that Morrigan has is creating disasters with her curse, but Jupiter won’t tell her what her gift is. Soon the police are after Morrigan as a refugee and only passing the trials will keep her alive, if she can survive them.
Townsend has created a gorgeous new world with nods to Harry Potter but entirely its own magical place. Nevermoor is a delight to explore along with Morrigan from the hotel that customizes the rooms the more you stay in them to the holiday season come to life to jumping off of buildings with umbrellas. The details woven into the rollicking story create a world that is vibrant and interesting. Still, there are monsters and secrets and scares too, a delectable mix that keeps the pages turning.
Morrigan is a great heroine. A girl who was doomed to death and never appreciated is suddenly thrust into a world of her dreams. She refuses to change, wearing black when others are in bright colors, figuring things out on her own, and yet also forging strong friendships along the way. The secondary characters are also well drawn and complex, adding even more depth to the book.
Recommend this one to fans of fantasy and Harry Potter, it’s a magical read. Appropriate for ages 9-12. (Reviewed from ARC provided by Little Brown.)
Tumble & Blue by Cassie Beasley (9780525428442, Amazon)
Released August 29, 2017.
This second book from the author of Circus Mirandus takes readers deep into the Okefenokee Swamp. Blue has known his entire life that he is cursed. He can’t win at anything, no matter how hard he tries. His most recent loss was when his arm was broken standing up to a bully at school. Now his father, who always wins, has dropped him off for the summer at his grandmother’s house. The mystical red moon is rising this summer and Blue will have the chance to break his curse if he can reach the golden alligator before anyone else. But it’s complicated as his grandmother may need her curse broken more badly than anyone else and the entire family is there to compete for the right to head into the swamp. Meanwhile, Blue meets Tumble, a girl desperate to be a hero and who wants to save Blue from his delusion of always losing. But is it a delusion or is it ancient magic at work?
Beasley has written a wonderful second novel that tells a fascinating story of greed and sacrifice even as it speaks to the importance of losing sometimes in life. The book reads easily even as it deals with deeper issues of family, betrayal, love and heroism. It is far more complex than readers may expect as different themes weave beautifully together to form the whole tale. The ribbon of clear magic that swirls throughout the book takes it directly into fantasy even as it is firmly rooted in the real world too. It’s a winning mix.
The two main characters are fascinating. Blue struggles with his constant losing and yet never quite gives up to it. He continues to try to run faster, is willing to attempt to break the curse in different ways. He is a hero who is easily related to, taken in by extended family and looking for home. Tumble is a girl who has lived in an RV for most of her life. Her problems becoming a hero are indications that she too may have a curse she has never realized is there. Even though she fails regularly at being a hero, she too perseveres and is resilient in the face of her challenges.
A vibrant and strong story of failure and heroism. Appropriate for ages 9-12.
Reviewed from ARC received from Dial Books.
The Night Gardener by Jonathan Auxier
A book sure to create some shivers, this is a thrilling gothic horror book for children. Molly and Kip are two Irish children abandoned by their parents as their family fled to England due to the Great Irish Potato Famine. No one will hire Molly as a servant until a man hires them to work for his family at their isolated and decrepit mansion. It quickly becomes apparent that things are not what they seem in this family. Molly finds a painting done of the family a year earlier, and they have changed considerably with their hair turning black and dull to their skin losing all color. Perhaps it has something to do with the locked green door in the house, a door that Molly yearns to find out what is behind. But opening that door unleashes a terrible force, one that answers your wants but destroys you in the process. How can two children stand up to a centuries old curse?
Auxier’s storytelling skill is incredible. He weaves a world of darkness, creeping misery and despair so cleverly that readers will feel the chill on their skin before it reaches their thoughts. The children are steadily drawn into the strangeness surrounding the house and family, succumbing to the temptation of safety, the illusion of a home, and not seeing the proof around them of what is happening. For the reader, this is a book that steadily builds and builds as the tension mounts and the nights get more frightening. It is a wonderfully creepy read, one that simply can’t be put down.
The themes of the book are beautifully crafted. The book speaks to the importance of love and family, but even more so it is about what happens when greed becomes consuming, literally. It also is about the power of storytelling and stories, the way that they can teach, terrify and soothe. And finally about the terror when a story comes to life right in front of you.
An extraordinary horror novel for children, this book will be enjoyed by young readers but maybe not right before bed. Appropriate for ages 10-13.
Reviewed from ARC received from Amulet.