I have a confession to make – I love reading children’s fantasy novels, particularly middle-grade fiction. Probably not all that surprising considering I am a primary school teacher librarian. However, one series has stood out recently and made me question – Is this the next big thing since Harry Potter?
Of course, I am talking about none other than the Nevermoor series written by Sunshine Coast author Jessica Townsend. The Nevermoor series features the trials and tribulations of the female protagonist Morrigan Crow. Morrigan, or Mog for short, is a cursed child who is destined to die at midnight on Eventide when she is whisked away to the magical land of Nevermoor by the mysterious Jupiter North. Here she discovers she has a mysterious magical power and becomes a member of the elite Wundrous Society.
The first novel in the series Nevermoor: The Trials of Morrigan Crow is a multiple award winner that broke records in Australia as the fastest-selling children’s debut novel of all time. A movie adaption of the novel is currently in progress. The next novel Wundersmith: The Calling of Morrgian Crow followed a year later, prompting comparisons to J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter phenomenon.
It was in anticipation of Townsend’s newest release in the series, Hollowpox: The Hunt for Morrigan Crow that got me thinking. What is it about this series that is so special? What sets it apart from other novels? Could this be the current generation’s Harry Potter moment?
“Townsend has something of Rowling’s knack for memorable characters, of balancing darkness with whimsy and building from scratch the geography and politics of an immersive fictional world.”Linda Morris, Sydney Morning Herald
For me it comes down to the ability of Townsend, as was the case with J.K. Rowling, to create the following:
The adventures of Morrigan and her friends in Nevermoor appeal to both children and adults alike. As well as broad appeal, the work of Townsend has experienced popularity and success around the world. For me, this is an essential ingredient. The ability to transcend audiences and markets is an important step in creating a transmedia success story. With the first Nevermoor movie in the works, it is only a matter of time before Morrigan Crow and Jessica Townsend are household names.
Like Harry Potter, the world of Nevermoor has many quirky and interesting characters from the antagonist Ezra Squall to the benevolent Jupiter North and Fenestra the Magnificat. The relationships Morrigan develops with the other characters, particularly her friends from the Wundersociety adds to the appeal of this novel. This was also the case with Harry and his friends from Hogwarts.
Darkness and Light
A good children’s fantasy novel successfully combines elements of darkness with lighter humorous moment sprinkled throughout. The presence of Morrigan’s antagonist Ezra Squall looms in the background as did Voldemort in Harry Potter. For me, the Nevermoor series strikes just the right balance – a little bit scary but not too much.
Escape to another world
Townsend has created a detailed, magical world that allows readers to escape from their everyday lives. The strange happenings of Nevermoor has both children and adults coming back for more. With another six stories planned in the series, Morrigan Crow is bound to become a household name.
As I begin reading Hollowpox, I do think bigger things are ahead for Morrigan Crow and Jessica Townsend. I may be a little biased, but how wonderful would it be for a series containing a young female protagonist written by an Australian author to be the next shining star in children’s literature? Afterall we could all use a little light relief amid a global pandemic.