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Literature / Nevermoor

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"Step boldly!"
"Death is boring. Life is much more fun. Things happen in life all the time. Unexpected things. Things you couldn't possibly expect because they’re so very... unexpected."
Jupiter North, Nevermoor: The Trials of Morrigan Crow.

Nevermoor is a series of middle grade Urban Fantasy books by Jessica Townsend.

The story follows Morrigan Crow, a clever but phenomenally unlucky young girl who is cursed to die on her eleventh birthday. When the fated day arrives, however, she's rescued by a mysterious and eccentric benefactor, Captain Jupiter North of the Wundrous Society, who whisks her away to the secret magical (or "wundrous") city of Nevermoor. He's forced to do so by smuggling her into the city, very illegally... and unless they can find a legal way for Morrigan to stay, she'll be deported back home, where she'll almost certainly die.

Her only chance is to join the Wundrous Society herself, because members of the Society can't be prosecuted by the law... but in order to join the Society she must first compete for a place against hundreds of other children, all of whom have extraordinary and sometimes supernatural talents; talents that Morrigan completely lacks. Luckily she's got the help of Jupiter, a gigantic talking cat named Fenestra, and a friendly fellow competitor named Hawthorne Swift... but who is this "Wundersmith" that everyone's so scared of?

At the time of writing, three books in the Nevermoor series have been published, with a fourth book confirmed.

1. Nevermoor: The Trials of Morrigan Crow (2017)
2. Wundersmith: The Calling of Morrigan Crow (2018)
3. Hollowpox: The Hunt for Morrigan Crow (2020)
4. Silverborn: The Mystery of Morrigan Crow (2024)

A film adaptation has also been announced, with Drew Goddard as writer and producer. In 2022, it was announced that Michael Gracey (The Greatest Showman) would direct the film.

Now has a character sheet. All character-specific tropes should go there.

No relation to Nevermore (2010)

Examples (spoilers for the first book are unmarked)

  • Adults Are Useless: Played with a little, but averted for the most part. Morrigan does end up having to go through a lot of things without help from the adult figures of her life, but this is not so much because the adults are useless, it's more a case of Morrigan either not wanting to go to them with her problems or plain being unable to at the moment. When it comes to facing Ezra Squall, she has to go about it alone because as a fellow Wundersmith she's the only one, child or adult, who can actually resist his mind-control powers, but adults like Jupiter still very much play an important part of the story and are generally treated as competent and reliable... if sometimes a little too busy to be there for Morrigan as much as they'd like.
  • Affectionate Nickname:
    • Jupiter, who is fond of giving people these, calls Morrigan "Mog." She doesn't really like it, but ultimately accepts it as the sign of affection it is.
    • Miss Cheery's name is Marina, but Roshni calls her "Maz." Might be an early hint that they're dating.
  • Alternative Calendar: The world of Nevermoor clearly uses a very different calendar than ours, mostly revealed through context clues.
    • Time is measured in something called "Ages," which vary in length—some are eleven years long, some are seventeen, etc. Chronologists study time to determine how long an Age will be, and they can still get it wrong; the first book kicks off when it's revealed that the Age they're currently in will actually be eleven years long, when most chronologists thought it'd be twelve, meaning that Morrigan, who previously thought she'd have one last year left to live, is actually scheduled to die the next day.
    • The Skyfaced Clock changes color based on far into an Age the world is, turning black on Eventide, thus officially indicating that an Age is ending.
    • Eventide is the last day of an Age. Cildren born on Eventide are said to be cursed, and die when the next Age begins. Except not really. The Eventide curse was never real.
    • Morningtide is the first day of a new Age.
    • In the Wintersea Republic, Ages are simply called "The [X] Age of the Wintersea Republic," with the series beginning with the start of the Ninth. In the Free State, Ages are named on Morningtide, with names like the Age of Thieves or the Avian Age. The series is set in the Third Age of the Aristocrats.
    • Years are referenced as what year of an Age it is, not what year of overall history it is. Therefore, Morrigan turns eleven in the Winter of Eleven, and comes to Nevermoor the next day in the Spring of One.
  • Always Chaotic Evil: Wundersmiths are viewed as this by most people, which leads to trouble when it turns out Morrigan is one. While she worries that being a Wundersmith might lead her to turn out badly, Jupiter repeatedly assures her that this notion is complete nonsense.
  • An Arm and a Leg: Nan, Hawthorne's patron, lost one of her legs to a dragon, forcing her into an early retirement. She now has a prosthetic, and doesn't seem too bothered by it.
  • Arc Number: Nine is shaping up to be one. Wunsoc accepts nine new students each year, Morrigan is in Unit 919, Jupiter had to get nine people to sign her safeguard, there are nine Wundrous Arts, only nine Wundersmiths can be alive at a time... Jessica Townsend has also said she has plots for nine books, though whether this'll come to pass remains to be seen.
  • Armor-Piercing Question: After she finds out the victims of the Courage Square Massacre were Squall's fellow Wundersmiths and former friends, Morrigan asks him a simple question: "Why?" He doesn't give her a straight answer, but it's the first thing she says that actually seems to get under his skin.
  • Ascended Extra: Apart from Hawthorne and Cadence, most of Unit 919 are fairly minor characters in the second book, largely because most of them are avoiding Morrigan. In the third book, where they're on much better terms, they all get quite a bit more screen time and attention — Thaddea and Anah especially.
  • Ascended Fridge Horror: In the first book, it's mentioned that the only Magnificats Morrigan ever saw in the Republic were docile and silent, used to pull President Wintersea's carriage. As a result, she's startled by the independent and very talkative Fenestra. The next books make it clear that the treatment of Magnificats in the Republic is no less than the enslavement and systemic abuse of a sentient, intelligent species, with cubs being kidnapped and mutilated before being sold on the black market, and Morrigan is nearly physically sick when she realizes the true horror of what everyone in the Republic accepts as perfectly normal. Hollowpox reveals that President Wintersea herself is a monstrous bigot against Wunimals, casting her ownership of Magnificats in an even worse light.
  • Auction of Evil: The Ghastly Market sells dangerous and illegal goods, including live Magnificats, and knacks, stolen from other people.
  • Boring, but Practical: To a very downplayed extent, the entire School of Mundane Arts. While talents like pickpocketing, tightrope walking, and dragonriding can hardly be called boring, they are seen as far more common and less spectacular than the supernatural gifts of the School of Arcane Arts. However, since about 80% of Wunsoc falls under the Mundane classification, they have far more manpower and tend to handle the practical day-to-day stuff.
    Miss Cheery: Our motto inside Wunsoc is "Just Try Getting On Without Us."
  • Chekhov's Gunman: Odbuoy Jemmity is a Wundersmith mentioned a few times in Hollowpox as the creator of Jemmity Park. The next book reveals Odbuoy was one of Squall's classmates at Wunsoc, and was personally murdered by him in the Courage Square Massacre.
  • Child Prodigy: Most Wunsoc inductees are this in some area or another, being expert dragonriders, surgeons, chefs, or thieves at the age of eleven. Some characters, such as Morrigan and Cadence, play with this, in that their knacks aren't so much skills or talents as abilities they just sort of have, whether they know it or not. However, they can study and become more skilled with them, same as any other God-given talent.
  • Cool Horse:
    • Hawthorne is a dragon rider. Which means he rides dragons. You don't get much cooler than that when it comes to riding animals.
    • In the Chase trial in the first book, Morrigan gets to ride Fenestra. A gigantic talking cat with the speed of a cheetah and the stamina of a horse is nothing to sneeze at either.
  • Dare to Be Badass: Ezra Squall of all people gives a speech to this effect to Morrigan at the climax of the third book.
    Now is not the time to be small! Where is the Morrigan Crow who reignited the dead fireblossoms? The girl who brought down the Ghastly Market, who conducted a glorious symphony of death in the Museum of Stolen Moments? Where is that Morrigan Crow? Bring her back!
  • Deconstruction: The politics of the Free State show what would likely be the reality of a magical, hidden world: an isolationist state with intense border control and widespread prejudice towards outsiders, forcing refugees to have to be smuggled in, because they're not even supposed to know the Free State exists, let alone be able to seek asylum. And it comes back to bite the inhabitants of the hidden world; you can't ask another country for help if most of its citizens don't even know you're there, and you've spent decades refusing to work with the ones who do.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: All the discussions about Morrigan being an "illegal" in Nevermoor, especially in the first book, sound very familiar to anyone keeping up with real-life debates about immigration. Many of the people who think Morrigan should be sent back home (where it's believed she'll, you know, die) give arguments that sound almost exactly like arguments given by right-wing politicians about why immigrants shouldn't be allowed in their countries.
  • Dragon Rider: Dragonriding is a popular sport in the Free State, with Nan being a former champion forced into early retirement after one of her steeds bit off her leg. Hawthorne's knack is that he's a dragonriding prodigy.
  • Dude, Not Funny!: The Black Parade is full of spooky floats and costumes, and it's all in good fun. However, when one float portrays the Wundersmith, people are not amused, with many children finding it genuinely frightening and the adults all agreeing it's too far. The Wundersmith is a known Serial Killer and war criminal who is thought to still be alive somewhere, so it's definitely in poor taste, at the very least.
  • Enemy Mine: Morrigan reluctantly teams up with Ezra at the climax of the third book, because he's the only one who can help her cure Hollowpox, and he doesn't want President Wintersea to have access to the Free State.
  • Family Theme Naming: Morrigan and Corvus Crow — Morrigan was the name of an Irish goddess who turned into a crow, while "Corvus" is the Latin word for ravens and crows.
  • Fantastic Racism: There's some prejudice against Wunimals, as they only became full citizens a few generations ago. Some of the more conservative residents of the Free State believe they should be kept as pets or locked up in zoos. It's even worse in Wintersea; most people there don't even know Wunimals exist, because most have been wiped out and the rest have been forced into hiding. Fen is part of a secret smuggling ring that helps rescue Wunimals and bring them over the border into the Free State. And it turns out the Hollowpox doesn't only affect Wunimals by accident; it's by design, because the pox was created as a means to exterminate them.
  • Fate Worse than Death:
    • Losing one's knack is seen by this by most people in Wunsoc. Morrigan begs to differ, but that's at least partially because her knack gives her almost nothing but trouble.
    • Hollowpox, so named because, after its initial symptoms of animalistic rage and violence, it renders a victim completely comatose and "hollow," with no signs of their previous personality or free will—not even a Witness can see anything in them anymore. Jupiter outright says he'd rather be dead than hollow.
  • Fire-Forged Friends: The Wundrous Society try to make each unit this, by making them face trials and tribulations together. It doesn't always work. It does seem to work at least slightly for Unit 919, though... over their first year of training they're sent blackmail notes threatening to expose "the Unit's secret" unless the members agree to certain demands. Since it's generally assumed that the "secret" is that Morrigan is a Wundersmith, most of the unit (except Hawthorne and Cadence) end up absolutely hating Morrigan for all the things they end up being forced to do... but they do comply with the blackmail so the secret is kept. And at the end of the term they find out that not only was the blackmail the Elders' trial to test their loyalty to each other; but the "secret" wasn't Morrigan's status as Wundersmith, it was that Lambeth is actually a foreign princess who is staying illegally in Nevermoor. This seems to have given them some new perspective on things, and by the time of Hollowpox they are all getting along pretty well.
  • First-Episode Twist: It's revealed about halfway through the first book that Ezra Squall, the person who showed interest in Morrigan in during Bid Day, is the dreaded Wundersmith. The end of the book reveals that Morrigan herself is also a Wundersmith, and that this is why he wanted her as his apprentice.
  • Foil: Professors Mildmay and Onstald. Mildmay is a sweet, friendly guy who immediately hits it off with Morrigan and has some of the most fun lessons in Wunsoc. Onstald is an unapproachable Sadist Teacher who goes out of his way to make Morrigan miserable. And in the end, Mildmay turns out to be working for the bad guys, and Onstald sacrifices his life to save Morrigan's.
  • Foreshadowing: One of the questions during the Book Trial is, "What do you fear most?" The third Trial is the Fright Trial.
  • Friendly Rivalry: Between Saint Nicholas and the Yule Queen. Every Christmas Eve they have a public battle of one-upmanship to see who will be in charge of the season this year, and every year the battle ends with them declaring a truce and working together as equals instead.
  • The Gift: A person's knack is this for them; something they can do that makes them special and different. Some knacks are physical traits, like being born with gills, while others are supernatural abilities, like Cadence's mesmerism. Others still are mundane skills that theoretically anyone can practice and develop, but some people just happen to be born extraordinarily, unfathomably profecient at them—such as Anah being able to perform surgery and Arch being an expert pickpocket when they're only eleven. Knacks don't seem to be uncommon in the Free State, but only the most impressive, rare, and powerful knacks will get you into Wunsoc.
  • Hero with Bad Publicity: This happens to Wundersmiths in general, thanks to Squall's actions. One example is Odbuoy Jemmity, the creator of Jemmity Park. He's remembered as a selfish bastard who built a wonderful amusement park, but then enchanted it so no one could get inside. This version of the story misses some very important context. When he found out the man who commissioned him to build the park had knocked down several flats in a low-income area to make room for it, and intended to charge so much for tickets that none of the locals could possibly afford to go, he was genuinely pissed on the residents' behalf, and decided to make things up to them; the park doesn't let anyone in... unless you are a child who lives in the neighborhood, in which case you get to go in free of charge. The park turned no profit for the cruel and greedy man who commissioned it, but instead became a wunderful gift for the children in the area, which they still enjoy to this day. Morrigan is very happy indeed when she realizes Jemmity was actually a nice person.
  • Hidden Depths: Most of the characters turn out to have this. It's rare for anyone to be exactly who he or she appears on the surface; there's usually something more there.
  • Ironic Nursery Tune: "Little crowling, little crowling, with button-black eyes..." In the second book, Squall reveals one calls Wunder by singing to it—he prefers to sing a charming little nursery rhyme about rabbits hiding from crows on the hunt. The rhyme, while already pretty morbid, is apparently a common children's song—Morrigan remembers it from nursery school, and Squall probably learned it around the same age—but it becomes downright creepy when he sings it.
  • Magic by Any Other Name: Wunder, which has more than a few things in common with The Force but is a little more temperamental and willful in its relationship with the Wundersmiths.
  • Manipulative Bastard: It turns out that every member of the Wundrous Society is trained to be one of these, because the society exists to "contain and distract" people from the horrors that some Wundersmiths made in the past.
  • Menacing Museum: The Museum of Stolen Moments is filled with snow globes, each containing a sculpture of a simple scene. Except these aren't sculptures; they're people, and the creator of the museum froze them in time, specifically in the moment before their death, and capture the moment in art forever. Morrigan finds the Museum both beautiful and utterly disturbing. Squall loves it, of course.
  • A Mind Is a Terrible Thing to Read: One of the major drawbacks to being a Witness is that seeing everyone's every emotion, fear, secret, and lie is majorly stressful, especially in Nevermoor, which is one of the most highly populated cities in the Free State. Jupiter notes that most Witnesses live in less populated areas, and Jack has to wear an eyepatch to filter his powers so they don't overwhelm him. Jupiter's got it under control, but it took years of practice.
  • Nice Mean And In Between: Friendly, outgoing Hawthorne is the nice one, self-centered, aloof Cadence as the mean one, and snarky, earnest Morrigan is the in-between.
  • No Such Agency: Sub-Nine, also known as the School of Wundrous Arts. In the depths of Wunsoc, a group of Wunsoc members work to study and perserve the Wundrous Arts; a relic from when Wunsoc existed to educate Wundersmiths, not just anyone with a knack. Morrigan is brought there to study after the events of the second book. There are even members of Wunsoc that have no clue it's there.
  • Not Evil, Just Misunderstood: Despite what Professor Onstald (and many denizens of Nevermoor) would have you believe, Wundersmiths are not inherently bad people. While the most famous Wundersmith of all — the one known as "the Wundersmith" — actually is unquestionably evil, there were also plenty of goodhearted and kind, or even just netural Wundersmiths, meaning it's not so much a whole class of evil people as it is one evil guy making a bad name for everybody else. It doesn't help that these days, everyone believes the horror stories about Wundersmiths, many of which are exaggerated or misconstrued at best, and outright propaganda at worst.
  • "Not So Different" Remark: A constant worry for Morrigan is that as a Wundersmith she's a monster by nature, and when it comes down to it is going to become exactly like Ezra Squall. Ezra, whenever interacting with her (especially in the second book) is very gleeful abut pointing out all the ways she's exactly like him and how it's her nature as a Wundersmith. Jupiter, however, is firm in his convictions that Wundersmiths are not all monsters, and that there's no chance that Morrigan will become like Ezra Squall.
  • Only Known by Their Nickname: Corvus goes through so many assistants, he's given up actually learning their names and just refers to them as "Left" and "Right," based on what side of him they stay on. This leads to an inevitable Who's on First? joke.
    Corvus: [to one of his assistants] Good lord, you're right.
    Morrigan, thinking: Nope. He's Left.
  • Oppressive Immigration Enforcement: The Free State is safer for minorities than most of the world, but has strict anti-immigration laws, even in cases of life or death. At the start of the series, Jupiter smuggles Morrigan into the Free State with the help of a sympathetic border control officer, but she's then hounded by Flintlock, a Bigot with a Badge who's extremely xenophobic and determined to deport her. Even though she's a child with nowhere else to go, and will be murdered if she's sent back to the Wintersea Republic. The "closed border" policies of the Free State and those prejudiced against immigrants are deliberate echoes of anti-immigration laws in the real world, and a very pointed Take That! to boot.
    Flintlock: Illegals are a plague, and it's my solemn duty to guard the borders of Nevermoor and protect its true citizens from Republic scum trying to weasel its way into the Free State.
    Jupiter: A noble and valiant cause, I'm sure. Protecting the Free State from those most in need of its help.
  • The Order: The Wundrus Society, whose members may be called upon to defend and protect the people of Nevermoor or otherwise work to make things better for society in general. They are generally treated as VIPs in Nevermoor, getting privileges and special treatment that others plain do not... but in return they are expected to do their part in service to the Society, even if this means making great personal sacrifices or even laying down their lives.
  • Panthera Awesome: The Magnificats. Giant, intelligent cats with the gift of speech... and sarcasm.
  • Pensieve Flashback: Ghostly Hours work like this. You can view a recorded memory—some are only a couple minutes long, some go on for hours, and it's like you're really there, except you can't interact with anyone.
  • Pet the Dog: Heloise is a bully and a complete brat, but she does genuinely love her boyfriend Alfie, and is devastated when he goes missing. She's also extremely upset by his ordeal at the hands of the Ghastly Market.
  • Platonic Life-Partners: Morrigan and Hawthorne become best friends almost immediately after meeting one another, but neither of them seems interested in turning their relationship romantic.
  • Play Within a Play: The Maledictions. The opera's first act has Plot Parallel to Ezra and Morrigan's relationship. Euphoriana = Ezra, Happenchance = Morrigan. Wundrous Arts apprenticeship agreement is predicted by the ending of Act I where Euphoriana and Happenchance fall in love. The play is interrupted by the attack by Victor - does this mean Ezra will get trampled in some way in Silverborn?
  • Pocket Dimension: The Gobleian Library is an alternate dimension that is a near-perfect copy of the city of Nevermoor... and it is currently be used to house millions upon millions of books.
  • Police Are Useless:
    • Inspector Flintlock is doing his job and enforcing the law by stamping out illegal immigrants, because he's a complete bigot who doesn't see that the law is unjust. He's outright gleeful at the idea of deporting Morrigan, a child, refusing to listen when Jupiter points out that she had to come to Nevermoor for her safety.
    • It goes beyond Flintlock; it's an institutional problem, because prejudice in a society goes all the way up and down. Many Nevermoorians dislike and distrust the police force for this reason, avoiding calling them when possible and referring to them as "the Stink."
    • Inspector Rivers is no better. In Wundersmith, she is in the actual Hotel Deucalion talking to Jupiter and Morrigan about the abduction of Onstald/Blackburn/Ra. Clearly Morrigan is someone she should be interviewing. Rivers could have uncovered enough information to suspect Mildmay. Instead she tells Jupiter to shut down his private business for no reason - and he agrees!
    • Inspector Rivers didn't follow up the pawn shop submarine which would have implicated President Wintersea, and youknow, saved Nevermoor.
  • Popularity Cycle: Ezra Squall tells Morrigan that the Wundrous Society will do this, expecting her to show absolute loyalty to them and be a hero when they need one, but not hesitate to throw her under the bus and treat her like garbage when it suits them. Despite not being overly thrilled with Wunsoc politics by this point, she brushes him off since, well, it's Ezra Squall saying it. He's not wrong, though.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: Played with all over the place. If a character seems like this, there's about a fifty/fifty chance they're secretly corrupt.
  • Red Oni, Blue Oni: Morrigan is the quieter, more introspective blue to Hawthorne's rambunctious red, but she's the frank and passionate red to Cadence's aloof and often cold blue.
  • Secret Relationship:
    • Martha the maid and Charlie the chauffeur think they have one of these. Everyone else knows about it but play along.
    • Miss Cheery and Roshni, the school librarian, seem to be in one; Morrigan overhears them talking and sees them kiss at the end of Hollowpox. However, it's unclear if it's entirely secret, or if they just keep it secret from students.
  • Serious Business: The Yule Queen vs. St. Nick battle every Christmas Eve. Everyone takes the matter of who they support very seriously, even though the "battle" is all for show, and ends with a truce every year anyway.
  • Silent Snarker: Hawthorne's older brother Homer has taken a vow of silence and is only allowed to speak one day a year. The rest of the year he snarks using body language, or the blackboard he always carries to write messages on.
  • Sliding Scale of Anthropomorphism:
    • Wunimals sit at various spots of the scale, depending on what species they are, and whether they're a Wunimal Major or Minor. Wunimal Minors are usually Little Bit Beastly or Beast Men, some verging into Borderline Beast Man territory—they have animal traits such as ears, claws, whiskers, tails, wings, or other such things, but have a decidedly more humanlike appearence. Wunimal Majors are Civilized Animals; they look purely animal, except they walk on two legs and can speak. Wunimal Majors are mentioned to wear lots of clothes and jewelry to make it clear that they are Wunimals and not unimals (who are just ordinary beasts).
    • Dragons appear to be Nearly Normal Animals; they can be trained and kept by humans, but they have their own culture and language (which humans can learn, though it's noted to be very difficult).
    • Magnificats are Talking Animals who also happen to be huge. There are some Magnifcats in the Wintersea Republic, but they're docile and obedient, and don't speak—which, as Morrigan finds out, is because they had their tongues cut out at birth.
    • "Unimals" is the catch-all term for plain old animals.
  • Small, Secluded World: The Free State isn't exactly "small," but it's completely cut off from the rest of the world, to the point where only high-ranking government officials in the Wintersea Republic even know it exists.
  • Sure, Let's Go with That: Mildmay tells Morrigan he's figured out why she can't tell anyone outside her unit what her "knack" is... it's a "boring" one like his, and she's embarrassed to say. No worries, he understands completely! Morrigan uncomfortably plays along with this.
  • Torment by Annoyance: The entire staff of the Deucalion does this to Onstald when Morrigan is temporarily banned from Wunsoc, forcing him to come teach her at home. Having heard how badly he treats her, they all pitch in to make his days just as miserable as he's been making her. Martha gives him cold food on purpose, Frank repeatedly interrupts with party planning and a full choir practice, and Fenestra... sits there and stares at him. It works wonders; Morrigan's back at Wunsoc within a week.
  • Trash of the Titans: The angel Israfel is a huge slob. Morrigan compares his dressing room to a toxic waste dump.
  • Unnervingly Heartwarming: The Big Bad genuinely wants Morrigan to be his apprentice, and expresses admiration for her abilities multiple times. He even helps her out of a bind a few times. However, all this is undermined by the fact that he's a complete sociopath who (incorrectly) believes that Morrigan is, deep down, just as bad as he is, and constantly tries to lead her down a dark path, meaning that even his already-limited Pet the Dog moments are ruined by all the manipulation and headgames. Consequentially, whenever he compliments her or offers his help, Morrigan is creeped the hell out, and seems to dislike his positive attention even more than she dislikes him openly threatening her.
  • "What Do They Fear?" Episode: The Fright Trial, in which candidates face off against extremely realistic simulations of their greatest fear... without being told it's a simulation. There's a reason Jupiter called it the Nervous Breakdown Trial.
  • World of Snark: This is a very sarcasm-heavy series.
  • You Are Better Than You Think You Are: This quote from Jupiter to Morrigan in the first book, setting the tone for their whole relationship:
    Hear me when I say this: you are not a curse on anyone, Morrigan Crow.