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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 (2022)

A film adaptation has also been announced, with Drew Goddard as writer and producer.

No relation to Nevermore (2010)


Examples (spoilers for the first book are unmarked)

  • Abusive Parents: Downplayed with Morrigan's father Corvus and stepmother Ivy. They're not physically abusive, and not really verbally abusive either, but they are terrible parents to Morrigan, neglectful and unloving and with a tendency to ignore her. Ivy seems to barely consider Morrigan a real person, and Corvus isn't shy about saying that he views her as a burden more than anything.
    • It's hinted that this attitude is mostly a reaction to thinking Morrigan would die young thanks to the curse and not wanting to get attatched to someone they knew they were going to lose before long. Particularly Corvus seems to have taken this view, as his first wife died giving birth to Morrigan, and he found it easier thinking of Morrigan as though she was already dead and the girl who lived in his house was just a manifestation of the curse that killed his wife and daughter.
    • They avert the trope when it comes to Morrigan's newborn half-brothers, Guntram and Wolfram. When Morrigan briefly re-visits her family without their knowledge late in the first book, she finds that both Corvus and Ivy dote on the twin babies and show them all the love and affection they never showed Morrigan. She takes it remarkably well.
  • Action Girl: Thaddea Macleod, or "Thaddea No-Retreat of Clan Macleod, daughter of Mary the Heart-Eater and Malcolm the Mellow, granddaughter of Deirdre the Deathbringer, great-granddaughter of Eileen Never-Surrender, great-great-granddaughter of Ailsa the Tetchy, great-great-great granddaughter of Betty One-Kick," is a Brave Scot version of this. If there's a fight going on and Thaddea isn't in the middle of it, you can bet she's doing everything she can to get in the middle of it.
  • 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.
  • Affably Evil: Henry Mildmay is a genial, friendly and dorky man who genuinely gets along with Unit 919. He's also secretly working for the bad guys.
  • 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.
  • Aloof Dark-Haired Girl: Cadence is this, largely because her nature as a mesmerist means people have a tendency to ignore or forget her. Over the course of the two books, she proves to have more of a Sugar and Ice personality, with the "sugar" part becoming more prominent as she becomes friends with Morrigan and Hawthorne.
  • Alpha Bitch: Noelle Devereaux, Baz Charlton's star candidate, is a classic example during the trials. She's one of the favorites to win, she's haughty and snobbish and always surrounded by admiring girls who laugh at all her snide remarks.
  • 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: Cadence is a pivotal but relatively minor player in the first book, but goes on to become a main character after she and Morrigan both get into Wunsoc.
  • Auction of Evil: The Ghastly Market sells dangerous and illegal goods, including live Magnificats, and knacks, stolen from other people.
  • The Bad Guys Are Cops: Inspector Flintlock is a Starter Villain for the first book, and represents a problem in Nevermoorian law enforcement and society as a whole: institutional, legally-backed bigotry.
  • Became Their Own Antithesis: Onstald didn't always loathe Wundersmiths. He used to love them, and be desperate to learn about and preserve the Wundrous Arts. Even his former friends on Sub-Nine don't know what happened to make him do a complete 180, but Sofia figures it must have been something terrible.
  • Because You Were Nice to Me: Cadence warms up to Morrigan because Morrigan, unlike nearly everybody else, isn't affected by her powers and thus remembers who she is.
  • Big Eater: Hawthorne is always hungry, especially if sweets are involved.
  • Birthday Hater: Morrigan really isn't fond of her birthday. Being cursed to drop dead the second you turn eleven years old will do that to you. Even after she finds out the curse isn't real, she still isn't too keen on birthday celebrations — though she can't help but enjoy herself when everyone at the hotel throws a surprise party for her when she turns twelve.
  • Beware the Nice Ones:
    • Jupiter North is jovial, cheerful, a Reasonable Authority Figure to the staff at the Hotel Deucalion, and a caring patron to Morrigan... and he will not stand for anyone threatening those under his care.
    • Anah is a sweet girl who was raised by nuns, to the point that swiping a box of rubber gloves from the infirmary almost makes her sick with guilt. Then she threatens to surgically remove a bully's organs, and makes it clear that she could.
  • Blood Knight: Thaddea lives for fighting.
  • Boring, but Practical: Mildmay will be the first to admit his mapmaking knack isn't very showy, but it's easily one of the more practical knacks we've seen in the series thus-far.
  • Born Unlucky: Cursed children are said to be this, acting as magnets for misfortune and doom. Morrigan suspects from the start, though, that a lot of people use her and other cursed children as convenient scapegoats whether the misfortune is actually their fault or not. Towards the end of the first book, Ezra Squall gleefully reveals that the curse isn't real, and none of the misfortunes are the cursed children's fault — people just like having convenient scapegoats.
  • Brainless Beauty: Morrigan's stepmother Ivy is very pretty, but rather short on brains. She's not mean to Morrigan so much as totally indifferent to her.
  • Card-Carrying Villain: Squall makes no bones about the fact that he is a murderer, liar, and all-around bad guy.
  • Cats Are Snarkers: Fenestra the Magnificat can't string two sentences together without adding some kind of sarcastic remark. This seems to be a fairly common trait for Magnificats.
  • Chekhov's Gunman:
    • Yeah, I'm sure Mr. Jones from Squall Industries who keeps popping up and seems concerned for Morrigan is just a Mr. Exposition with NO bearing on the plot whatsoever... Surprise! He's the Big Bad incognito!
    • Cadence is a minor character in the first book who appears briefly before the first Trial, and then helps Morrigan at two crucial moments, which ultimately allow her to pass her Trials and stay in Nevermoor. She then goes on to be one of her best friends in the next books.
    • Odbuoy Jemmity is a Wundersmith mentioned a few times in Hollowpox, first as the creator of Jemmity Park, then by Squall, who snarks that Morrigan can't possibly be a worse singer than he is. 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.
  • Combat Clairvoyance: Lambeth can sometimes use her knack this way, using her knowledge of what will happen in five seconds to tell people when they need to move, or what they can do to better their chances. (For example, in the second book, she sees a vision of fire and a flood, clueing Morrigan in to what's about to go down in the Ghastly Market, and what they need to do to escape.)
  • Corrupt Corporate Executive: With everything else he does, it's easy to forget that Squall is also the owner and propetier of Squall Industries, the most powerful company in the entire Wintersea Republic.
  • 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.
  • Cool Old Lady: Morrigan's grandmother is a Grumpy Old Woman who's only really happy when she's miserable, or preferrably making someone else miserable... but she is the only member of Morrigan's family who actually seems to care about her. Turns out she conspired with Jupiter North to save Morrigan from death, and is the only family member who knows that Morrigan didn't die on her eleventh birthday after all.
  • 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!
  • Death Equals Redemption: For all his bigotry and horrible actions, Onstald does ultimately die saving Morrigan's life. However, the trope is downplayed and even subverted when Jupiter acknowledges that, while his sacrifice was undeniably selfless and heroic, it still doesn't erase everything he did before that, and Morrigan is still allowed to be angry at him.
  • 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.
  • Did You Think I Can't Feel?: Both Cadence and Morrigan, due to the effects of their respective powers, have to deal with people acting like they don't have feelings and aren't affected by the way everyone else treats them.
  • 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.
  • The Dog Was the Mastermind:
    • The Wundersmith, the murderer behind the Courage Square Massacre, and the true head of Squall Industries, is in fact "Mr. Jones," who had been politely conversing with Morrigan for the entire first book.
    • The mole inside Wunsoc is the scatterbrained first-year teacher, Mr. Mildmay.
  • 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.
  • Dragon Tamer: Hawthorne's knack is dragonriding, but when he gets into the Wundrous Society, his classes and sponsor aim to expand his skillset to encompass far more; he also has to take lessons in dragons' culture and their language. As his mentor Nan points out, being able to train a dragon to let you ride it is all well and good, but being able to actually talk with one can be infinitely more useful in some situations.
  • Dragon with an Agenda: Squall works for President Wintersea, but he's not happy with the situation, and seems to ally with her because he knows it's the best way to ensure his safety in the Republic. His own personal goal is to return to Nevermoor and take over; anything he does for her is incidental, and he'll try and run interference if her goals directly oppose his own.
  • Eccentric Artist: Frank, the hotel's party planner. If he wasn't a vampire, you might say he lived and breathed party planning — but since a vampire isn't technically alive and doesn't breathe, he's just incredibly obsessed with his job. His parties are generally highly unconventional, incredibly expensive... and usually spectacular successes.
  • Eccentric Mentor: Jupiter North probably isn't the most conventional of mentors, and especially early on Morrigan often wonders about his sanity.
  • 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.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: Crossed with Pragmatic Villainy, but Squall helps Morrigan prevent President Wintersea from entering the Free State not because he morally objects to her bigotry and power-hunger, but because he genuinely fears her actions will lead to Nevermoor's destruction. He wants to take over, and does genuinely see the city as his home, so he has personal reasons for wanting her to be thwarted.
  • Evil Is Not a Toy: Sure, Mildmay. Betray Wunsoc to work with someone who is referred to as "the evilest man to ever live," and then go against his orders to pocket more money for yourself. That won't backfire on you at all.
  • Evil Mentor: Ezra Squall wants to be this to Morrigan, but she's not on board. Hollowpox complicates this dynamic a bit; Squall doesn't want Morrigan to resign herself to working with him, he wants her to want to. And some part of her does want to. Evil or not, Ezra is by far the most useful and qualified of the mentors she's got to teach her anything about Wunder.
  • Eyepatch of Power: Jack sports one, though it's actually an Eyepatch of Power Dampening, as wearing it cancels out Jack's Seer talent and keeps him from sensory overload.
  • 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.
  • Faux Affably Evil: Ezra Squall is polite and even amiable to a degree, but get in his way, or annoy him, or just be in the wrong place at the wrong time, and you'll soon be reminded that he's a complete sociopath and a mass murderer.
  • 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.
  • Flip Personality: It's not always clear when Dearborn/Murgatroyd will change into the other, but it's always obvious once it happens.
  • Foreshadowing: One of the questions during the Book Trial is, "What do you fear most?" The third Trial is the Fright Trial.
  • Freudian Excuse: Set up and instantly demolished in one page with Mildmay. He claims he worked for Squall as a means of proving himself after a lifetime of being overlooked and mocked... but Squall immediately shuts that down and says he's just plain greedy and was in it for a paycheck. Mildmay doesn't deny this.
  • The Friend Nobody Likes: Baz Charlton is disliked by everyone in Wunsoc, save for a few of his candidates, for being an obnoxious, bigoted, loudmouthed boor. He's the only person Jupiter is openly rude to, and even his latest candidate, Cadence, utterly despises him.
  • 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 Gadfly: Cadence, who often uses her hypnotic abilities to screw people over or have them make fools of themselves purely because she thinks it's funny.
  • 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.
  • Hate Sink: Inspector Flintlock, the police inspector who gleefully pursues Morrigan to have her deported because he despises "outsiders." The author has even admitted that he's the one character she's written without any kind of redeeming traits.
  • Hero with Bad Publicity:
    • Morrigan gets a lot of shit, despite the fact that she's a consistently good-hearted and heroic character who repeatedly puts her neck on the line to help others. First it's due to being cursed and thus allegedly Born Unlucky, then it's due to the (true) rumors that she's an illegal immigrant, and then it's because she's a Wundersmith. To be fair, many characters change their opinion when they actually get to know her. In the third book, the Elders actually weaponize this, outing her as a Wundersmith to the public in order to distract the public from the Hollowpox crisis.
    • 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.
  • Immune to Mind Control: Morrigan, probably thanks to being a Wundersmith, is the only person who's almost completely immune to Cadence's mesmerism. She does have a tendency to forget her name early on, but unlike pretty much anyone else she never forgets that Cadence exists, and is not affected by her Jedi Mind Trick.
  • Impossible Thief: Arch can steal anything off anyone.
  • Innocently Insensitive: Due to not growing up in Nevermoor, Morrigan sometimes misunderstands or says something ignorant about the politics there, especially where Wunimals are concerned, but it's never out of malice and she always tries to do better after being corrected. In the second book, it's mentioned that she accidentally seriously offended a bearwun by calling him a bear. By the third, she's always the first to correct someone who does the same.
  • 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.
  • Jedi Mind Trick: Cadence, as a mesmerist, can do this almost effortlessly. People of strong will might be able to resist slightly, but very few people are immune to it.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: There are a few examples here.
    • Fenestra does a good Cats Are Mean impression, but she's very loyal to Jupiter and comes to genuinely care for Morrigan.
    • Jupiter's nephew Jack is a bit of a grouch, but he ultimately means well.
    • Cadence is haughty, aloof and self-centered, and is prone to using her hypnotic abilities to Troll people or even get away with petty criminal acts... but she has a conscience, she cares about doing the right thing, and she is the first of Unit 919 apart from Hawthorne to befriend Morrigan.
    • Thaddea has a nasty temper and is quick to Jerkassery, especially towards Morrigan, but she has a strong sense of honor and is very loyal.
  • The Jinx: Everyone in the Wintersea Republic is convinced that this is the case with cursed children like Morrigan, who tend to get the blame for everything that goes wrong. Even early in the book, Morrigan expects that some of the things she's blamed for isn't actually her fault, it's just that people like having a convenient scapegoat. Turns out none of it is her fault and cursed children aren't unlucky at all; it's all propaganda and fear mongering.
  • King Incognito: Ezra Squall is well-known in the Wintersea Republic, but never seen, being the faceless mastermind behind Squall Industries. This allows him to go out in public as his own assistant, "Mr. Jones," with no trouble.
  • Lack of Empathy:
    • Inspector Flintlock, at least when it comes to immigrants—he seems to view them as less than people, for the crime of... being born in another location and coming to Nevermoor to seek a better life.
    • Squall is out purely for himself and his own self-interest, and repeatedly emphasizes that he has no real emotional connection to anyone. His Villain Respect for Morrigan is born mostly of seeing his own traits in her, and he wishes to shape her in his image with little to no regard for her feelings on the matter. He also says that while he did create the Hollowpox to exterminate Wunimals, he also didn't do it because he hates them—he did it because President Wintersea asked him to, and when the most powerful person in the world gives you an order, you do what you're told, and you don't half-ass it. He has no moral objection to the Wunimal population being wiped out, but he also doesn't actively hate them enough to want to see it happen. He just simply does not care one way or another.
    • Mildmay must be severely lacking in the empathy department to be able to work closely with a group of children for a whole year, caring for them and teaching them and having them look up to him, only to be able to sell some of them to the Ghastly Market without blinking.
  • Little Miss Snarker: Her young age does nothing to slow down Morrigan's snark.
  • Locked Out of the Loop: Morrigan's father, Corvus, has no clue she's alive, or that the Free State even exists. Given that he treated her like dirt the entire time she lived with him, she doesn't lose too much sleep over 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.
  • The Man Behind the Man: Squall created the Hollowpox, just as Morrigan expected, but it wasn't his idea; he was hired to do so by President Wintersea as an attempted genocide against Wunimals.
  • Manipulative Bastard:
    • Ezra Squall's main mode of operation. He can't physically enter Nevermoor himself, but he can manipulate and influence people and events.
    • The Elders have a tendency to make people do what they want them to do, without actually coming out and explaining anything.
    • 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.
    • President Wintersea successfully manipulates Morrigan, using the promise of a cure for Hollowpox to persuade her to help her get into Nevermoor. It's only when she realizes Wintersea is aligned with Squall Industries that she realizes her mistake—and Squall himself has to help her out of it.
  • The Medic: Anah's knack is great medical knowledge, to the point that she can safely remove someone's appendix and put it back at the age of eleven. Much of her time at Wunsoc is spent helping out around the infirmary.
  • Meaningful Name:
    • Morrigan shares her name with an Irish goddess of war and death, who took the form of a crow.
    • "Squall" is a word for a sudden, violent gust of wind and rain, hinting at Ezra Squall's true nature.
    • "Ezra" means help/helper in Hebrew. Ezra Squall wants to help Morrigan (and himself) by making her his apprentice. This doesn't entirely go away when it's revealed he's the Big Bad, though there is definitely a dash of Ironic Name in there.
    • You'll never guess what Miss Cheery's general disposition is.
  • 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.
  • Mind Hive: Dearborn and Murgatroyd, the Scholar Headmistresses of the Schools of the Mundane and Arcane, respectively, are, essentially, two people sharing a body. In the third book, we meet Rook, who is the Scholar Headmistress of the School of the Wundrous. She admits even they don't really know how it works—she's never even "met" Dearborn, who doesn't seem to know she exists yet—but implies there are potentially others lurking inside them.
  • Naughty Is Good: Hawthorne is an irrepressible mischief-maker, prankster and rulebreaker who doesn't take schoolwork very seriously and often gets into trouble, but he is without question the friendliest and most steadfastly loyal person in the series.
  • New Ability Addiction: After beginning to learn how to use Wunder, Morrigan takes very well to it, and finds that, while the potential damage it can cause frightens her, she's eager to learn more and utilize it as much as possible. This drives her to accept Squall as a mentor at the end of the third book. She wants to learn as much as she can, and he has a world of knowledge to offer.
  • Nice Guy:
    • Hawthorne is a sweet, loyal friend who always has a kind word for Morrigan... or if he snarks at her it's good-natured.
    • Morrigan herself is a kindhearted young lady, even through all her snark.
    • Jupiter is a caring and protective mentor who gives Morrigan some much-needed support.
  • 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: 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.
  • OOC Is Serious Business:
    • Normally, Squall is perfectly calm, polite, and regards Morrigan's questions with annoyance or amusement, but he does usually answer them. In Hollowpox, we see him lose his cool for the first time when Morrigan asks him why he killed his friends, people who trusted him. He doesn't actually answer, but visibly loses his temper, snarling, "Wundersmiths don't have friends." We don't know why yet, but it's obvious that this particular question really got to him for some reason.
    • In the same book, he asks Morrigan to help him stop Wintersea from crossing into the Free State, even though he could cross over with her. Since they both know he would do anything to be able to return to his beloved Nevermoor, Morrigan realizes he must really mean it, and Wintersea must be bad.
      There were things about Squall that frightened her, but nothing so much as this. Nothing he'd ever said or done was as terrifying to Morrigan... as seeing him so frightened.
  • 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.
  • Our Presidents Are Different: When Morrigan meets President Wintersea, she insists on being called by her first name, Maud, and encourages Morrigan to speak openly and not apologize so much. She even seems willing to help Nevermoor with its Hollowpox problem, making her a President Personable... except no, she's President Evil.
  • Our Vampires Are Different: Jupiter's party planner is a vampire dwarf (not, as he'll insist, a "dwarf vampire") named Frank. He's more a Friendly Neighborhood Vampire than anything; rather moody but his parties are spectacular.
  • Panthera Awesome: The Magnificats. Giant, intelligent cats with the gift of speech... and sarcasm.
  • Parental Substitute: Though Jupiter's role as a captain in the Wundrous Society keeps him busy, and he sometimes keeps a few too many secrets, he soon becomes like a father figure to Morrigan. Particularly in Wundersmith their interactions take on a father-daughter tone.
  • 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.
  • Persona Non Grata: The Courage Square Massacre got Squall banned from the Free State, being physically unable to cross the border. He now resides in the Wintersea Republic, trying to find a way to cross back over.
  • Pet the Dog:
    • Cadence gets a lot of them towards Morrigan. It's thanks to her interference that Flintlock is unable to deport Morrigan at the end of the first book, and in the third book, she "borrows" a puppy and brings it with her when she visits Morrigan in the hospital, since she thought she would like it.
    • 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.
  • 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." Wunsoc's personal law enforcement, the Smoke, is only marginally better.
  • Politically Incorrect Villain: Baz Charlton and Inspector Flintlock, two of the most despicable characters, openly dislike and are prejudiced against immigrants, especially those that crossed the border illegally. (Never mind if they were forced to do so, or if it was a life-or-death situation.)
  • Polyglot: Mahir's knack is that he's an expert linguist, speaking over fifty languages by the time he's eleven.
  • 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.
  • Pragmatic Villainy:
    • Squall created the Hollowpox, but he also knows how to cure it. Not out of some sort of change of heart, but because he has enough common sense to not create a weapon he can't adequately combat, thus putting him in a tight spot he can't get out of. The cure for Hollowpox is also a very handy bargaining chip.
    • He works for Wintersea not out of loyalty to her or her party—he doesn't like her and is even afraid of her—but because she's the president, and if you're trying to establish yourself and flourish in a new country, pissing off the president isn't really the way to go about it.
    • On the flipside, he works with Morrigan to prevent Wintersea from entering Nevermoor, because he knows she wishes to take over the Free State. And if she takes over, how can he take over? (On a more serious note, he genuinely doesn't want to see Nevermoor destroyed, and he fully believes that's what will happen if Wintersea is allowed to enter the city.)
  • 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.
    • Jupiter is an entirely straight example, using his position of privilege to protect those under his care, and fighting tooth and nail to make Nevermoor a better place for everyone.
    • Miss Cheery is a kind and open-minded young woman who does all she can to protect Unit 919, Morrigan included. She also gets over the shock of Morrigan being a Wundersmith rather quickly.
    • Miss Murgatroyd plays with this, in that she's a spiteful Sadist Teacher, but she also realizes Morrigan needs to be educated on her abilities, and that treating her like a threat will only make it more likely she'll actually become one.
    • The Elders zig-zag like crazy. The way Wunsoc has been run for centuries values the preservation of Wunsoc above all else, meaning they're ready and willing to throw Morrigan to the wolves if it'll benefit them. However, they individually don't seem like they're necessarily bad people.
    • Mr. Mildmay is a subversion, at first seeming like a Cool Teacher before revealing himself to be anything but.
    • President Wintersea is a subversion. She's very polite, seems to like Morrigan, and is willing to negotiate a peace in order to share a cure for the Hollowpox with the Free State... except she's behind the creation of the Hollowpox in the first place, and only wishes to exploit the situation to be allowed to cross into the Free State and take over.
  • Really Royalty Reveal: It's revealed in the second book that Lambeth is actually a Princess from the Royal House of Ra, and comes from Far East Sang in the Wintersea Republic. She keeps her royal status hidden because as a citizen of the Republic she's not even supposed to know about Nevermoor, much less go to school there.
  • 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.
  • Repetitive Name: Subtly done with Morrigan's father, Corvus Crow. "Corvus" is the Latin word for "crow," meaning his name is essentially Crow Crow.
  • Rewarded as a Traitor Deserves: Mildmay pays very dearly for betraying Wunsoc, as Squall doesn't hesitate to turn on him the second he proves himself more trouble than he's worth.
  • Sadist Teacher:
    • Professor Onstald firmly believes all Wundersmiths are inherently evil, and makes sure Morrigan knows that she'll become evil, too. Then you find out he was deliberately lying about many of the Wundersmiths' so-called evil acts, meaning he can't even claim ignorance for his horrible bigotry.
    • Murgatroyd has a reputation as this, and while all students are rightfully terrified of her, she's actually one of the more reasonable people at Wunsoc where Morrigan's education is concerned.
  • 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.
  • Secret Secret-Keeper: Jack found out Morrigan was a Wundersmith before even she knew it, because he saw her without his eyepatch on and could see the Wunder gathered around her. Jupiter made him promise to keep his mouth shut.
  • Seer: Lambeth's knack is that she can predict the future... but only a few seconds ahead, and she can't control when it happens. Still, it does worlds of good in action sequences, when knowing you need to get the heck out of the way three seconds in advance can be the difference between life and death. It also comes in handy when warning your friends that a door's about to open and they'll hit their head if they don't move.
  • 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.
  • Sleazy Politician: Morrigan's father Corvus is a Chancellor in the Wintersea Republic, and a complete tool, treating his assistants like dirt and always looking for a way to boost his approval ratings. Despite being a terrible person, he doesn't actually seem to be corrupt, however, if only because we have yet to see him at work.
  • 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.
  • Spell My Name with a "The": The Big Bad of this series is known as The Wundersmith. He's so infamous and so powerful, he eclipses every other Wundersmith that ever lived — unfortunately.
  • Stepford Snarker: Morrigan, probably as a result of her upbringing. If she's nervous, troubled or upset, she tends to get sarcastic.
  • Supreme Chef:
    • Francis is a spectacular cook, enough to get him into Wunsoc. Morrigan and the others love sampling whatever he's cooking.
    • Downplayed compared to Francis, but Martha is also noted to be a great cook.
  • 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.
  • Tragic Keepsake: The only thing Morrigan misses from her old life at Crow Manor is her toy bunny, Emmett, who she's had since she's a baby. It turns out that it used to belong to her mother, too. Jupiter gets it back for her.
  • Tranquil Fury: Jupiter doesn't lose his temper and fly off the handle, but if he gives you a Death Glare and begins talking very calmly and quietly, run.
  • Trash of the Titans: The angel Israfel is a huge slob. Morrigan compares his dressing room to a toxic waste dump.
  • Uncertain Doom: Mildmay is last seen fleeing the Ghastly Market, with Squall promising he'll "take care of him." The next day, all the Elders know is that Mildmay is on the run, but given who's after him, it seems unlikely he survived for much longer.
  • 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.
  • Upper-Class Twit: Henry Mildmay is introduced as a sympathetic version of this; he speaks in a "posh" voice and seems not very together, but he's earnest and enthusiastic. He also turns out to be in league with the bad guys.
  • Used to Be a Sweet Kid: Morrigan's stunned when she visits various Ghostly Hours to learn the Wundrous Arts, and sees Ezra Squall as a student, just like her. She's even more stunned when his past self doesn't seem evil or angry at all; he just seems like a normal, happy kid. It gets very hard for her to think of Ezra, the boy and Squall, the monster, as the same person, even though she knows they are.
  • Villain Has a Point: What Squall says to Morrigan about people not understanding Wundersmiths' gifts to the world is actually true—most of the "evil" acts Onstald told Morrigan about were actually benevolent (or neutral) upon further inspection. Not that Squall helps his own case much... He also turns out to be dead-on when he says Wunsoc will throw Morrigan under the bus one moment and then expect her to be a hero the next, all depending on what's most useful at the time. As he puts it, "Wundersmiths get all of the blame and none of the credit."
  • Villains Never Lie: A variant. Squall lies like crazy, and he admits as much to Morrigan... but he insists he has never lied to her.
  • Villain Respect: Squall seems genuinely pleased whenever Morrigan displays control over Wunder or does something impressive, mostly because he sees a reflection of himself in her.
  • Villain Takes an Interest: Squall's entire plan seems to hinge on getting Morrigan to agree to be his apprentice and heir. Why he chose her, out of the dozens of Wundersmith children who have been born since his exile, is a mystery.
  • Villain with Good Publicity:
    • In the Wintersea Republic, Ezra Squall is the founder of Squall Industries, which powers the world with Wunder, and one of the richest and most influential men in the country. They have no idea of his bloody past (and present).
    • President Wintersea is thought of as a fair-minded and sensible politician, when in reality she's a power-hungry bigot.
  • "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.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: In the third book, Cadence calls Morrigan out on neglecting her friends in favor of her studies, and asking her to use her mesmerism to help her steal a book. However, she's quick to forgive when Morrigan apologizes, and admits she understands why Morrigan's so fixated on her work at Sub-Nine.
  • What Kind of Lame Power Is Heart, Anyway?: Mildmay's super-impressive ability that got him into the Wundrous Society is... he makes really awesome maps! It's actually a very useful skill, but it lacks a certain "wow" factor, and he's noticeably annoyed by this.
  • We Can Rule Together: Ezra Squall is very fond of telling Morrigan this... in fact, he makes no secret that as far as he's concerned it's inevitable that she'll join his side.
  • The Wonka: Jupiter North, who has been described as "part Willy Wonka and part Arthur Weasley," is an Eccentric Mentor to the extreme, and he says and does so many nonsensical things that he comes across as a total lunatic... but he's one of Nevermoor's greatest heroes, he's a brilliant employer and authority figure to the staff of the Hotel Deucalion, and 95% of the time he's in total (or at least almost total) control of the situation. (The 5% of the time when he's not in control of the situation tends to be Wundersmith-related, because even Jupiter can't stand up to a Wundersmith... and unlike Morrigan he isn't Immune to Mind Control.)
  • World of Snark: This is a very sarcasm-heavy series.
  • Would Hurt a Child:
    • In a roundabout way, Flintlock has no moral issue deporting a child, even though everyone is telling him she'll be killed if she can't claim asylum in Nevermoor.
    • Squall has been killing the children born on Eventide for years, so they don't take too much Wunder. Even Morrigan, whom he decided to spare, he has no issue terrifying and bullying.
  • 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.
  • You Can't Go Home Again: Ezra Squall is banished from the Free State, which angers him because he considers it, specifically Nevermoor, to be his home. He'd give anything to return, and has been visiting on the Gossamer for years.

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