30 Books in 30 Days, Vol. 3
I don’t read a lot of middle grade anymore, but when I do, this is exactly what I want. What a magical good time. The combo of whimsical worldbuilding, magical trials, friendship and found family, secrets, and darker elements that many people would say don’t belong in children’s books makes for something rather intoxicating (I’ve never yet read a favorite children’s book without those darker elements btw). I’ve seen a lot of people talking about the book series that shall not be named in relation to this book, and I don’t think they’re wrong. If I would have read this book closer to the actual age range its meant for, I would have lost my mind over it. As it is, I just had a really good time and I can’t believe I haven’t picked up book two yet (just ordered it from Pango while writing this, so hopefully will get to it soon).
Morrigan Crow is a cursed child. In her world, this means she was a baby born on the holiday of Eventide. All children born on this night are cursed, and die before or on their twelfth birthdays. Before they die, they bring bad luck everywhere they go. They are blamed for anything and everything that goes wrong in a community. On top of this fun blessing bestowed upon her, Morrigan is also cursed with a terrible, unloving family (her grandma seems all right). But Eventide comes a year early, and Morrigan flees into another world (a kind of pocket universe, I think?) with a man called Jupiter North who takes her under his wing and wants her to try to enter the Wundrous Society, a society of magic wielders who all have a special “knack.” The society is very exclusive, so the trials are intense. Also faffing around the edges of the story is the specter of a man called the Wondersmith, Ezra Squall, who was banished hundreds of years before for committing a massacre.
Everything about this book worked for me: the worldbuilding, the characters and their arcs, the plot, the style of the writing. Morrigan is a classic middle grade protagonist, smart and resourceful and pulling at your heart strings. Jupiter makes for an interesting and frustrating mentor. And the details of this world were so wacky at times, it was a constant surprise. Jessica Townsend basically channeled her childhood imagination for this book (my favorite bits being the enormous talking cat who is head of housekeeping at Jupiter’s hotel where they all live, and the chandelier at the hotel that grows and changes into things like pirate ships at its own whims).
Would honestly recommend this one for both younger readers and adult ones looking to have some fun.