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Wundersmith: The Calling of Morrigan Crow: Nevermoor, Book 2

Book review by
Jan Carr, Common Sense Media
Wundersmith: The Calling of Morrigan Crow: Nevermoor, Book 2 Book Poster Image
Charming fantasy of misfit girl casts a magical spell.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Elevated vocabulary presented in clear context for easy decoding, though it never overwhelms the story -- e.g., "unflappable boy," "a copse of trees," "implacable person." (Morrigan herself has to look up that word!) Some Britishisms sprinkled throughout: "brolly," "dustman." Crisp, fresh literary writing.

Positive Messages

If the world doesn't always understand or acknowledge your special qualities, you can value and develop them yourself. Turn to people who appreciate, love you. True friends will support you when others exclude you. It's human to sometimes feel envy, anger. Sometimes people mistrust things they don't understand or have experience with. You can choose to use your powers for good or evil.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Morrigan is a strong, powerful girl character. Though Jupiter supports her emotionally, he's often gone, so she's resourceful in figuring out her own way. She's brave, adventurous. Jupiter, a loving parent figure, talks to her directly, frankly about her feelings and situation, comes to her aid with Elders, others. Hawthorne is a true friend, always takes Morrigan's side, even when it's unpopular.

Violence

Violence in fantasy context. Bonesmen assemble "from the jumbled leftovers of the dead." "The Ghastly Market" has a table of assorted "unimal organs, fresh and bloody." There's an exhibit of people preserved just at the moment before death.

Sex
Language
Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Adults drink at social functions. Adult woman in crowd smokes.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Wundersmith: The Calling of Morrigan Crow, by Australian author Jessica Townsend, is the very worthy sequel to her best-selling fantasy Nevermoor: The Trials of Morrigan Crow. It features a misfit girl developing strong magical powers, who has a wry, feisty take on her circumstances, making her a strong female role model. There's some dark fantasy violence or threat of it, complete with gruesome references to monsters made of graveyard bones, and a head preserved in a bottle. But there are also plenty of light, playful fantasy elements, making this a fun, enticing world. Unusual for a fantasy, the emotional life of the protagonist is expertly drawn. Morrigan's feelings of insecurity as an outsider will ring true and resonate meaningfully with readers.

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What's the story?

In WUNDERSMITH: THE CALLING OF MORRIGAN CROW, Morrigan has been admitted to the elite Wundrous Society, and starts school with the other inductees. But because the Elders know she's a rare "Wundersmith," they view her as dangerous, and restrict her education. While the others in her unit are off learning thrilling subjects like dragon riding, Morrigan's stuck with a tedious professor and author of a dusty history of Wundersmiths, who drills her on their evil ways. Morrigan is demoralized, and some of the students shun her. The plot thickens when Morrigan begins to develop her Wundersmith magic and to experience powers that feel confusing but thrilling. But who's trying to blackmail her Unit and expose her Wundersmith identity? Who's abducting people and "unimals" to sell at the Ghastly Market? Can Morrigan learn to harness her power? And if she does, can she choose to use it for good, or are Wundersmiths inherently evil?

Is it any good?

Move over, Harry Potter. Morrigan Crow's come to town, and she and her Wundrous world cast an irresistible magical spell. Wundersmith: The Calling of Morrigan Crow has it all: a well-defined and enchanting fantasy world, page-turning suspense, hairpin story turns, a strong female lead, real emotional resonance, and fresh humor complete with quick, quippy dialogue. And to top it all off, it's gorgeously written.

Author Townsend never overwhelms the story with too many fantastic details, ensuring that the reader doesn't have to slog through a bog of invented lore. The fantasy that's included is choice -- for instance, a map class featuring a dollhouse-like facsimile of the city that comes to life, and a secret portal that delivers the students to their own train station and Hometrain to school. This sequel brings back many of the characters readers will remember from the first book but also introduces some fun new ones, particularly teachers, since the kids are now in school. Who wouldn't want to curl up with this book and get lost in its world?

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the magical world in Wundersmith: The Calling of Morrigan Crow. How is it similar to other magical worlds in other books you've read? How is it different? What are your favorite elements?

  • Do you ever feel different or excluded? Does your envy ever feel like Morrigan's, "a hungry wolf she couldn't control ... howling, deep in her heart?" What helps you when you feel this way?

  • Why do you think the author makes Morrigan's powers arise unexpectedly when she's angry? When you're angry, do you ever feel that your anger has a frightening power, or life of its own?

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