Wundersmith: The Calling of Morrigan Crow

Please note that this review may contain spoilers for Nevermoor: The Trials of Morrigan Crow. You can read my review of this [here].

Wundersmith: The Calling of Morrigan Crow was written by Jessica Townsend and first published in 2018. It forms the second part of the Nevermoor series and tells the continuing story of Morrigan Crow – a young girl with a frightening power. As the novel carries on shortly after its prequel – Nevermoor: The Trials of Morrigan Crow (2017) – left off, I would strong advise reading the stories in order to fully appreciate them.

Morrigan Crow has earned her place in the Wunderous Society but has not earned the trust of her fellow students. She had hoped to gain an education, learn more about her abilities as a Wundersmith and find a family in her Unit. Unfortunately, she quickly finds that only Cadence and Hawthorne want anything to do with her. Everyone is too scared of what she is capable of – and that includes her teachers. Everyone that knows about Morrigan’s powers is ordered to never speak of it, and told that the entire Unit will be expelled if anyone fails to keep this secret.

While her classmates are allowed to take all kinds of wonderful classes, Morrigan is forced to spend every day with Professor Onstald – an elderly tortoisewun who teaches her about every atrocity that a Wundersmith has ever committed. Although Jupiter assures her that her powers do not make her a villain, Morrigan is starting to have her doubts. After all, Professor Onstald is an expert in Wundersmith history and he is convinced that they always turn evil.

Things get worse still for Morrigan when her Unit starts to receive sinister notes, threatening to reveal Morrigan’s secret unless her classmates do certain embarrassing, exhausting and dangerous things. This quickly makes them hate her even more, and this resentment in turn causes Morrigan’s powers to become unpredictable. When people start to disappear, the Society are quick to turn on the Wundersmith in their midst. Will Morrigan be able to rein in her powers and clear her name? Or will she be forced to rely on the guidance of an old enemy…

I really enjoyed reading Nevermoor and so was excited to get my hands on Wundersmith. Ultimately, I am sad to say that I was left a little disappointed. That’s not to say that Wundersmith is a bad book by any means. I just found that it was a bit of a mixed bag that lacked the freshness of the original.

To begin with the positive, the world-building is still fantastic. The City of Nevermoor is as whimsical as ever, but the novel this time also took the time to explore its less desirable corners. From the tension of the Ghastly Market to the pure horror of the Museum of Stolen Memories, this time the reader sees past the wonder of Nevermoor to its dark heart. It’s not just the Wundersmiths that are to be feared and not every human is as wonderful as those that live in the Hotel Deucalion. Yet, as scary as the book could be in places, it was still written with its target audience in mind and never felt inappropriate.

Yet, despite the fact that Wundersmith contained some gems of originality, it was impossible not to compare the novel to the Harry Potter series. While this wasn’t even really a factor in Nevermoor, the addition of a magical school and the scenes set at the Nevermoor Bazaar and Ghastly Market (which were uncomfortably similar to Diagon Alley and Knockturn Alley) did seem a little too familiar. Unfortunately, once I started to notice the similarities, I felt that this detracted from my overall enjoyment of the tale.

Wundersmith was also not quite as focused as the previous novel. While everything did come together in the climax, it was slow to start and it did not feel as though Morrigan was really working towards anything until late in the tale. It merely followed her through her unrelentingly depressing school life as she became more and more worried about her destiny as a Wundersmith.

Yet, despite the fact that it could be quite bleak in places, I still found the novel enjoyable to read. I never got bored as I was genuinely curious to see if things would improve for poor little Morrigan. The climax of Nevermoor felt really optimistic, but things turned sour for her so quickly at the start of Wundersmith. While I could not really get my head around the logic of why her teachers felt that mistreating a potentially all-powerful sorceress was a great idea (they did not want her to become a threat, so they treated her abysmally?), the story did keep my interest throughout because I was curious to see how Morrigan would prove her worth to them.

The climax of the story was thrilling, neatly wrapping up this phase of the plot and containing a pretty decent twist that I did not see coming. While Morrigan’s adventure concluded nicely, the story still left it clear what direction her story will take from here. It also left me feeling optimistic about what will come next as, once again, the story ended on a very positive note for Morrigan.

As with the previous book, Morrigan really does steal the show in this story. She is still a wonderfully sympathetic character and receives a great deal of development this time around. The story focus on her slowly unravelling what it means to be a Wundersmith, particularly as she rebels against the cruel Professor Onstald and his belief that no Wundersmith has ever used their power for good. As Morrigan learns to use her powers and faces her fears about her destiny, I was left curious to see what the future will hold for her.

Yet the other characters in the story do not get as much opportunity to grow. Due to their fear of her, Morrigan does not get a lot of time to bond with the other members of her Unit. Her isolation also pushes a lot of the supporting characters – including Hawthorne, Jack and Jupiter – into the background as they simply don’t feature in Morrigan’s life as much. While this adds to Morrigan’s sense of isolation, I personally felt that it was a bit of a shame. The supporting cast in Nevermoor were so colourful and I missed having them around.

Ezra Squall is also still a bit of a one-note villain. While his presence is felt throughout the story, he still did not feel like that much of a threat and I certainly never empathised with him. Although he wants Morrigan on side, he always behaves like a typical bad guy and does not seem to have any redeemable qualities that would prove Professor Onstald’s assessment of Wundersmiths wrong.

Anyhow, I think that about covers everything. While I did enjoy reading Wundersmith and am curious to see where it will go next, I did not think that it was quite as strong as Nevermoor. The story was a lot slower to find its feet and felt a little similar to Harry Potter in places. Here’s hoping that the next instalment will be a little more original.

Wundersmith: The Calling of Morrigan Crow can be purchased as a Hardback, eBook & Audio Book on Amazon.co.uk

1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Kath
    Jan 08, 2019 @ 23:11:26

    Just read your review which articulated my thoughts exactly. Whilst admiring books 1 and 2, I wasn’t sure why I wasn’t absolutely taken with them, just couldn’t pin down what didn’t quite work……you did that. Kath


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