Review: Hollowpox by Jessica Townsend
Hollowpox by Jessica Townsend
Published by Hachette Australia
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Strange things are happening in Nevermoor...
Morrigan Crow faces her most dangerous challenge yet in her latest Wundrous adventure. The highly anticipated third book in the award-winning Nevermoor series from one of Australia's bestselling and most loved authors.
Morrigan Crow and her friends have survived their first year as proud scholars of the elite Wundrous Society, helped bring down the nefarious Ghastly Market, and proven themselves loyal to Unit 919. Now Morrigan faces a new, exciting challenge: to master the mysterious Wretched Arts of the Accomplished Wundersmith, and control the power that threatens to consume her.
But a strange and frightening illness has taken hold of Nevermoor, turning infected Wunimals into mindless, vicious unnimals on the hunt. As victims of the Hollowpox multiply, panic spreads. And with the city she loves in a state of fear, Morrigan quickly realises it's up to her to find a cure for the Hollowpox, even if it will put her - and everyone in Nevermoor - in more danger than she ever imagined.
Hollowpox: The Hunt for Morrigan Crow is the third instalment of Jessica Townsend’s wonderful Nevermoor series and follows on from the events of Nevermoor and Wundersmith. This middle grade fantasy series is incredibly well loved and therefore extremely hyped, which can risk disappointment. However, I wasn’t at all nervous about whether Hollowpox would meet my expectations. By book three, an author has earned my trust and it perfectly delivered everything I expected from Jessica Townsend: a comforting and cosy read that was somehow still jam packed with adventure, mystery and turmoil.
This is a review for the third book in a series, if you haven’t read Nevermoor or Wundersmith there may be spoilers. I have a review of Nevermoor on my blog so you could read that or just go read the books.
The world of Nevermoor is a magical and vibrant setting, each book adding rich detail. The protagonist, Morrigan, is an absolute delight, an endearing (though not without flaws) child who is growing into her own power. In Hollowpox this power, and the history of Nevermoor, Wundersmith and the Wunderous Society is explored in more depth. Jessica Townsend does an amazing job of world building, adding layers of plot in a way that is engaging and fast-paced. You really slip straight into the world, with little effort to remember what has happened previously. She somehow manages to seamlessly refresh all pertinent details, without you really noticing. The inclusion of new characters, as well as the development of those we already know, builds interest really well.
Jessica Townsend is very skilled at writing complex characters and exploring dynamics between adults and children in ways that are accessible and feel very real. I think a really important aspect of children’s books can be providing kids with a safe place to explore complex ideas, and the complexity of human nature and society. Alongside magical adventure the Nevermoor series explores all sorts of issues such as inclusivity and privilege with subtlety and clarity, as the characters learn and grow.
I don’t want to spoil anything if you haven’t read the book yet, but I want to vaguely mention just a few of my favourite discoveries or occurrences in Hollowpox:
- The library excursion
- The Great Sulk
- Ghostly Hours
In her author’s note, she wrote that it’s a particularly weird year to be releasing a book that includes what amounts to a major pandemic as a major part of the plot. Despite the fact this was planned and mostly written before COVID-19, it really reads as having a lot of parallels with what has happened this year. I think perhaps this shows how predictable people can be in the way they react to problems. I thought she wrote this aspect of the story really well, though it was a little spooky to read this year. I hope it also might help children make sense of current events.
I know I use the word delightful way too often in reviews. But ‘delighted’ is the best word to encapsulate my feeling when reading this series. Hollowpox is a delightful addition to the series: it is imaginative and unique; it is intriguing and surprising, while simultaneously familiar. I can’t wait to see what happens next.
Jessica Townsend lives on the Sunshine Coast in Queensland. Her pet fascinations include public transport, ancient cities, hotels, opera singers, Halloween, secret societies and gigantic cats - all of which have weaselled their way into Nevermoor: The Trials of Morrigan Crow, her award-winning first novel released in 2017. Wundersmith: The Calling of Morrigan Crow, the second book in this record-breaking series, was released in 2018.
You can find her online at @digressica on Twitter or Instagram