EXCLUSIVE: Fox stepped up to acquire screen rights to author Jessica Townsend’s Nevermoor, a novel that created buzz at the Frankfurt Book Fair and just sold publishing rights to Hachette Book Group, which landed English-language rights in an eight-publisher auction. Pub deals have closed in 16 territories so far for a planned series that had involved parties using Harry Potter potential as a reference point.

Not surprisingly, several studios chased the movie rights to a novel that will be published next year. The book tells the story of Morrigan Crow, a girl born on Eventide, who’s fated to die at midnight on her ninth birthday. She is spared when rescued by a mysterious stranger ,and after they are chased by black-smoke hounds and shadowy hunters on horseback, they escape to a secret city called Nevermoor. Morrigan’s rescuer, Jupiter, owns the eccentric Hotel Deucalion and has chosen Morrigan to contend for a place in the city’s most prestigious society. The young girl must compete in four difficult and dangerous trials against hundreds of other children, each boasting an extraordinary talent.

The author is represented by Paradigm, and the lit agent was the Bent Agency. Townsend is Australia-based and previously was a copywriter and the editor of a children’s wildlife magazine for Steve Irwin’s Australia Zoo.