Tuesday, April 26, 2016

The Secret of Dreadwillow Carse--Shelf Awareness

New review in Shelf Awareness for Readers!

Middle-Grade Review: The Secret of Dreadwillow Carse

The Secret of Dreadwillow Carse by Brian Farrey (Algonquin Young Readers, $16.95 hardcover, 256p., ages 8-12, 9781616205058)

Brian Farrey's (The Vengekeep Prophecies series; With or Without You) haunting middle-grade fantasy explores a peaceful monarchy where all the subjects are perpetually happy. Yet, within its borders, there's a shadowy bog called Dreadwillow Carse, a nasty swampland that smells of "spoiled milk and olive juice" and feeds on sadness.

On the morning she is officially named Queen Ascendant by her dying mother, 12-year-old Princess Jeniah is warned never to enter Dreadwillow Carse, or the monarchy will fall. But Jeniah believes that to be a proper queen she must understand the threat posed by the Carse. Her mostly inscrutable tutor says she is "too strangely clever for her own good."

Nearby in Emberfell, a young girl named Aon Greenlaw, the only one among the ever-merry villagers who feels grief, finds herself drawn to the Carse's gloom. Her mother left long ago, and when her father disappears, too, Aon feels more broken than ever. When Aon and Jeniah meet by chance, they hit it off, "weaving a web of promises and whispers." They make a deal: Aon will explore the Carse in Jeniah's stead, if the princess will find her father. But when Aon doesn't return from her mission, Princess Jeniah must decide whether to go in after her, and risk the welfare of the monarchy.

Told in the alternating viewpoints of Jeniah and Aon, this vivid, philosophical tale investigates what part sadness plays in defining a person, the cost of happiness achieved at the expense of others, and the importance of finding enough courage to make wise choices. --Lynn Becker, blogger and host of Book Talk, a monthly online discussion of children's books for SCBWI.

Discover: In this haunting middle-grade fantasy, Princess Jeniah puts the monarchy at risk when she enters the Dreadwillow Carse, a dark, mysterious swamp that blights the otherwise harmonious realm.

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