Review of The Dark Lord Clementine

The Dark Lord Clementine
by Sarah Jean Horwitz
Intermediate, Middle School    Algonquin    329 pp.    g
10/19    978-1-61620-894-3    $17.95

Clementine’s father, the Dark Lord Elithor Morcerous, has been cursed by the Whittle Witch and is unable to fulfill his dastardly duties. Clementine takes it upon herself to run Castle Brack, with its eerie silence and magical libraries, but the enchantments around her home have begun to wane and she needs help from the village outside the castle’s bounds. The more she learns about her father’s subjects, though, the more Clementine begins to doubt that wickedness is her true calling. With the help of a talking sheep, a duplicitous unicorn hunter, and a boy who wants to become a knight, she embarks on an adventure to rescue her father and new friends from the Whittle Witch and perhaps change her destiny in the process. The castle is full of sorcery and cleverly devised magical objects, and the legends about the mountains surrounding it give Horwitz’s imagined world a unique history. Over the course of Clementine’s adventures, she learns that morality is not black-and-white for anyone, good or evil. The story has plenty of heart and charm, including entertaining chapter titles such as “A Stranger Comes to Town, or Why All Hair Ribbons Should Just Be Black and No One Should Talk to Anyone Else, Ever.” Themes of trust, forgiveness, and belonging deepen this enjoyable fantasy.

From the January/February 2020 Horn Book Magazine.

Sarah Berman

Sarah Berman is a middle school special education assistant. She attended the University of St. Andrews, where she studied literature and wrote a dissertation about violence in children's fiction. 

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