The Dark Lord Clementine
Written by Sarah Jean Horwitz
Algonquin Young Readers 10/1/2019
335 pages Ages 9—13
Genre: Middle Grade Book, Fantasy
The new face of big evil is a little . . . small.
Dastardly deeds aren’t exactly the first things that come to mind when one hears the name “Clementine,” but as the sole heir of the infamous Dark Lord Elithor, twelve-year-old Clementine Morcerous has been groomed since birth to be the best worst?) Evil Overlord she can be. Everything changes the day her father is cursed by a mysterious rival.
Now, Clementine must not only search for a way to break the curse, but also take on the full responsibilities of the Dark Lord. But when it’s time for her to perform dastardly deeds against the townspeople—including her brand-new friends—she begins to question her father’s code of good and evil. What if the Dark Lord Clementine doesn’t want to be a dark lord after all? (from publisher)
Clementine Morcerous awoke one morning to discover that her father had no nose.
Why I like this book:
Lord Elithor has not turned in a dastardly deed in a very long time, for which he is receiving flocks of messages from the Overlords. The entire castle seems to be falling apart. Elithor’s magic had made everything on the farm work, as he likes it— silently. Not one animal made a sound. I doubt the wind whistled as it passed through the castle gate. That was before.
Clementine is running ragged with the deteriorating farm, feeding her father (the cook ran off), and trying to find information about the Whittle Witch. Clementine has no friends, no other family, and now no cook—and dad in his tower—leaving her rather lonely. As the daughter of the local dark lord, other kids never invite Clementine to play and she is home schooled. All she has for company is the large chicken she created from an errant spell and a black sheep named Dave. One day she receives her own message from the Overlords instructing her to take over for her father until he returns to his dark duties. Clementine has never performed a dastardly deed.
I really love The Dark Lord Clementine. Ms. Horwitz drew me in with “. . . no nose” and kept me with her wordplay, interesting humor, and the many lovable and believable characters. The world of Castle Brack and the surrounding areas easily crystalized in my brain, allowing me to envision every place Clementine went. The characters are believable and as well rounded as witches and dark lords can be.
I love smart writing. The Dark Lord Clementine is extremely smart writing. One minute I laughed over a pun or a word used curiously and the next an arrow flew by scaring me wits. The magicked characters—Gricken, Dave, the nightmares, and the unicorn, among others— and the human characters, such as Darka Wesk-Starzec, (a hunter of monsters), and the hedgewitches, (I swear I kept reading hedgehogs.), are truly imaginative and seem so real. Clementine’s hair color reflecting her current mood is good. Backstory non-intrusively slips into the story.
Ms. Horwitz story and the world she created (worlds—there are a few) made the act of reading easy and fun. After several chapters, some fantasy novels begin putter out. Not Ms. Horwitz, she has surprises to keep your wonder alive right down to the spectacular finish. Parents can relax knowing their child is reading a one-of-a-kind story with little real violence. Late night reading will not cause early morning nightmares. The relatively short chapters make it the perfect bedtime or classroom storytime.
I can go on and on gushing about The Dark Lord Clementine, but I will end by saying, “Kids are going to love this story and want a sequel.”
I have a couple of curious questions that need answered. How do Clementine and Elithor Spoiler Alert? Does Clementine’s Spoiler Alert continue Spoiler Alert, and if so, does Elithor react by Spoiler Alert? And what does Spoiler Alert do about Lord Clementine, as she gets older? Oh, and does Gricken lose weight as spells are expelled? Will the Morcerous’s ever get a new Spoiler Alert, keeping Clementine out of the Spoiler Alert?
So many questions. We really must have a sequel!
But . . . all that is lacking are discussion questions. Not required but nice to have. Questions can often help readers understand an author’s thoughts and processes, in addition to gauging reading retention. Okay, maybe not all that, but they are nice to have, especially for teachers.
“Clementine Morcerous awoke one morning to discover that her father had no nose.”
I really like the opening sentence. Immediately I wanted to dig into the book and carved out a big chunk of my day to do just that. I just could not picture an evil Dark Lord not having a nose. How is this supposed to frighten me?
“Father …let’s face it. You’re just . . . not much of a villain.”
I cannot explain without spoiling part of the story for you. Let’s just say Clementine was not thrilled her father’s most current dastardly deed amounted to turning the villagers purple. You are going to love this story.
The Dark Lord Clementine. Copyright © 2019 by Sarah Jean Horwitz. Published by Algonquin Young Readers /Workman Publishing, New York, NY.
Available at Amazon
Copyright © 2019 by Sue Morris/Kid Lit Reviews. All Rights Reserved