I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.The Secret of Dreadwillow Carse by Brian Farrey
Published by Algonquin Young Readers on April 19th 2016
Number of Pages: 240
Genres: Adventure, Fairy Tale, Fantasy, Middle Grade, Mystery
Purchase: At Amazon
In the center of the verdant Monarchy lies Dreadwillow Carse, a black and desolate bog that the happy people of the land do their best to ignore. Little is known about it, except for one dire warning: If any monarch enters Dreadwillow Carse, then the Monarchy will fall. Twelve-year-old Princess Jeniah yearns to know what the marsh could possibly conceal that might topple her family’s thousand-year reign of peace and prosperity.
Meanwhile, in the nearby town of Emberfell, where everyone lives with unending joy, a girl named Aon hides a sorrow she can never reveal. She knows that something in the carse--something that sings a haunting tune only Aon can hear--holds the cure for her sadness. Yet no matter how many times she tries to enter, the terror-inducing dreadwillow trees keep her away.
After a chance meeting, Princess Jeniah and Aon hatch a plan to send Aon into the heart of the carse to unlock its darkest secret. But when Aon doesn’t return, a guilt-stricken Jeniah must enter the carse to try and rescue her friend--even if it means risking the entire Monarchy.
The Secret of Dreadwillow Carse weaves together classic fairy-tale elements--a princess, a forbidden land, and a dangerous quest--in a clever, fast-paced adventure that explores the importance of asking questions and the power of friendship.
I can honestly say, this book wasn’t what I was expecting. It was better! I went in thinking it would be a fairytale story about friendship and magic. And while it was, it was also so much more.
Princess Jeniah and Aon were very well-developed. We got to see not only how they became friends, but also hopes and fears. Jeniah is afraid she won’t be as good a Queen as her mother was. Aon thinks she’s a failure because she isn’t happy all the time.
The mystery surrounding the Carse was more complex than I had expected. I loved learning all the twists the book throws at you, and the way the mystery was revealed to the reader as well as Aon and then Jeniah was perfect.
The decision Jeniah has to make at the end wasn’t an easy one. And while you hope for one choice, you don’t know which way she will actually choose until it happens. That, along with many other things through the book makes the story believable. It’s engrossing, and you are easily able to connect with both main characters.
All ages will like this book I think. It’s more complex than what I’m used to in middle grade books, without being confusing or boring. If you haven’t added this to your to buy list, you should!