THE DARK LORD CLEMENTINE, by Sarah Jean Horwitz , Algonquin Young Readers, Oct. 1, 2019, Hardcover, $17.95 (ages 9-13)
What do you do when your parents’ expectations aren’t something you can live up to? Sarah Jean Horwitz explores that theme in her latest middle-grade novel, The Dark Lord Clementine.
Twelve-year-old Clementine is the sole heir of the infamous Dark Lord Elithor. As such, she’s expected to do dastardly deeds, frighten unsuspecting townspeople and maintain a certain level of chaos. And while she goes about her duties, she can’t help but sense there’s something more.
When Lord Elithor is cursed by the mysterious Whittle Witch, it’s up to Clementine to keep things running. Because no matter how much he says not to worry and that he’ll be fine, Clementine can’t help but notice her father is turning into wood. Clearly things are not getting better, and time is running out. Clementine must take matters into her own hands, even if that means turning away from the dark magic she’s always known.
From the moment you start reading The Dark Lord Clementine you know that you’re reading something special. Even though the story is told in third person, Clementine’s voice rings clear. Horwitz’s prose is crisp with a slight tongue-in-cheek quality that is a delight to read. The pacing is fast and the action ebbs and flows until a final climax that’s breathtaking.
The Dark Lord Clementine is unlike any book I’ve read, and that helps propel it to one of my favorite MG reads of this year. As a side note, the suggested age rage is 9-13, but I could definitely see more mature 8-year-olds enjoying this one.
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