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The Secret of Dreadwillow Carse Hardcover – April 19, 2016
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From School Library Journal
Gr 4-6-In this read-alike to Lois Lowry's The Giver, Shannon Hale's Princess Academy (Bloomsbury, 2005), and the Pixar film Inside Out, Princess Jeniah has just been named Queen Ascendant in a land where everyone is always happy. Her dying mother tells her of an ancient warning: if any royal enters the foreboding Dreadwillow Carse, the Monarchy will fall. Meanwhile, Aon, a local villager, visits the Carse regularly, finding it a balm for the sadness and brokenness that she alone can feel. The girls form a partnership that becomes a powerful friendship: Jeniah seeks knowledge of the Carse, and Aon pines for the return of her father, recently spirited away by the mysterious Crimson Hoods. The Carse, they gradually learn, has a nefarious secret. Jeniah is eventually faced with a morally complicated decision that will test her loyalties and affect the future happiness of her kingdom. Chapters alternate among points of view, creating suspenseful cliff-hangers. Descriptive language abounds ("viscous ponds the color of tar burbled"), and an enigmatic tutor provides a venue for reflections on magic, power, and choice. The inclusion of diverse characters enhances the story: Jeniah and her mother are described as dark-skinned, and a royal petitioner casually seeks relationship advice for his same-sex romance. VERDICT A thoughtful, atmospheric fairy tale that tackles the subtleties of ethics and emotions.-Jill Ratzan, Congregation Kol Emet, Yardley, PAα(c) Copyright 2011. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
“Farrey weaves a captivating and suspenseful tale of the power of female friendship and the pain of growing up. His masterful crafting of Jeniah's character pierces the pampered-princess stereotype, gifting readers with an intricate portrayal of a frightened yet tenacious dark-skinned girl for whom impending responsibility for an entire kingdom hardly feels like a fairy tale. Heart-rending and genuine, this magical coming-of-age story is not to be missed.” —Kirkus Reviews, starred review
“A thoughtful, atmospheric fairy tale that tackles the subtleties of ethics and emotions.”—School Library Journal, starred review
“This book is wise and wonderful.”—William Alexander, National Book Award-winning author of Goblin Secrets
“Part fairy tale, part seemingly utopian society with a dark underbelly, this is a gripping, compelling story that will leave readers mulling over the ethical questions raised.” —Booklist
“Mesmerizing . . . This is an adventure story, yes, but it is something more—it is a story of the transformational power of curiosity, tenacity, and courage.” —Kelly Barnhill, author of The Witch’s Boy
“The carse is a dark, foreboding place within a creepily blissful land. Like Aon and Jeniah, I felt myself drawn there . . . A compelling examination of what it means to be sad while finding unexpected happiness.”—Sarah Prineas, author of the Magic Thief series
“Delightful . . . Beyond the detailed worldbuilding and multilayered characterization, what I love about this book is the underlying theme of sacrifice. The protagonist is faced with a heavy burden and a seemingly impossible choice—how she finds the courage to make the right decision is something that will stay with readers. This reminded me quite a bit of classic works by Ursula K. Le Guin and Madeleine L’Engle.” —Kiera Parrott, Reviews Director, Library Journal
“Farrey blends subtle references to racial and sexual diversity with inventive fairy tale worldbuilding and enticing clues to the carse’s mystery. The labyrinth of characters and dilemmas expands as the novel progresses, culminating in a rewarding ending that highlights the importance of embracing emotions, curiosity, and measured choices."—Publishers Weekly
Top customer reviews
The main characters are 12 year old girls, for which I applaud, fabulous to have empowered girls as leads. Both need each other to complete the adventure that is set before them. The duo are full of curiosity, questions, bravery and strength, all components needed to solve the secret of Dreadwillow Carse.
In the centre of Emberfell, a place where happiness rules and nobody feels sadness, anxiety, fright, or any other negative emotions, lies the Dreadwillow Carse. This dark forboding bog is strictly off limits to the residents there and has a warning sign that reads: "If any monarch entered Dreadwillow Carse, then the Monarchy will fall."
Princess Jeniah longs to know what the bog is hiding that could possibly destroy her family's thousand-year reign of peace and prosperity. She is about to become Queen because her beloved mother is dying so she presses forward to unravel the mystery that hangs over her upcoming duty as Queen for her subjects.
The Princess by chance meets a commoner, a girl named Aon, who is different from everyone else who lives in Emberfell. Aon can feel grief and sorrow. She feels the full range of emotions and the only word she can find to describe herself is that is "Broken." She determines herself to go into the carse all on her own to find out why she experiences these feelings. Together the girls devise a plan to send Aon (a surrogate for the Princess) into the deep dark bog and find out what mystery it has been hiding all these years.
Each time Aon enters in she gets bolder and bolder. The deeper she goes into the heart of the bog the more clues are revealed to her. Then one tragic time.... she doesn't come back out. Oh my! Poor Princess Jeniah is guilt-stricken and terrified when she is told of her friend's predicament. The Princess rushes off to try to rescue Aon even if the results may lead to the total destruction of her Monarchy. The power of the bond of their friendship trumps the success and continuation of her rule as the next Queen of Emberfell.
The plot is very well written and the characters are so believable. The author is always planting ideas in the characters to question, to ask why, to explore their potential, and to share it with others.
"The author feels leaders that stop questioning, and just accept the obvious, who say things to be popular, who act purely with good intentions but aren't guided by critical thinking - aren't doing their jobs. Leading is so much more than just making decisions and telling people what to do. Leadership, without empathy and critical thinking, is dangerous. And that's exactly what Jeniah and Aon, in "The Secret of Dreadwillow Carse, come to realize."
I highly, highly recommend this book. Good to the last word.
Everyone in Emberfell is happy. If someone dies or goes away, that person is basically forgotten about so as not to have any sadness regarding their loss. Sad things do not happen and there is no crying because everything is happy. This sounds like it could possibly be a good thing, but it also sounds, quite frankly, creepy. Aon, however, does feel sadness, which thus makes her feel like an outcast and that something within her is 'broken.' I assume the author intended to use this as a metaphor for depression, but even if he didn't, I think it works itself into the storyline extremely well. While awareness for depression is increasing in the media, it is still somewhat of a taboo in certain families and culture, which makes those that do experience such negative feelings feel like there is something wrong with them. I felt that Aon's struggle with feeling differently than the rest of her town shed an interesting light on how experiencing different moods or emotions than what others think of as 'normal' can really make you feel alienated. I think this book does a good job showing that feeling differently from others is not wrong, but is instead normal and it is important to talk to others about these topics.
Jeniah, on the other hand, is largely separated from the town (until she goes to explore the Carse and meets Aon) and struggles to come to terms with her impending status as queen. Jeniah does not feel that she is mature enough to yet be queen - which I actually find to be quite mature of her - and she struggles to come to terms with how to be responsible for an entire kingdom, as well deal with her newly appointed tutor that does nothing but frustrate her. Throughout the course of the story, Farrey subtly and expertly crafts Jeniah's character from an insecure and unaware girl into a more self-aware and knowledgeable young woman.
Farrey's writing style is very accessible and a joy to read. It is not written in an overly simplistic manner, nor is it too advanced. His words flow smoothly, and there are moments of true beauty within his writing.
I feel as though every kid - or adult - should read this at some point because of the important topics it covers and for its reminders that it's okay to be sad, it's okay to be inexperienced, and it's okay to not always have the answers.
As a result, I am giving The Secret of Dreadwillow Carse five stars!
Most recent customer reviews
Clearly, Brian Farrey loved writing this book.Read more
I loved this book! I especially liked the character Aon.Read more