Review by Elizabeth C. Bunce
Sarah Jean Horwitz (Carmer & Grit) has conjured up the perfect middle-grade fantasy read… for all ages. In The Dark Lord Clementine, a crisp, lively novel, she introduces us to a bold new heroine: Clementine Morcerous, heir to the Dark Lordship of the Seven Sisters Mountains. Clementine’s Dark Lordling duties include tending to the frightful denizens of the Silent Farm: the magically-animated scarecrows, the venomous snakes in the snake pit, the fire-breathing chickens, and the nightmares. Meanwhile, her father menaces the villagers below their mountain stronghold with curses, atmospheric phenomena, and other Qualifing Dastardly Deeds, to keep his status as Dark Lord active.
But the Seven Sisters hide a secret, and Clementine is sworn to protect it. When Clementine’s father is cursed by a rival for his Dark Lordship, all the duties of the farm, including the dastardly deeds—as well as trying to save her father—fall to Clementine. She gamely flings herself into the role of Dark Lord to Be, doing her level best to communicate with the cryptic Lady of the Lake, fend off witches, and wrangle an unexpected—and surprisingly loyal—band of knights. Almost against her will, Clementine builds an army of friends determined to see her succeed in her Dark Lord ambitions.
The book is called The Dark Lord Clementine, however, and all is not as it seems. Betrayal lurks among her newfound companions, and Clementine must decide whether being the Dark Lord is really all it’s cracked up to be.
Horwitz has crafted a delightful, hilarious, heartwarming, and occasionally heart-rending tale. Told from multiple perspectives, The Dark Lord Clementine is full of enough winning characters, talking sheep, embittered monster-hunters, unicorns, and happily-ever-afters to please any fantasy fan, young or old.