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The Secret of Dreadwillow Carse

Review

The Secret of Dreadwillow Carse

Brian Farrey's THE SECRET OF DREADWILLOW CARSE is a short-but-sweet fantasy tale for middle-grade readers that would be a perfect jumping-off point for young readers in this genre. This novel tells the story of a 12-year-old princess named Jeniah whose mother, the queen, has fallen ill. Jeniah is told that she must never enter the mysterious place called Dreadwillow Carse --- if she does, the monarchy will fall. Meanwhile, in the town of Emberfell, where everyone is ceaselessly happy, a young girl named Aon is the only one who seems to feel sorrow --- and the only one who feels a strange connection to the Carse. The two girls meet by chance and form a strong friendship so that together they can discover the Carse's dark secret and save the kingdom.

"The friendship that built between the two main characters was my favorite aspect of this novel --- I always appreciate and root for girls teaming up and being the heroes of their stories."

Farrey's novel seems to me like an homage to Ursula K. Le Guin's famous short story "Those Who Walk Away from Omelas," and, if so, it is a strong and worthy tribute. The story is quickly paced and exciting with lots of twists and turns; I was able to breeze through it in a single sitting, eager to learn what happened next. As the two girls learned more about the Carse I occasionally found myself a bit lost and re-reading passages, or thinking that the happiness vs. sadness theme was too heavy-handed. Once I reached the end, however, all of my questions and concerns were satisfyingly resolved. The overall tone of the story is fairly dark as Jeniah and Aon suffer many losses and hardships, but their strong bond provided an uplifting and hopeful contrast.

The friendship that built between the two main characters was my favorite aspect of this novel --- I always appreciate and root for girls teaming up and being the heroes of their stories. I also applaud the author for creating complex and diverse characters who take leading roles; middle-grade and young adult literature always needs more characters like these. Farrey's ability to create a simple but immersive fantasy world populated with interesting characters, secrets, and a touch of magic makes THE SECRET OF DREADWILLOW CARSE an excellent fantasy story for young readers who are already fans of or new to this genre.

Reviewed by Katherine Szabo on April 22, 2016

The Secret of Dreadwillow Carse
by Brian Farrey