By Sarah Jean Horwitz
Published on: October 1, 2019
Rooting for the bad guys (or girl in this case) has never been so much fun. While Clementine is still a Dark-Lord-in-training, her father has been attacked by a curse and it is up to Clementine to find a way to break the curse as well as perform all of his required dastardly deeds.
The new face of big evil is a little . . . small.
Dastardly deeds aren’t exactly the first things that come to mind when one hears the name “Clementine,” but as the sole heir of the infamous Dark Lord Elithor, twelve-year-old Clementine Morcerous has been groomed since birth to be the best (worst?) Evil Overlord she can be. But everything changes the day her father is cursed by a mysterious rival.
Now, Clementine must not only search for a way to break the curse, but also take on the full responsibilities of the Dark Lord. But when it’s time for her to perform dastardly deeds against the townspeople—including her brand-new friends—she begins to question her father’s code of good and evil. What if the Dark Lord Clementine doesn’t want to be a dark lord after all?
I can’t tell you how much I love middle grade books like these. There’s such a cuteness and cleverness in how the story is framed and presented that it makes for a fantastic read.
It all starts one morning when Clementine notices that her father has no nose. It was becoming obvious that he had been cursed, but her father is well known for his ability to not talk about anything and when she mentions it his reply only hints of what might actually be happening to him. Problem is – Clementine has no idea what the word he gave her means and she has to go look it up.
“No . . .” he said softly. “Not. Chipping.” He spat out
the words like they were curses themselves and finally
looked up at a very concerned Clementine.
But other than pieces of her father’s features changing or falling off, Clementine had also begun to notice the castle isn’t running exactly as it had been before. It was dying. Things were basically coming apart at the seams and it was becoming more and more difficult for Clementine to keep it up and running as her list of issues to fix grows longer and longer. Then to make matters worse, it is determined that the witch who put the curse on Clementine’s father actually wants to replace him as Dark Lord.
A Dark Lord must always be prepared to delivery a decent maniacal cackle.
To be a proper Dark Lord there are certain requirements – however, the main requirement is terrorizing others with dastardly deeds, which can include poisonings, unfortunate transfigurations, plagues, kidnappings, and many others. So, with her father’s curse and the estate falling apart, she also has to perform the required dastardly deed – with evidence – to the Council of Evil Overlords. Clementine has quite a bit of a load on her young 12-year-old shoulders.
Thankfully, along the way circumstances bring others into her life that help lessen the load and help reduce the loneliness that she is not necessarily willing to admit that she feels. There are some we meet in the story who we immediately can tell will be a real friend (although Clementine isn’t quite sure Dark Lords are supposed to have friends) – a talking black sheep and Sebastian, a boy who wants to become a knight. Others are a bit more questionable at first, such as Darka Wesk-Starzec, who initially only wants to use Clementine to get something she wants – help in killing a unicorn.
Her father had warned her to be wary of all signs of witchcraft; things like hyphenated names, controlling wild animals with one’s will, and the ability to fold fitted sheets were all quite high on the list.
In the story we meet several fun magical animals or beings that add quite a nice touch to the humor and overall story such as nightmare horses, firebreathing chickens, scarecrows who do manual farm labor, a Lady of the Lake who enjoys throwing swords at people, attacking trees, among others.
Upon reading, I knew almost immediately that I would enjoy this story. Initially, it was due to how the story presented itself as we learned about the responsibilities of a Dark Lord and all that it entails. But I also enjoyed the subtle humor demonstrated throughout the entire book, as well as the interesting animals, (Nightmare horses must eat poisoned apples – if not they can turn into just regular old ponies, which of course, it not acceptable) and magical moments. However, being a Dark Lord or a Dark-Lord-in training can be quite a solitary life with not having any friends because, after all, the whole purpose of a Dark Lord is to find ways to terrorize others. However, it didn’t take long at all to really appreciate the lessons being taught in this book about friendship and accepting who you truly are and gaining confidence in yourself. All of which can be beneficial lessons for both young and old.
Rating: 5 stars
Thanks to Netgalley and Algonquin Young Readers for the reader copy and letting me part of the Blog Tour and opportunity to provide an honest review.