Book Review: The Secret Of Dreadwillow Carse By Brian Farrey
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The Secret of Dreadwillow Carse
Hardcover | Kindle | Audible
Written by Brian Farrey
Algonquin Young Readers
Release Date: April 19th, 2016

Aon has always felt different – broken. Everyone in her village is always so happy. There’s no such thing as sadness, anger, or fear. Even when Aon’s mother disappeared, her belongings disappeared soon after and her father did not even seem the slightest bit upset. The only thing that makes her feel even a little bit better is going into the forbidden Carse. Everyone else just avoids it. Everything is so wonderful, there is no reason to dwell on anything unpleasant. Nobody even knows how to do that. The well-loved Queen of the kingdom is dying, and everyone is celebrating. Aon pretends to be happy about that and about everything.

More below.

Princess Jeniah is trying to be strong. She soon has to be queen and has no idea how to do that. Plus, she’s only 12! Only royals know the burden of sadness, and she must be strong. She is warned of a royal curse. Thus is The Secret of Dreadwillow Carse by Brian Farrey. All members of the royal family must stay away from Dreadwillow Carse or the monarchy will fall. The princess is a curious child, needing answers. While looking for answers she encounters Aon, and finds in her a brave girl and a much needed friend. Things don’t go as planned (do they ever?), and Jeniah has to make some hard choices, worthy of a queen.

This was a lovely little book for the 8-12 set. I am far away from that age range, but I enjoyed it immensely. The story uses The Giver and Pleasantville tropes, with females as the heroines, for the lifelong lesson that there can never be true happiness and joy, without experiencing sadness. That, coupled with a burgeoning friendship from opposite ends of the social class, tied together because both girls felt alone and different, has all the ingredients for a successful and enjoyable novel for adolescents. It also poses the ethical question:

Is it okay to sacrifice an innocent for the happiness of many others?

If you are looking for a book to get your child away from all the technology and get lost in the world of words, look no further. The Secret of Dreadwillow Carse has everything one needs to get lost in the magic.

Book synopsis:

A princess and a peasant girl embark on a dangerous quest to outwit a warning foretelling the fall of the Monarchy.

In the center of the verdant Monarchy lies Dreadwillow Carse, a desolate bog the people of the land do their best to ignore. Little is known about it except an ominous warning: If any monarch enters Dreadwillow Carse, then the Monarchy will fall. Twelve-year-old Princess Jeniah yearns to know what the marsh could conceal that might topple her family’s thousand-year reign.

After a chance meeting, Princess Jeniah strikes a secret deal with Aon, a girl from a nearby village: Aon will explore the Carse on the princess’s behalf, and Jeniah will locate Aon’s missing father. But when Aon doesn’t return from the Carse, a guilt-stricken Jeniah must try and rescue her friend””even if it means risking the entire Monarchy.

In this thrilling modern fairytale, Brian Farrey has created an exciting new world where friendship is more powerful than fate and the most important thing is to question everything.

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