The Secret of Dreadwillow Carse by Brian Farrey

Published by Algonquin Young Readers 

Summary:  Princess Jeniah has just become Queen Ascendant, by virtue of the fact that her mother, the queen, is dying.  Jeniah’s training is rushed due to the circumstances, but she stumbles over one of her most important lessons: if any monarch enters Dreadwillow Carse, then the Monarchy will fall.  The dark, swampy Carse is uninviting, but Jeniah feels she must find a way to explore it.  In her quest to do so, she crosses paths with Aon, a peasant girl who feels broken because she’s the only person she knows who feels emotions other than happiness. She’s also one of the only people to be able to enter the Carse, so Jeniah enlists her to go deeper into it than she ever has before and report back.  As Jeniah learns more about her kingdom and Aon explores the Carse, both girls discover secrets about their land and themselves that threaten the eternal happiness that has been part of the Monarchy for many generations.  256 pages; grades 3-6.

Pros:  An enchanting fairy tale with plenty of adventure and some good messages about embracing the full range of emotions, not just happiness.

Cons:  Putting a 12-year-old in charge of the Monarchy seemed like a bad idea.

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