Clementine Morcerous descends from a long line of Evil Overlords. Her father, the Dark Lord Elithor, has stricken terror into the hearts of his subjects for decades, and Clementine has been learning dark magic under his tutelage since birth. Clementine tries very hard to live up to her ancestral expectations, but when her father is cursed by a witch hoping to lay claim to his castle and lands, she must do whatever it takes to keep her home and family from crumbling. While trying to fulfill her father’s quota of dastardly deeds and search for a cure for his affliction, she finds friendship in the local villagers, a coven of hedgewitches, and a mysterious stranger named Darka. As the bonds of friendship and understanding grow, Clementine begins to question her family’s legacy and whether or not she wants to be part of it.
This story has everything that young fantasy lovers will adore! Dark wizards, enigmatic witches, magical flowers, animated scarecrows, unicorns, a mysterious castle, color-changing hair, a talking sheep, a spellbook accidentally cursed to live life as a chicken, and so much more! But it also has a lot of heart. There were very poignant moments that made me cry, such as Clementine having conflicting feelings about her cold and distant father, moments of uncertainty about whether she is truly good or evil, and experiencing the pain and disappointment that sometimes comes with trusting others. There were also many fun, joyful moments. Clementine and Darka trying to wrangle a whiny band of rowdy village boys into some semblance of a castle guard was easily one of my favorites.
I hope there will be other stories about these characters. Some backstories are begging for more depth. Darka, the tortured unicorn huntress, could be explored much further. Dark Lord Elithor’s story is intriguing, especially given the way this particular novel ends for him and the realizations that Clementine has about his true nature. And of course, where they go from the ending of this book and how they grow will be highly anticipated by anyone who becomes invested in this universe.
I would recommend this to any middle grader or young teenager who is into high fantasy, especially if they are okay with standalone novels. Although I hope for more, this one can easily stand on its own merit and let readers fill in the blanks and what ifs.