December 30, 2015

Review: The Secret of Dreadwillow Carse by Brian Farrey

Author: Brian Farrey
Genre: Children's Fiction
Format: Kindle
Source: Netgalley
Page Length: 240 Pages
Publication Date: April 19, 2016
Publishers: Algonquin Young Readers
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A princess and a peasant girl must embark on a dangerous quest to outwit a centuries-old warning foretelling the fall of the Monarchy in this thrilling modern fairytale.

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

Meanwhile, in the nearby town of Emberfell, where everyone lives with unending joy, a girl named Aon hides a sorrow she can never reveal. She knows that something in the carse--something that sings a haunting tune only Aon can hear--holds the cure for her sadness. Yet no matter how many times she tries to enter, the terror-inducing dreadwillow trees keep her away.

After a chance meeting, Princess Jeniah and Aon hatch a plan to send Aon into the heart of the carse to unlock its darkest secret. But when Aon doesn't return, a guilt-stricken Jeniah must enter the carse to try and rescue her friend--even if it means risking the entire Monarchy.

The Secret of Dreadwillow Carse weaves together classic fairy-tale elements--a princess, a forbidden land, and a dangerous quest--in a clever, fast-paced adventure that explores the importance of asking questions and the power of friendship.

Never ever judge a book by the GENRE or AUTHOR. I was planning to bid goodbye to 2015 with an interesting, but simple story. I didn't want to get immersed in the book, as I was busy with making some plans and preparing study notes ;) Glancing through my bookshelf on Netgalley, I found The Secret of Dreadwillow Carse. A children's fiction. How intense this story can be? I thought. BUT my judgment had gone utterly wrong this time. The Secret of Dreadwillow is an awfully captivating story, which drew me in completely and didn't let me go until I found out that bewitching secret of the carse along with Aon and Jeniah, the main characters in the book. 


The Queen is dying, which means Jeniah, the princess will soon be the new Monarch. She is just twelve and is worried about not knowing how to govern the people. Their land prospered for years and is filled with happiness. More like, they did not feel any other emotions and feelings, besides being ecstatic always. But the Royal Family could and Aon too. Aon, a girl of the same age as Princess Jeniah, living at Emberfell near the Dreadwillow Carse. No one did go that wretched place, no monarch was allowed to go in that area to avoid the doom it could bring on the people and the land. But Aon always went inside the Carse, so that she can forget her sorrows and feel 'not broken'. Curious to find out the secret of the Dreadwillow Carse, Jeniah decides to go inside the woods. But Aon agrees to go into the heart of the carse for the Princess and learn the secret as she had gone inside the woods before. When she doesn't return, Jeniah herself must embark on a journey into the center of the carse and help Aon. Secrets, Magic, Darkness, Puzzles and Quests. This book has more in store for us.

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I liked Jeniah. She was not just any girl in the country, But the Princess and the Queen's ascendent. Her mother was on deathbed, which meant Jeniah will be soon the new Monarch. She was upset to hear the news and distressed over not knowing how to rule a multitude of people. The curse prevented everybody from understanding her situation. I would have gone crazy if I were in her shoes. But Jeniah musters up the courage to question the things she found so dubious and bravely ventured on a quest to return the "real life" of her people. She sets the land free from the curse of Dreadwillow carse by taking the right decision at the right time- something in which I fail horribly most of the time. So well done, Jeniah! Though, she was portrayed as a little girl, her decisions and the way of doing things gave Jeniah an image of a matured, wise Ruler (or it just might be the Royal blood in her). Her fears were gone by the end of finishing the tasks and had proven that she is THE QUEEN.

Aon was the best companion Jeniah would have ever got! Aon was more courageous than Jeniah. Fearless, loveable and intelligent too. She did quickly analyze the tantrums used by the carse, overcame the power and was focused on her mission. But the devastating, horrifying truth, she witnesses at the heart of the carse, breaks her heart and she succumbs to the pressure at the end. Good thing Jeniah found her and helped to steer her mind to the right thing. A very good team indeed!

Then there was Skonas, whom I hated so much. He was an annoying teacher. I found the conversation between him and Jeniah, so confusing. Had to re-read the lines to know what he meant each time. Sometimes I imagined him as the connecting dot between the carse and the land. There was a mystery man called 'Architect' inside the carse, and I strongly feel that both are the same person. Oh dear, I'm confused now! There are more interesting and creepy characters in the story whom I found irksome at one point and pitiful the very next moment. Liaus, Tali, Pirep, Queen Sula, King Issar, Crimson hoods and Aon's Parents. Everyone has a story to tell in this book.
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Most of the middle-grade books I have read are fantasy/adventure books. Stories that make you believe in the magic and heroism. It was always about the good defeating the bad and restoring the peace in the Kingdom.

The Secret of Dreadwillow Carse also tells a similar story, but a creepy one. The elements of mystery, dominated most part of the book. More deep I went inside the woods, more gripping and intense the story became. The word 'magic' lead me on, I was dreading to know the secret, so I didn't put it down till I reached the last page. Was the end predictable? No and Yes. Yes, because the curse was broken and No, because the magic always comes with a price.

I really enjoyed reading it, which I am so happy about. Let me say I ended the year with a BANG ;) Easy-to-read, well developed, fast-paced story with interesting characters. I will be honest; I wished to skim the details whenever Skonas was mentioned. I wasn't able to follow any of his sage advice. Read the lines twice and thrice and wondered whether all children can enjoy the story. I'm a teeny tiny bit sceptical about that part. Otherwise The Secret of Dreadwillow Carse is a Fantastic read. I'm sure children will LOVE it. It can be enjoyed by the adults as well.
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Have you heard of this book? It will be out on 19th, April 2016. Suggest me some of your favorite middle-grade books.

Happy Reading!
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