Sarah Jean Horwitz’s The Dark Lord Clementine (2019) follows twelve-year-old Clementine Morcerous on a journey of self-discovery that weaves magic and melancholy into an epic tale sure to delight readers. Most of the action takes place in and around the family’s desolate castle. Clementine knows nothing about her absent mother and her father, Lord Elithor, is a cold and angry figure whose evanescent presence haunts the text. Without any siblings or friends, the young protagonist is clearly lonely and yearns for connection.
At the start of the text, Clementine’s father succumbs to a mysterious curse and Clementine must secure the family’s reputation as evildoers by terrorizing the townspeople in his place. But her heart is simply not in it. In fact, she ends up getting to know the townspeople, which leads her to question her destiny even though she remains committed to saving her father.
Clementine is a quirky multidimensional character that young readers will adore. In addition to Clementine, a brilliant cast of characters enter the story to delight and occasionally dismay the protagonist. These include novice knights, talking sheep, would-be unicorn slayers, and good witches. As a result of the motley crew that Horwitz invents, lessons of forgiveness, loyalty, and friendship emerge, allowing Clementine, and the story, to grow to epic proportions.
Clementine is the perfect awkward heroine of her own adventure and a loveable title character that won’t soon be forgotten. In fact, I hope to see her in a follow-up book soon!!
I reviewed this for the Cybils Awards 2019 Elementary/Middle Grade Speculative Fiction Category.