Book Review: The Dark Lord Clementine

Oya everyone!

First of all, Wednesday was Emily Lyn’s birthday, so everybody say happy birthday to her.

Have you done it yet?

Okay, I’m gonna assume you have.

So on Wednesday I took her to the library because we needed to grab some movies for her party and also because library. We were looking through the books as one does at the library and all of a sudden Emily shoved something in my hands and said ‘for you’.

It was a book.

I don’t know what else you were expecting.

I wasn’t too concerned about this, it’s a very common thing when we go to the library together. Emily sees a book with a cool cover, she throws it at me and I actually look at what the book is about because she can’t be bothered to read the back.

This book had a lot of swords on the front.

And the title said The Dark Lord Clementine. (by Sarah Jean Horwitz)

So obviously I was intrigued.

Here’s what the back said, because it’s what made me keep and read it.

To Lady Clementine Morcerous,

It has come to our attention that your father, the Dark Lord Elithor Morcerous, has neglected to submit sufficient evidence of a qualifying Dastardly Deed in six months. As our previous attempts at contacting Lord Elithor have been unsuccessful, we hope you are both well (and by “well”, we mean “terrible”)

Should the Dark Lord be temporarily indisposed, it is permissible for his heir — in this case, you — to carry out Dastardly Deeds on his behalf and/or temporarily assume the title of Acting Dark Lord.

We request that you, the Dark Lord Elithor, or any previously acknowledged avatars of darkness licensed to speak on his behalf submit proof of a Dastardly Deed within one month.

Yours in infamy,

The Council of Evil Overlords

I was immediately intrigued. I don’t know what you’d call this genre of writing style. I wanna say, like, normalized? But that isn’t it. Basically when you have a trope and it’s just like . . . ah yes, the Villain Committee, who do Villainous Paperwork and have a Villain Office and it’s just goofy and stupid and everything is taken so seriously while at the same time being just ridiculous and everyone knows it. That is my favorite thing.

Obviously the main character is Clementine. She is the twelve-year-old daughter of a Dark Lord, as you probably gathered from the letter up there, and he’s somewhat of a jerk.

Which, y’know, should be expected.

As he’s a villain.

Anyhow.

The premise of the story is that Clementine is training to be a good (bad?) little Evil Overlord when she grows up. Mostly that consists of doing chores. Feeding the fire-breathing chickens, grooming the NightMares, harvesting poison apples (see what I mean!? The mundane ridicule of it!) and reading big books about various Evildoing stuff-and-things. Her father doesn’t usually pay much attention to her anyhow unless he’s teaching her stabbing techniques or whatever, but lately he has just actually been gone. Hiding in his room all the time, ostensibly doing research for some big Dastardly Deed or somesuch. But then Clementine starts noticing that things aren’t working very well around the castle and the farm. The automaton scarecrows that work in the fields are malfunctioning. The magic that keeps fences from burning fades and suddenly you’ve got fire-breathing chickens running around wreaking havoc.

The father is also getting . . . smaller.

(Spoiler alert, mans is cursed.)

So now Clementine has to take over the farm and the castle and learn how to make food and do shopping in the village without causing any suspicion. It’s difficult but she’s a smart kid who knows how to use magic, and also has a new talking sheep companion. How bad could this go, really?

Oho.

So bad.

See it turns out that to literally no one’s surprise, the dad is cursed. By a witch. A particularly annoying one. And Clementine isn’t too happy to just let her father turn into a wooden puppet, so she starts trying to find a cure. Or the witch, to exact some sweet revenge.

Things don’t go so well because she meets a child named Sebastien, who is a Good Boy(tm) and has decided to be her knight. She also meets a lady named Darka who is in possession of so many knives and may or may not be a unicorn hunter. There’s a Lady of the Lake too who has a habit of just yeeting swords at people and hoping it either kills them or they catch it and become a hero. Either way works.

One thing I was not expecting from this book was found family.

-slaps book- This bad boy can fit SO MUCH FOUND FAMILY IN IT.

It can also fit a lot of action, like, wow, we got magical storms and poison that turns people purple and unicorn fights. UNICORN FIGHTS.

There were so many just little tiny details that I loved. Like the fact that Clementine’s hair color changes, but it isn’t just like your typical ‘oh yeah my hair is a mood ring’, like the colors actually have plot significance as well as emotional significance and I love it. Clementine herself is just full of tiny lore crumbs that make me so happy. The main character conflict is that of Clementine figuring out that maybe, being evil is not the way to go. Maybe its better to be a good guy. Maybe having friends is a good thing, and maybe treating people like people is much better than treating them like subjects you can destroy on a whim.

Just throwing that out there.

So you get to see her thought process as she works through that, and learn so much about her backstory without ever even being told exactly what it is. I don’t want to say too much because spoilers but it’s great.

SPEAKING OF BACKSTORY

Darka?

-chef’s kiss-

The BUILDUP! The UNRELIABLE NARRATION! The SUBTLE MISDIRECTION! And hoooooo boy the angsty reveal that ties everything together!?

Absolutely incredible. 10/10. Probably one of the best uses of flashbacks I’ve ever seen. The perfect degree of subtlety that you don’t see it coming but when it comes you know exactly how you got there. And she’s not even the main character!

Sebastien doesn’t have much of a backstory but he is just a Good Boy(tm) and an even better knight and general and oh gosh I love him. He actually reminds me quite a lot of my own Kayden, which, like, c’mon. Kayden. I love Sebastien. He deserves the world

And DAVE the SHEEP. Dave the Sheep my beloved. I don’t actually know if you would count his story as a spoiler or not, just to be safe I won’t say anything, but his little subplot is just funny. It’s so funny and ridiculous and good. And the Lady of the Lake is hilarious, we stan.

It’s such a funny book.

It’s also just so sweet. Enough for my touchstarved/found-family-obsessed little braincell to just flail around helplessly and gush because THE LITTLE EVIL CHILD GETS A MOTHER FIGURE SWEET AETHASIA LOOKIT THEM GO AND BEST FRIENDS!!! BEST FRIENDS!!!

I do have a few problems with it, unfortunately. Dark Lords are all about the magic, and while it’s not specifically dwelling on witchcraft or whatever there’s a decent amount of curses, mentions of spells and witches and stuff like that. Not something I’m super into but it isn’t, like, deep into it. Just about as much as your average fairy tale setting.

The other problem is that its quite violent? In a casual way that shouldn’t bother most people, but I get uncomfy with even just mentions of gore and stuff. Nothing graphic is ‘shown on screen’ as it were, but there were a few times when I had to skip over a sentence or two. The curse slowly turning the dad into wood is also kind of unsettling the way its described. Nothing that would bother me had I read it in the daytime, but I didn’t. Also.

Slight spoiler . . .

MAN GETS STABBED BY A UNICORN OKAY

But really other than that? Fantastic book. I’d totally read it again. Good plot twists. Good characters. Good worldbuilding. The side characters were obviously cared about and effort was put into their existence. I’m happy.

Oh also, I just got a job. Ya boy is employed.

See you next week!

~Ace

3 thoughts on “Book Review: The Dark Lord Clementine

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