A daughter must fill in for her indisposed Dark Lord father.
Twelve-year-old Clementine’s father has been cursed by the Whittle Witch and is being slowly whittled into a wooden puppet. While he locks himself away in his laboratory to try to find a way to stop and reverse the curse, it’s up to Clementine to keep their farm running, a task that becomes harder as her father’s magic begins to fail. Helping her are a talking black sheep (who used to be a boy and isn’t so sure he wants to be human again) and a local boy who dreams of heroic knighthood. More worryingly, letters start arriving from the Council of Evil Overlords, instructing Clementine to carry out and report Dastardly Deeds to fulfill their family’s Dark Lord obligations. Shifts in viewpoint reveal the dangerous witch to be after the Dark Lord’s title and their mountain’s unicorn; also after the unicorn is a huntress named Darka, who neglects to give her true motivation when befriending Clementine. After luring readers in with wordplay and tongue-in-cheek, genre-savvy humor, the plot takes an emotionally rich thematic turn, dwelling on community and forgiveness—all the while building toward a mythical, mystical arc involving the unicorn. The few action sequences are mined for utmost impact, as are the slice-of-life scenes and flashback vignettes. The characters seem to default to white.
Absolutely delightful. (Fantasy. 8-14)