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The Secret of Dreadwillow Carse

3.86  ·  Rating details ·  351 Ratings  ·  107 Reviews
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 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 monar
Hardcover, 245 pages
Published April 19th 2016 by Algonquin Young Readers
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Fafa's Book Corner
Oct 16, 2015 rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Nov 02, 2015 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Shadowdenizen by: NetGalley
Middle-grade fiction has come a long way and seriously evolved over the years, and that evolution is part of why I enjoy the genre so much to this day!

The Secret of Dreadwillow Carse promises a rollicking fairy-tale adventure, and it delivers on that, in spades. But it also goes above and beyond that simple definition and brings us the suprisingly adult tale of 2 sypathetic female lead characters and friends, each wrestling with sadness and depression in their own way. (Having recently read The
Rachel Stansel
Nov 07, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
The Secret of Dreadwilow Carse is the story of two girls living in Emberfell, Princess Jeniah and Aon. The 12 year old Princess' mother is dying and Jeniah must quickly learn to be queen. Her mother warns her that she must never enter Dreadwillow Carse, the dark forest in the center of the Monarchy or the Monarchy itself will fail. Emberfell is filled with people who only know how to feel happiness, with the exception of Aon. She feels a full range of emotions and believes she is "Broken."

Hope Sloper
Dec 15, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Oh, my gosh, what an awesome, incredible, brilliant book. After Laila and I read it the first time, we went back and read it again - we loved it that much. Page after page, this story kept us turning. There wasn't a single night that I read to her where we didn't wish for more time to read this book. It's beautifully well written and thought out. It's a strong story, with lots of little twists and turns.

Not once did we have to stop, not once did we have to slow down, and not once did we want to.
Jun 18, 2016 rated it really liked it
Rating: 4/5

"Questions are the lamplight that lead us from the darkness. And you know what lamplight really is, yes? Fire. You should tread carefully your highness."
~Skonas (The Secret of Dreadwillow Carse)

What is a young girl to do when her beloved mother, the queen of an entire kingdom, suddenly falls ill, leaving the girl with no other choice but to take up the throne much earlier than expected? This sudden horror has just become Jeniah's reality. She's a headstrong individual with a curiosity
Dec 29, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 3-6-fairy-tale
What is the secret of Dreadwillow Carse worries Jeniah, the future queen of the Monarch? Her mother always warns her to never venture inside the Dreadwillow Carse, an ominous dreaded dark patch of woods, strangely situated in the midst of a thriving forest. Janiah lives in Emberfell, the Monarchy she will one day rule, populated by people who are always happy with not a trouble in the world. Jeniah believes she is the only one who doesn't share their carefree lifestyle, until she meets and befri ...more
Apr 07, 2017 rated it really liked it
I'll keep this brief, because there's not much to say beyond that, for a comparatively slim middle grade fantasy novel, this one packs a punch.

Refreshingly, it is not a Harry Potter retread, and it never strays from its central, albeit slightly obvious, conceit: it is a profound and moving meditation on depression.

A worthwhile read, and one that will be quite valuable to many silently suffering children.
May 31, 2017 rated it really liked it
The book was really mysterious. I recommend it to fairy tale lovers. The ending was really happy
Happily ever after for everyone, the end.
It's a really good book, quick read, and really interesting.
And ja, thats it
Happy Reading kids!
Apr 07, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2016
Find this review at Forever Lost in Literature!

While perusing my Goodreads shelf for this year, I realized I have read quite a few younger-aged aimed books this year - and that I have been enjoying it immensely. These books aren't just fun to read, they are also extremely well-crafted stories that handle a variety of difficult topics in a way that younger audiences can understand. The most interesting aspect in each of these books, however, is that they seem to have messages for all ages and can
Nov 29, 2015 rated it it was ok
Shelves: mystery, read-in-2016
"It has been a land of peace and prosperity for a thousand years. Your first duty as queen is, and always will be, to protect that."

Queen Sula - wants all her subjects to be happy ... and so they are. Her subjects don't even know what nightmares are. But Queen Sula is desperately ill and it seems her daughter, Jeniah, will soon be taking control of the kingdom. The only thing her mother will tell her about being the Queen is that "If any Monarchy enters Dreadwillow Carse, then the Monarchy will
Apr 12, 2016 rated it really liked it
This review is also posted on!


Brian Farrey's THE SECRET OF DREADWILLOW CARSE is a short-but-sweet fantasy tale for middle-grade readers that would be a perfect jumping-off point for young readers in this genre. This novel tells the story of a 12-year-old princess named Jeniah whose mother, the queen, has fallen ill. Jeniah is told that she must never enter the mysterious place called Dreadwillow Carse --- if she does, the monarchy will fall. Meanwhile, in the town of Emberfell,
Carla Johnson-Hicks
Dec 15, 2015 rated it really liked it
The Secret of Dreadwillow Carse is the story of two girls living in Emberfell, Princess Jeniah and Aon. The 12 year old Princess' mother is dying and Jeniah must quickly learn to be queen. Her mother warns her that she must never enter Dreadwillow Carse, the dark forest in the center of the Monarchy or the Monarchy itself will fail. Emberfell is filled with people who only know how to feel happiness, with the exception of Aon. She feels a full range of emotions and believes she is "Broken." Aon, ...more
May 14, 2017 rated it it was ok
Shelves: kidsbooks, library
This was not at all what I was expecting. I was expecting a fantasy and got something much closer to horror. There is very real menace and disturbing concepts and images in the book. I'm sure many children will love the ghoulish aspects but it's not really made super clear in the book blurb. There is a central issue hinted at in the summary that is very original. Somehow, through a device we discover later, the people of the kingdom--except the royal family--feel nothing but happiness. There is ...more
Sep 04, 2016 rated it liked it
Readers may have to look up the word "carse" (I did), but will have no trouble getting immediately absorbed into this tale of a princess forced into ruling the kingdom before her time, (but warned by her mother that no monarch can ever enter Dreadwillow Carse, or the kingdom will fall) and of a kingdom that is living the dream: everything is perfect! No one goes hungry; everyone is happy. If tragedy befalls you, life goes on and you don't worry about it too much. Aon, a village girl who lives wi ...more
Morgan (The Bookish Beagle)
3.5 stars. I really enjoyed this when I started and then put it down for 2 weeks. But once I picked it up again, the mystery really held my attention. The princess is a POC and the other main character (also a girl) suffers from depression, which is treated in a really nuanced, interesting, age-and-fantasy-setting-appropriate way. It really infuses so much of what the book is about. I must have a thing for mysterious forests lately! I loved learning about the Carse and its connection to the Mona ...more
Oct 28, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: netgalley, read-2015
This is a story about sadness.

Dreadwillow Carse is exactly the sort of book I would have loved to read in the middle grades: a fairy tale featuring two wonderful female leads. Bonus points for the princess being a POC and the focus on depression without stigma.
Laura (bbliophile)
Sep 12, 2016 rated it really liked it
This one was wonderful and I'm working on a review right now!
Meredith Burton
Aug 12, 2017 rated it it was amazing
A gripping coming-of-age tale, The Secret of Dreadwillow Carse is a complex examination of a young princess' preparation to ascend to her mother's throne. What lies behind the seemingly ever-joyful kingdom, and why is the princess forbidden to enter the foreboding carse, a treacherous bog where nothing is as it seems? Why can one peasant girl experience sadness and fear when others cannot? When the princess and peasant girl meet by chance, they are drawn to one another as they are each strugglin ...more
Kind of an interesting read. Not sure I can promote and have a student finish.

Two characters, girls, one a villager, one the Queen Ascendant. They live in a land where everyone is happy, there is not understanding of worry or sadness. How can this be? It's the Dreadwillow Carse. A Dreadwillow is a tree and a Carse is a bog.

"Truth shouldn't be flexible!" page 89

Jeniah is learning to be the queen:
"...But when she thought about it, she had learned it was important to consider the needs of the multi
Amanda Harrison
If I taught middle school literature I would read this book with my class. The questions it raises about how to be a rightful ruler, the rights of the one versus the many, the difficulties of having emotions, but their packs a lot of the right punches.

This book is going to be compared with The Giver, but is honestly a very different book. Although, it will also resonate with readers of that. This is a more 'mature' book, in the Giver the adults in charge are a great monolith t
Tierra Teague
Jun 17, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Looking for a mystery? If so, I have the perfect book for you! The Secret of DreadWillow Carse, written by Brian Farrey. The main settings are the Monarchy and the DreadWillow Carse. This isn't one of the best books I ever read, but was surely a good book! The story was mainly about Aon and Princess Jeniah. Both girls had amazing personalities, and when they work together, it's just amazing. Princess Jeniah tries to figure out the mystery of why she must not step foot in DreadWilloe Carse. Aon i ...more
Scottsdale Public Library
Princess Jeniah’s mother is dying. She would do anything to find a cure – except violate the one warning taught to all rulers of the Monarchy: never go into Dreadwillow Carse. But why? What is it about the Carse that will spell doom for the Monarchy, yet compels glassblower Aon to constantly visit its murky depths? Once the two girls meet, they realize they must learn the answer.
What follows is a spooky and sometimes macabre adventure into a swamp – and through a kingdom – both created and twist
Jul 05, 2017 rated it liked it
3.5- A book that seems fairy-tale-esque, but has a darker side. I love the friendship the two girls have. The Carse is spooky and mysterious, just the way it should be. Great world building; I wonder if there will be a second book...

Notes- although it's not plainly stated as such, the book hints at characters with depression. No one save the royal family can feel sadness, grief, and loss. Everyone else in the kingdom is happy all the time. And when tragedy strikes, the people quickly forget thei
Aug 29, 2017 rated it really liked it
4 1/2 stars

This was NOT the light little romp through a fantasy book that I was expecting. It contained some great, deeper themes that I really appreciated; hooray for an author digging deeper! Hooray for an author having a MC be a POC! (You don't see that every day in J fantasy.) Yes, this could be enjoyed purely for the story alone, and all the talk of lessons and learning could totally brushed aside, but the the right reader will gain so much from this. I'm still thinking on several of the th
Aug 19, 2017 rated it really liked it
Good book, seemed like your typical princess\pauper story, but when you think about the idea of never being unhappy, never feeling sorrow. Hmmm I liked how Aon acknowledged her sorrow and pain, took the time to feel it rather than push is down. Could show up on some award lists,
Good for 4th and up . I dont think a 4th grader will get the idea of being happy all the time. but would enjoy the book
Heather Gunnell
Jul 24, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Staff Pick

Nothing is what it seems in the Monarchy. The people are only ever able to feel one emotion: happy. Everyone feels this way except Aon and Princess Jeniah, the Queen Ascendant. Together the unlikely pair will set out to learn the secrets of the Dreadwillow Carse and of the Monarchy. Each has their own reasons for needing answers. Read it for yourself to learn the secrets held in the heart of the Carse.
May 17, 2017 rated it liked it
Good themes, should merit good discussions. Feels like an extended short story. Risk/obedience; personal sacrifice/ public good; the role of being able to access all emotions, not just the pleasant ones, in being fully human; how to talk about uncomfortable things.
Karen Maurer
Jan 11, 2017 rated it really liked it
I decided on 4 rather than 3 stars since I thought the premise behind the story was genuine. And it's just a good story. The way the two girls work together, the secrets they uncover move the action along to a satisfactory conclusion.
Feb 13, 2018 rated it liked it
No shade (or...only a little shade), but this was a much more effective version of "The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas."

Kind of wish there'd been more friend-interaction between Aon and Jeniah, though.
Candace Hudson
Nov 09, 2016 rated it really liked it
Suspenseful, entertaining, and couldn't put it down. Loved the alternating POV. Author kept me reading until the last page to figure out the mystery of the dreadwillow carse.
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Brian Farrey is the author of WITH OR WITHOUT YOU, a 2012 Stonewall Honor Book and winner of the 2012 Minnesota Book Award for Young People's Literature and the VENGEKEEP PROPHECIES trilogy. His forthcoming middle grade fantasy, THE SECRET OF DREADWILLOW CARSE, will be released in April 2016. He lives in St. Paul with his husband.

More about Brian Farrey

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