Book: The Carrefour Curse
Author: Dianne K. Salerni
Publisher: Holiday House
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
Synopsis: “Twelve-year-old Garnet doesn’t know her family. Her mother has done her best to keep it that way, living far from the rest of the magical Carrefour clan and their legendary mansion known as Crossroad House.
But when Garnet finally gets summoned to the estate, it isn’t quite what she hoped for. Her relatives are strange and quarrelsome, each room in Crossroad House is more dilapidated than the last, and she can’t keep straight which dusty hallways and cobwebbed corners are forbidden.
And then she learns a terrifying secret/l the dying Carrefour patriarch fights to retain his life by stealing powers from the others. Every household accident that isn’t an accident, every unexpected illness and unexplained disappearance grants him a little more time.
While the Carrefours squabble over who will in heritage his role when (if) he dies, Garnet encounters evidence of an even deeper curse. Was she brought to Crossroad House as part of the curse…or is she meant to break it?”
Review: I don’t often read middle grade novels, but this looked too cute to pass up! I clearly didn’t retain the synopsis because when I found out our protagonist, Garnet, was 12 (about 3/4 through the book) I was shocked. While The Carrefour Curse reads like a mid-grade novel, Garnet reads as much older than 12. But, this could be how little I read books in this realm!
As the novel begins, we find Garnet in a very wizard-with-a-lightning-bolt-scar predicament: she’s spitting up frogs and has no idea how to reverse the effects of whatever has gone wrong. We find her riding in the car with her mother, Emerald, getting closer and closer to the old family home, Crossroads House. Convinced that this is a summoning spell gone wrong, Emerald brings her daughter to the family home she’s never before allowed her to visit, in the hopes that this will satisfy a magical spell she believes her siblings and cousins have placed on her daughter. As it turns out, the family has been experiencing their own fair share of mystical conundrums and once Emerald and Garnet arrive at Crossroads House, they find they cannot leave without experiencing some kind of physiological distress.
As the story progresses, we begin to get glimpses into a murky past that only Garnet is privy to. While each member of the Carrefour family has their own magical powers, Garnet’s are beginning to awaken now that she’s in the vicinity of the home. She’s always had a special connection to the element Earth, but the more time she spends at Crossroads House, the more she comes to realize that she can also see and walk in the past; a time traveler. It is this special gift that allows Garnet to begin to unravel the mystery of the old house, the original location of Crossroads House, believed to be built directly on top of magical lay lines. The current house sits off from the old ruins, as anyone who goes near the old house mysteriously vanishes. It soon seems as though Garnet is the only person who will be able to release the curse, and with it the missing people.
Salerni does a good job of creating a magical world in Carrefour Curse, she lays out the family tree in a way that’s easy to follow in spite of the fact that it spans multiple generations and several of the family members share the same name. I think it’s no small feat to not only make a confusing and convoluted family tree seem manageable, but to also take a mansion and make it’s layout feel understood. It’s helpful, of course, that she included both a house layout and a family tree in diagram form in the book, but I think, especially for a younger audience, this could have gotten confusing quick. It’s easy to step into this book and find yourself comfortably in the world Salerni’s created and I think that’s a huge positive!
The book itself feels like it misses a lot of opportunities for connections to be made, which on a positive note makes it harder to predict, but on a negative note makes it feel a bit frustrating at times. Salerni brings things up that you think will play out in a certain way based on context clues, but we find them unused pieces of information that don’t necessarily go anywhere. I think there’s some work that could have been done here to make the book even better, more rounded, and solid – for me. But all in all, it’s a fun and enjoyable mid-grade read with an ending I thought made sense, and that’s sometimes all you can hope for.
Advice: If you’re looking for a book that has a clearly built magical system in place, that feels light and fluffy to read, and that won’t make you frustrated, this is it! It’s a great read for a snow day in, it’s nice a quick, and it’s a good breather from other, more intense fantasy books. All around enjoyable and cute.