Reviewed by K. Osborn Sullivan for TeensReadToo.com
CHANDLEFORT is the sequel to the young adult fantasy novel, CLOVERMEAD: IN THE SHADOW OF THE BEAR. It continues the tale of 13-year-old Clovermead, who discovers that she is not actually a commoner, but instead is royalty and next in line to rule Chandlefort. The discovery complicates the simple life she once led. She must learn how to be a ruler from her iron-willed mother, while training herself to act like a proper young lady. Being a shape shifter does not make things any easier; neither does finding herself caught in a revenge plot involving her royal mother and a long-dead suitor.
CHANDLEFORT is an odd mix of elements, some of which I liked, while others seemed either confusing or downright irritating. My favorite part of the novel is a pair of parallel love triangles in which Clovermead finds herself enmeshed. One of the love stories was taking place in the present day, and the other was decades old, but still causing trouble. Clovermead's involvement with both sagas causes no end of difficulty for her and those she loves.
The times when I liked and understood Clovermead the best were when she was struggling with her unrequited interest in a handsome young man and his apparent infatuation with another girl. The insights she gained from this hurtful experience offered her the opportunity to see the book's main villain as more than just one-dimensional.
Unfortunately, there were also a number of things happening in this novel that I was less enthusiastic about. For one thing, Clovermead possessed some abilities that came and went with little clear explanation. She could turn herself into a bear, as well as communicate telepathically with real bears. She could also use her mind to communicate with a select few other individuals who were many miles away, but I had no idea how or why that was the case. She didn't seem to fully understand the source of her powers either, but she seemed completely unfazed by them. Also, her sword glowed brightly on occasion, and, while no one knew why, everyone treated that oddity with little more than mild curiosity.
Perhaps the thing that bothered me most was that Clovermead was constantly making the kind of bad decisions that cause readers to want to scream at fictional characters. Why would anyone make a bargain with a disembodied stranger's voice that suddenly pops into her head? And yet, it happened more than once.
Overall, it was an interesting book that had some problems. No doubt many lovers of young adult fantasy should be able to overlook those shortcomings and enjoy the journey to Chandlefort.