Dark Hills DivideTitle: The Dark Hills Divide
Author: Patrick Carman
ISBN: 0439700930
Pages: 253 pages
Publisher/Date: Orchard Books, c2005.

After he died, I huddled up against the wall, searching for what little warmth remained locked away in the giant stones. My eyes fell upon the locket around Warvold’s lifeless neck, and then to his closed fist clutching the locket key, which got me to thinking about things one really should not be thinking about at such a time. If ever there were a person who would know how to get outside teh wall, it would have been Warvold. I didn’t know what other things the key might unlock, but I had a suspicion that possessing it might get me one step closer to sitting with my back against the other side of the wall. (29)

Twelve-year-old Alexa Daley is the only one there when Warvold dies, the smartest and oldest leader of the four interconnected towns in the Land of Elyon. After his death, trouble starts threatening from a neighboring town outside the protective but confining walls that Alexa has lived behind all her life. Alexa is curious what lays behind there, and is intent to find out. What she discovers in her search however is danger that no one expected; a danger that everyone thought had left the towns years ago. Now, with the head guard suspiciously watching her every move, Alexa must save her town.

The Dark Hills Divide is the first in the Land of Elyon series and the first novel Patrick Carman. Alexa’s blind faith in the companions who ultimately aid her in her quest requires some suspension of belief in the beginning. However, they all become lovable characters, especially Murphy a talking and highly excitable squirrel. The settings are detailed, and the map at the beginning is a much appreciated addition, assisting in the visualization of the action. I personally would have loved to have a map of the library included as well, but it’s probably just me and my library obsession. The chess game was very well described, and non-players and players alike will appreciate the drawings that accompany it. The ending was too neatly tied up for my preference, but hints at the following events in the series, which seems recommendable.