Tuesday, March 17, 2020

The Unicorn Quest

The Unicorn Quest

I really feel like there should be a banner for these books. There are so many fantasy books being published, and so many of them are in really, really long series. This must make the publishers money, but in a school library, what happens is that book one gets worn out by the time book ten is published, and no one reads past book six anyway! I know this is a purely personal objection, but I can't be the only one who feels this way.

When there is a series like The Unicorn Quest that is three books long, has a fast-paced, well developed plot line with intriguing characters and great world building, I feel like there should be a party. Of course, for this one there clearly needs to be lots of multicolored cotton candy and sprinkles!
Benko, Kamilla. Secret in the Stone (The Unicorn Quest #2)
February 19th 2019 by Bloomsbury Children's Books
Public library copy

After going from their great aunt's house into the magical world of Arden in The Unicorn Quest, Claire and Sophie find themselves still embroiled in the problems of the kingdom and the guilds. They end up on Starscrape Mountain, which looks fairly abandoned, and start at a Gemmer school. The students are rather mean, and Sophie gets banished to the kitchen when they find out she doesn't have any magical abilities. One scholar, Terra, is nice and helps both girls out a lot, but Claire fears that she will be a pawn in the encroaching war between the guilds and the girls leave. They end up at Woven Root, a community which has Alchemists and members from different guilds. There is some amazing magic and innovations, since the different types of magic can be combined, but there is a catch-- no one can leave, lest the secret of the community get out. Of course, this doesn't stop the girls, and soon the girls continue their journey to coax a unicorn from the moontears that they have. Eventually, Nett finds them,and Sena is in trouble. There are secrets that come out about Sophie and Terra, and Claire has some realizations about how the moontears operate.
Strengths: This had some great twists at the end that I don't want to spoil. I liked the sisterly relationship, how Claire is really trying to get things done, but Sophie is more interested in just being in the magical world. The approach to magic, who has it, and how it is used and developed is the big selling point in this one. Woven Root was an interesting place.
Weaknesses: I know why there aren't more unicorns, but it would be nice if we got some more tempting glimpses of them. I also wish that when children got sucked into magical worlds that their adventures were more fun. Even in Narnia, things got pretty bleak.
What I really think: I somehow forgot to order this series, but I definitely put it on my list to purchase in August. I'm sure my readers will be glad they don't have to wait for the books to come out.

Benko, Kamilla. Fire in the Star (The Unicorn Quest #3)
February 18th 2020 by Bloomsbury Children's Books
Copy provided by the publisher

While escaping on a ship, Claire fires her lode arrow, which transports her closer to the shore, but only after a perilous journey to a coral reef, after which she is saved by sand dolphins! When she finally gets to land, she is surprised (and a little suspicious) to see Sophie, who of course turns out not to be the real Sophie but a glamor by a Spyden, which is both good and bad. Claire gets to ask the Spyden a question, but then it wants to kill her! Luckily, she manages to escape, and also frees Lyric, a Spinner girl who was being held captive at the cottage. Claire pretends that the Spyden has gathered her memory, and is taken care of by Lyric's family. There is a big celebration being planned, and Lyric is dancing in it. Claire goes along to practice and realized that the Love Knot Tine, the Spinner part of the Crown of Arden that she needs to collect to defeat Queen Estelle, is on display. She manages, against all odds, to get the tine, only to realize it is a fake! She leaves the Spinners and comes across Thorn, and the two use Spyden silk masks to pretend to be Aquila and Anvil Malchain so that they can infiltrate the Forgers. Their charade does not last long, but Claire eventually finds Sophie, Sena and Nett. Time is running out to defeat Queen Estelle, and Thorn is wanted for not delivering the tine. Soon, there is a huge Royalist gathering, and Estelle rides in on unicorn. Things get very fraught, and Claire wonders if she will ever be able to get Nadia, the last D'Astora, to be crowned so that the unicorns will return to Arden. Even if she is able to do that, what are the chances that she and Sophie will be able to return to their real home?
Strengths: This started with a really well done recap of the events of the first two books, which is always helpful. Claire remains true to her Gemmer magic, but unlike the residents of Arden, knows that all of the guilds have some good people in them, and they all want Arden to prosper. Queen Estelle is nicely wicked, and we learn more of her motivations and back story. There are a lot of nice twists and turns along the way that I don't want to give away. The story with Sophie has a somewhat sad ending, but we were given warnings along the way. It's nice to have a satisfying ending that is a little happy but also a little sad. Well done conclusion.
Weaknesses: It would have been good to have a little bit more information about Sophie's illness, although the vagueness does make the ending more plausible.
What I really think: Definitely glad to have this series in the collection, since my fans of dragon related fantasy sometimes want a change, and unicorns are always good!

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