Review of INTO THE LAND OF THE UNICORNS by BRUCE COVILLE
(first in THE UNICORN CHRONICLES)
From the unbiased blog of a short person, smaller doesn't equal lesser! Coville's 159-page book can serve as evidence. Rather than a sense that this story isn't very fleshed out, I finished the book with a conviction that Coville doesn't waste words.
The book opens with the line "Gramma, is that man following us?” Indeed, the protagonist, Cara, and her grandmother, notice a dark figure stalking them and we're off with an action scene as they flee their pursuer. By the end of Chapter 2, only 14 pages into the book, Cara is separated from her grandmother in their escape and leaps off the top of a church tower to fall into Luster, the magical world of the unicorns. Let me repeat: the first 14 pages.
INTO THE LAND OF THE UNICORNS doesn't slow down from there. For such a short book, the plot is packed with action, new acquaintances, unusual creatures, and unexpected revelations. Forget predicting what's going to happen next; you won't have time.
Twelve-year-old Cara remained a likable and endearing protagonist for me from start to finish. Despite her youth, she has a sense of morality that rivals that of many grown adults. When confronted with agonizing choices, she might bemoan the lack of a consequence free option, but she sticks by whichever decision feels right.
However, my favorite character has to be the Squijum, otherwise known as the comic relief. His oral communication skills are limited, confined to strings of clipped, rambling exclamations, though abundant with enthusiasm. This gives us entertaining outbursts such as, “Nasty phooey strange hotcha no-good trustem?”
The book sets the stage for a sweeping epic. Throughout we learn information that will surely be mined for interesting twists and dilemmas, and despite the shorter length of the book it's obvious there's a deeper story here than first meets the eye. Even though Cara's tale obviously isn't complete the ending still satisfies.