Back in my 2012 Favorites post, I mentioned a few books I was looking forward to adding to this year’s Hall o’ Faves. This is one of them:
Because UNICORNS! And NOSTALGIA! And EPIC FANTASY ADVENTURE!
[switches to possible-side-effects voice]
If you are a Coville fan aged 10 or under (first, a high-five for your good taste!), or the parent of a Coville fan aged 10 or under, you should know that this book contains a few preeeetty violent scenes, some involving moderate-to-severe blood loss and/or death. It’s not Game of Thrones or anything – it does, after all, maintain the enchanting, fairytale tone of Books I – III (and we’re talking about unicorns here, people. How scary can unicorns be?). But I thought I’d mention it anyway.
A brief autobibliography. Or: When Neri Met Uni (…corns):
I started the Unicorn Chronicles in sixth grade. I might’ve seen it in one of those 4-6 page Scholastic catalogs that my homeroom teacher handed out, or on one of their traveling book fair shelves. A thin black paperback with a silvery title and a unicorn on the cover – it was like an LED to a moth. Oh, yes! said the moth. Take me Into the Land of the Unicorns!
Of course I loved it. Here was a land with “crystal streams” and silver-barked trees that smelled like cinnamon, and characters like the Squijum (a squirrel/monkey-like creature who talks like this: “Good Squijum! Happy good hotcha-gotcha!” ), the Dimblethum (a creature half man, half bear), Thomas the Tinker, and a young-adult unicorn named Lightfoot (young adult meaning just over 100 years old). And the land is called “Luster,” which is just about the prettiest name ever for a land.
It’s not all sparkly unicorns and cinnamon trees, though. There are wonderfully eerie, shadowy moments, too, right from the start. Just the way Cara has to enter Luster makes you hold your breath and wonder – if someone you trusted that deeply told you to do the same thing, would you?
The next books followed slowly, the longest wait being the nine years between Song of the Wanderer (Book II) and Dark Whispers (Book III). And I’ll admit, I didn’t keep my sequel binoculars out for as long as I had with other series, like Harry Potter and Earth’s Children. Between Books I and II, there were other obsessions to be indulged (my cat phase, my horse phase, my years of pining after Ocean Girl…), and all that starting-high-school stuff. And in the nine years between II and III (plus the four years after it was published, when the Chronicles were still buried somewhere in my mind-attic) —
— there was college, grad classes, re-discovering Ocean Girl through the magic of it-was-finally-released-on-DVD.
It’s a mark of Coville’s talent that when the curiosity and finish-what-you-started bugs finally caught up with me last year, the world he’d created and the characters I’d half-forgotten pulled me back in as quickly and strongly as the first time. The ominous Prologue to Dark Whispers was an excellent hook, and then The Last Hunt was just… yeah, I’mma say it:
The “e” word:
I know it’s been thrown around to the point of meaninglessness…
…but the unicorn quartet deserves it. The Last Hunt especially.
[puts on scholar glasses]
According to the Oxford online dictionary, the word “epic” means:
a long poem, typically one derived from ancient oral tradition, narrating the deeds and adventures of heroic or legendary figures or the history of a nation.
It may not be written in verse, but the series is framed as part of an ancient record – written by an official scribe (the “Keeper of the Chronicles”) according to the oral accounts he receives – of a world’s history, including its heroes and other great figures.
a long film, book, or other work portraying heroic deeds and adventures or covering an extended period of time
Yes, I’d say 1500+ pages (that’s all four books combined) = a long story. A story in which some of the events and characters go back thousands and thousands of years.
heroic or grand in scale or character
As you progress through the series, you can see how the tension, the danger, the number of characters and subplots (which work brilliantly together, instead of making the story feel heavy and/or cluttered), and the size/character of the setting – our understanding of it, that is – build from one book to the next until everything crashes together in The Last Hunt.
Things are revealed. Huge, incredible, amazing things. (I wonder if Coville saw these things coming when he started the series, or if the muse of Twists! and Revelations! popped in midway?) There isn’t even a Table of Contents this time, so readers won’t be spoiled by even the most vague chapter title.
particularly impressive or remarkable
See all of the above.
Continued on pg 2