I first started reading Bruce Coville’s Unicorn Chronicles in 1994 when Into the Land of the Unicorns, the first book, was published. I remember both myself and my best friend buying it at a book fair. Into the Land of the Unicorns was a lovely story and I was excited to learn it would be followed by a sequel. I waited. And waited. Finally in 1999 Song of the Wanderer was published. Unfortunately, Song of the Wanderer was not the final book of the series; Bruce Coville had planned the Unicorn Chronicles to be a trilogy. I checked his website off and on for the next several years until I finally read the announcement I’d been waiting for: the third book was being written! And apparently he had so much to write that he was splitting the book in two. Dark Whispers, the third book in the series, was published in 2008 and the final book, The Last Hunt, was published in 2010. And now, almost twenty years later, I finally got to read the entire series.
The Unicorn Chronicles tell the story of Cara, a young girl who, along with her grandmother Ivy Morris, is chased into a church by a mysterious man. Her grandmother gives Cara her “special”, a magic locket that is a portal into the land of Luster, the home of the unicorns. Instructing Cara to find the Old One and tell her that “the Wanderer is weary,” Ivy attempts to hold the man off while Cara goes to Luster alone.
On her way to find the Old One, Cara encounters many strange and wondrous creatures, such as the Dimblethum (a creature that looks half-man and half-bear), the Squijum (a creature that appears half-squirrel and half-monkey), and Lightfoot, the young unicorn Cara first encounters. Together they head to the Unicorn Queen, all the while hunted by the same man who chased Cara and her grandmother into the church.
Along the way, Cara and her friends meet Grimwold, the keeper of the Unicorn Chronicles. It is he who first tells Cara about the unicorn’s history, of how they were hunted back on earth by a woman named Beloved and her descendants. The hunt grew so fierce that the unicorns fled from the Earth to where Beloved could not reach them: Luster. But now one of her descendants has entered Luster. And he is after Cara.
The series took me by surprise a few times, going in some completely unexpected directions, particularly in the later books. But it is still the first book, Into the Land of the Unicorns, that holds all of the magic for me. It is a simple book that is beautifully written and still manages to convey the same sense of wonder that it evoked in me nearly twenty years ago. While it was intended for children, it is enjoyable for adults as well, even for people who are not fans of fantasy.
And if you decide to continue reading the series, at least you won’t have to wait 18 years like I did!