cover image Into the Land of the Unicorns

Into the Land of the Unicorns

Bruce Coville. Scholastic, $12.95 (0pp) ISBN 978-0-590-45955-6

Coville's (My Teacher Is an Alien) mild fantasy, the first in the projected Unicorn Chronicles, opens promisingly, with a suspenseful chase scene, but somewhat dissipates its force. A nameless hunter pursues Cara and her grandmother into an empty church, where the grandmother gives Cara her amulet-along with the bewildering instructions to jump from the church tower at the twelfth toll of the bell. The girl lands in Luster, the land of the unicorns, and tries to unravel the mystery surrounding the amulet even as she continues to elude the hunter. Aided by a young unicorn and an assortment of odd creatures, including Dimblethum (``He looked like a bear that had started to become a man but hadn't finished the process'') and Squijum (``a cross between a monkey and a squirrel''), Cara embarks on a number of dangerous adventures. The plot jumps from one episode to the next, and can be confusing. But drama builds with the revelation that the hunter is none other than Cara's father (who long ago abandoned her); no stock villain, he is given plausible motives for his inimical deeds. Cara's loyalties are severely tested, leaving plenty of room for a sequel. Fantasy fans might be content with the headlong pacing, but most will hope that future installments will include more fluid writing and less convoluted plot lines. Ages 8-12. (Sept.)