________________ CM . . . . Volume VI Number 12 . . . . February 18, 2000

cover Wish Upon a Unicorn.

Vicki Blum. Illustrated by Alan Barnard.
Markham, ON: Scholastic Canada Ltd., 1999.
138 pp., pbk., $4.99.
ISBN 0-590-51519-5.

Grades 4-7 / Ages 9-12.
Review by Gail Hamilton.

** /4


The next moment, Raden reached the unicorn. He paused, his eyes dark with rage and his face twisted and ghastly under the glaring sun. A large black stone glittered in the palm of his right hand. Arica could feel the air grow thick and heavy with gathering power.
"A soothstone," Drusa gasped, coming up beside Arica. "How dare he!"
The stone was old, rough-edged and pitted. It looked like Raden had dug it up from the very centre of the earth. The feeling Arica got from it was one of unspeakable evil.
Arica, a young girl, falls through a crack in her eccentric grandmother's floor and finds herself in Bundelag, a world of trolls, elves, fairies and unicorns. Taken prisoner by trolls, Arica is brought to their evil master, Lord Raden, prince of the fairies, who puts her to work in the underground mines where she toils alongside captive elf children and unicorns. The elves speak of a fairy with great powers who will someday come and unite their two countries. When that day arrives, "the lost fairies will return, magic will be kept from disappearing from the land, and everyone will live in peace and happiness." As she spends more time in the company of unicorns, Arica discovers that she can hear their thoughts, and she learns the real reason that she was brought to this strange land. So, with the help of Wish, a young unicorn, and a few elf companions, she sets out to free the captives and find her way home. Danger awaits at every turn - swift-moving rivers, battles and poisonous winged snakes called pfifers. Occasionally, Arica's ghostly grandfather makes an appearance to offer advice and give Arica the confidence to proceed on her quest. In the final chapter, Arica faces her nemesis, Raven, and, in the aftermath of their confrontation, realizes that she is, in fact, the fairy rescuer of whom the elves had spoken. She learns some interesting secrets about a few members of her family as well.

Blum's story moves along at a rapid pace, with her female heroine zipping from one adventure to the next. Often, only a single paragraph is devoted to what readers would consider a major event, such as a fight, for example. In this regard, there is not enough plot development for the story to be credible. What is somewhat disturbing is how easily Arica accepts her lot in life, neither cursing her fate nor expressing much anxiety over her inability to get back home (unlike Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz). In fact, throughout the story, Arica's character is rather flat and lifeless. To have a female protagonist in a fantasy is rare, and so it is unfortunate that, in this case, the author does not develop the main character into a stronger, more believable person. The plot is sometimes hard to follow. Text varies from very simple narrative to the extremely descriptive. Passages which express the unicorns' thoughts and messages to Arica are written in italics and contained between two asterisks.

Barnard's black-and-white pencil drawings, surrounded by decorative borders, suit the fantasy genre. The illustrator also includes a map of North Bundelag and its neighbouring lands at the beginning of the book, thereby giving readers a sense of the setting. A colourful, attractive cover is visually appealing and will attract readers (girls, especially).

Even though this book has all of the traditional elements of a fantasy and basically contains a good storyline, it will appeal only to diehard fantasy readers.

Recommended with Reservations.

Gail Hamilton is a teacher-librarian at Bird's Hill School in East St. Paul, MB.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364