Wonder Light by R.R. Russell (Unicorns of the Mist #1)
Sourcebooks Jabberwocky, 2013
*ARC sent by the publisher - thank you!*
In a weird twist of fate, I came home one afternoon to find a package containing this book. I didn't ask for it, I haven't read middle grade novels since I was in late elementary school/junior high myself, but since it was there I figured I'd go ahead and give it a read.
In her debut children's novel, Russell introduces readers to 12 year old Twig. She's been sent to an island in the Pacific Northwest to stay with a family on their secluded ranch where they take care of other 'troubled girls' like her, giving them a chance at a fresh start. It looks fine enough, but there's something in the mists that Twig doesn't quite trust. Despite the fact that Twig is terrified of horses, she finds herself secretly caring for a newly born unicorn and working with the mysterious boy Ben who lives in the woods. A magical and dangerous war is taking place among the unicorns and Twig must face her fears to save this creature, place, and people she has come to love.
All in all, this was a cute fantasy mixing a contemporary world with ancient magical elements. The idea of unicorns having their own sort of society while still interacting with people in their own world was a twist I've never seen before. It took a while for me to fully wrap my head around it, but once I did I was good to go. The only criticism I have about the story was some pacing issues. Within the first few pages, you learn Twig has been branded as 'bad' but you don't learn why for a really long time. Also, the first half was a lot of building up and background while the second half was more action, but this seems to be pretty typical of books that set up a series. After all, in Harry Potter, Harry doesn't even get to Hogwarts until halfway through book one.
This book was a fine and fast reintroduction to middle grade writing, so if that's your target age group, it's worth checking out from your library. If you know young fantasy fans or readers that don't mind a twist on the contemporary, they'll probably love this. I gave this very ARC to the 9-year-old girl who lives next door and she's been gushing about it ever since, so in this case I think you better take her word over mine.
Comments welcome, and, as always, happy reading.
R.R. Russell's Website