Sunday, January 8, 2012

Middle Story: Dark Whispers

When browsing the C shelves for Reading My Library, I recognized Bruce Coville's name as a popular children's SF writer, with titles about brain-frying teachers.  The Unicorn Chronicles were unfamiliar to me, and I had a vague memory that I needed more "U" books (wrong!), so I decided to try one.

Dark Whispers turns out to be the third book of four in the Unicorn Chronicles.  So the story begins in media res, which is not really a problem for me but gave my older son hives when he saw me do it ("uh mom, you DO know that is the third book, right...").  The unicorns live in their own alternate dimension, along with a variety of other creatures (dwarfs, delvers, centaurs, griffins, etc.), some friendly, some hostile.  Cara, our human heroine, is the granddaughter of the unicorn queen, and she has the gift of tongues and some fancy magic doo-dads that raise her status even higher than just having opposable thumbs in a kingdom of horned horses does.  But the adventure felt rather flat and cliched to me, with very predictable beats and villains.  I was a little more interested in Cara's father Ian, who is attempting to make up for years of misguided service on the wrong side, but even his story never really sparked to life.

The tone is very sincere, with strong overtones of high fantasy.  Great quests are the norm, and struggles with virtue, and so on, with very few breaks for humor other than from the cute and unique squirrelly creature who follows Cara around.  I'm probably missing a few things from starting in the middle (I'm not sure if I'm supposed to recognize the mysterious man who helps Ian), but mainly it lacks the quirky humor that Coville's SF stories have.  Despite the steep cliffhanger at the end, I'm not motivated to pick up book four to see if the good guys win.  I bet my sons would like the series, although they'd want to start at the beginning.

1 comment:

Heather Kelly said...

It's interesting that you aren't willing to pick up the next book. I find I have less patience for this sort of thing than when I was a kid. Thanks for the review!