The Unicorn Chronicles
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|Genre||Young adult fantasy novel|
The Unicorn Chronicles consists of four young adult fantasy novels by Bruce Coville about the fantasy world of Luster that lies parallel to our own. Within this realm exist all sorts of fantastical and mythological beasts, from the familiar unicorn to the strange, squirrel-like creature known as the Squijum. Cara Hunter is sent to Luster via a magical amulet, given to her by her grandmother, Ivy Morris. She is asked to tell the Queen of the Unicorns that "The Wanderer is weary," and must set out in search of the Queen. Along her travels, she befriends the world's inhabitants, such as Lightfoot, a young unicorn prince, M'Gama, a Geomancer who draws magical power from the earth, and the Dimblethum, a bearlike creature, among many others.
The first book, Into the Land of the Unicorns, introduces Cara as the main character. Ivy sends Cara into the parallel universe 'Luster', where she must find the unicorns' Queen, Arabella Skydancer, and give her a message sent by Ivy.
The second book, Song of the Wanderer, is about Cara's return to Earth to fetch her grandmother; however, while searching for Ivy, she encounters Beloved, a diabolical ancestress of hers, who is determined to enter Luster and destroy the unicorns.
The third book, Dark Whispers, follows both Cara and her father as they embark on separate missions. Cara is on the hunt to uncover a story removed from the Chronicles, one that has the potential to shed light on the enmity between the unicorns and the vicious race of creatures known as the delvers. Meanwhile, Ian Hunter, Cara's father, seeks a way into the Rainbow Prison in order to free his wife.
The fourth and final installation in the Unicorn Chronicles series, The Last Hunt, opens on Luster's hour of need. Beloved's plans to destroy Luster are coming to fruition, and it will require Cara, her family, her friends, and Luster's inhabitants themselves, to stop the threat.
There are also a few short stories set in the world of the Unicorn Chronicles. One is told from the perspective of Cara's grandmother during her childhood in Coville's anthology, A Glory of Unicorns. Also available are The Boy With Silver Eyes, following the story of Nils, whose father was a Hunter and who forced Nils to do something terrible that changed his life thereafter, and Guardian of Memory, in which Grimwold, keeper of the Unicorn Chronicles, is summoned to tell an important tale as part of a ceremony that occurs once every 25 years. It is the story of Alma Leonetti, and her quest to discover why something sweet and precious has disappeared from old Earth.
Into the Land of the Unicorns
- Cara Diana Hunter: The young female protagonist. She is sent into Luster by her grandmother's magical amulet to tell the Queen of the Unicorns that "The Wanderer is weary."
- Ivy Morris: Maternal grandmother to Cara, called the 'Wanderer' by nonhuman characters.
- Lightfoot: The first unicorn that Cara meets after arriving in Luster; a young and somewhat wayward descendant of the unicorns' Queen. The two become great friends along the span of Cara's travels.
- Beloved: Cara's paternal ancestress, who is bent on destroying all unicorns and is therefore called the "Ravager" in their mythology. She is both centuries old and immortal as a result of the tip of a unicorn's horn lodged in her chest when she was young, which continually pierces her heart and, reacting to her pain, heals the injury it causes. She is the main antagonist of the stories.
- Ian Hunter: Cara's father, who initially serves Beloved in hunting the unicorns to extinction as one of her hunters.
- Arabella Skydancer: Queen of the Unicorns, known as the Old One, to whom Cara conveys her grandmother's last message, initiating the second book.
- Dimblethum: A partly manlike, partly bearlike creature that rescues Cara on her arrival in Luster. He later accompanies Cara on her quest in the second book. He is suggested to be the only one of his kind.
- Squijum: A hyperactive "squirrel-like" animal that behaves like a lovable pet. He is twice identified as the only member of his species.
- Firethroat: The dragon controlled by Cara's father and later freed by Cara, to whom she gives the ability to understand and use the speech of any life-form of comparable intelligence.
- Thomas the Tinker: A traveling repairman and inventor who befriends Cara. He carries with him an array of pocket watches adapted to serve diverse ends.
- Grimwold: A dwarf who is Keeper of the Unicorn Chronicles. He writes down all the stories of Luster. He offers stories and help to the protagonists, and is faithful to both his task and his friends.
- Delvers: Ferocious, goblin-like creatures who serve as antagonists; they live mainly underground.
Song of the Wanderer
Most characters of the first book reappear in the subsequent books. Others are listed here:
- Ebillan: The youngest dragon in Luster, and the last to seek a home there. Like Firethroat, he keeps a vast hoard of treasures. His sweetheart is Lady Nakreema, who lives in a parallel universe distinct from both Luster and Earth. The resulting separation has made Ebillan foul-tempered.
- Moonheart: A gruff, detached unicorn. The Queen's relative and Lightfoot's uncle. He is the leader of the small group that assists in taking Cara back to Earth to retrieve the Wanderer. He is responsible for - and therefore often annoyed at - his nephew for being frivolous.
- Finder: One of the unicorns who accompany Cara to Earth; he is gentle, kind, and an experienced explorer.
- Medafil: A gryphon whom Cara rescues in the forest on her journey. He was promised a kiss by Ivy years before, and Cara kisses him to pay the debt. He gives Cara a shell that constantly sings the "Song of the Wanderer," composed by Ivy herself, and a spherical light that grows or shrinks on command. Medafil later accompanies Cara on her way to Ebillan's cave.
- Amalia Flickerfoot: The Queen's favorite granddaughter and the true identity of Ivy the Wanderer, whose form she assumed to escape Beloved's Hunters, and thus remained until the end of the second book. In her human form, she has no memory of her earlier identity, though all memories return to her upon its restoration.
- Belle: The third unicorn accompanying Cara to Earth. She specializes in fighting tactics, and is a romantic interest of Lightfoot's (and, as is revealed in the third book, Finder's).
- The Queen's Players: A traveling performance troupe, led by the acrobat Armando de la Quintano. He's considered frivolous by Belle and Moonheart, but is much valued by other characters, and instrumental in the final battle of the story.
- Jacques: One of the Queen's Players, and former husband to Ivy. Upon learning that Cara is Ivy's granddaughter, he joins Cara's party, believing Cara is his own granddaughter as well. Coville appears to imply some ambiguity of this claim, though no evidence has appeared to contradict it.
- M'Gama: A Geomancer ("earth mage"; lit. "one who works divination by contact with earth") who gives Cara directions to Earth and a ring that reveals the location of Ivy. She appears capable of great feats of extrasensory perception and psychokinesis derived from sensitivity to Luster's geosphere. She refers at times to the "lines of power"; this is evidently a reference to ley lines. She ultimately places herself within Luster's Axis Mundi to prevent its collapse.
- Flensa: A female dwarf and M'Gama's beloved assistant.
- Bellenmore: The old and powerful wizard who opened the world of Luster as a haven for the unicorns, dragons, and (as is revealed in the third book) many other mythical beings.
The majority of characters reappear in the third book, and some new are introduced. All play a prominent part in the fourth.
- The Whisperer: A mysterious, nearly invisible force created when (according to the story's premise) the unicorns, in ancient times, magically drained themselves of potential evil. This potential evil became the Whisperer, a shadowy being that (as his name suggests) whispers to life-forms, persuading them to behave maliciously. The act of creating him also created the delvers from a strain of dwarfs.
- The Blind Man: An obese, reclusive individual living in New Delhi, said to have sacrificed his eyesight in order to gain knowledge of the Rainbow Prison. Ian Hunter seeks knowledge from him in the early chapters of the book. In exchange for this information, the Blind Man gains the ability to deprive Ian of his eyesight, which the Blind Man then uses as his own before returning it. He is later shown to have exiled his wife to the Rainbow Prison as punishment for deceiving or betraying him, and stated to have formed alliances with her thereafter. His motivations are ambiguous.
- (Madame) Alma Leonetti: The oldest human on Luster, who traveled there in search of the unicorns shortly after Bellenmore's removal of them, and ensured that a single unicorn (called the 'Guardian of Memory' in-universe) remains on Earth to fulfill the eponymous task. Like Thomas and Cara, she has received an unusual longevity, and therefore has lived for centuries. She appears in A Glory of Unicorns, Dark Whispers, and in the short story Guardian of Memory, where much of her own background story is revealed.
- Balan: Alma's loyal brother, who accompanies her in search of the unicorns. He remains on Earth even after she chose to leave.
- Fallon: A tall, extremely beautiful man who accompanies Ian Hunter in the search for the Rainbow Prison, desiring to enter it himself in search of a friend named Elihu, with whom he is said to have shared an intimacy superior to that of brothers. Fallon is portrayed as an unusual figure, capable of discerning lies when they are spoken to him; he is highly intelligent, thoughtful, and skilled. A mention of Elihu as one of those present at the ceremony that created the Whisperer suggests that he and Fallon are thousands of years old, despite Fallon's appearance of youth. Fallon himself reveals little to Ian of his own past until inside the Rainbow Prison, and even then does not mention his true age.
- Rajiv: The North Indian boy who, bribed by Ian Hunter, leads him to the home of the Blind Man. Rajiv later accompanies Ian and Fallon to and inside the Rainbow Prison. He is shown to be adventurous, prone to airsickness, cunning, friendly, helpful, and playful.
- Gnurflax: King of the delvers; capricious and prone to violent fury, and heavily influenced by the Whisperer.
- Rocky/Nedzik: A delver who questions King Gnurflax's policy of abetting the Hunters, Nedzik appears in the first book to warn Cara and her friends of a threat, and in the third book is eventually imprisoned for treason and deprived of his name (an archaic delver punishment of especial severity). Cara, later captive, encounters him in prison, and subsequently renames him "Rocky."
- Namza: King Gnurflax's advisor/shaman, Namza is a delver wizard skilled in various arts of magic. He is stated to have been Gnurflax's closest advisor before the arrival of the Whisperer. He attempts to the discover the Whisperer's identity, but is thwarted when the Whisperer imprisons him in his own magic spell, turning him into stone. In the fourth book, he is identified as Nedzik/Rocky's past mentor.
- The Chiron: The ruler of the centaurs of Luster, who dwell in a small valley in the northeast. His title and position are traditionally bestowed on the most skilled warrior of the tribe; however, the Chiron of the third book has been immortal for many centuries, having received a boon to this effect so that he may return to Earth, from whence his people came.
- Arianna: The Chiron's granddaughter, who befriends Cara and her company.
- Martha Morris Hunter: Cara's mother, daughter of Ivy and presumably of Jacques. Kept in stasis in the Rainbow Prison until the third book, wherein her dormancy is broken by Rajiv.
- Barnabas: One of the humans trapped in the Rainbow Prison, and the first of this category to meet Ian, Fallon, and Rajiv. It is he who reveals the location of Martha and the ability of teleportation known as "shimmering" by which anyone in the Rainbow Prison may move instantaneously from its current position to another whose appearance is known. He is suggested to be slightly delusional, although coherent.
- Felicity: The Blind Man's wife, who is stated to have been banished to the Rainbow Prison by her husband. They are said to be allies of convenience.
- Aaron: Bellenmore's apprentice, mentioned only by name. He is implied to have left his master on grounds of a quarrel, but is stated in other books by Coville to have been a wizard of equal potency.
Luster, the Land of the Unicorns, is a parallel universe linked to Earth by seven portals, called Gates. According to the story's premise, the Gates are controlled by five amulets, known as the Queen's Five, made of gold, crystal, and unicorn hair. These amulets carry the bearer, upon utterance of necessary incantations, between worlds. Luster itself is said to have been created by the being called Elihu, against the will of those more divine than himself. At its center stands an immense tree, identified as its Axis Mundi, whose roots are believed to extend as far as does Luster itself. This Axis Mundi is damaged by Beloved's entry into Luster (thus placing the entire world in danger of collapse), and is later mended after the Hunters' defeat.
The unicorns' sociopolitical court meets at four distinct places located on the four corners of a continent. Each is inhabited during a particular season of the year; the four are called Springdale, Summerhaven, Autumngrove, and Winterkeep.
Like Earth, Luster has constellations. The Ravager, the Queen, the Guardian, and the Snake are the only ones mentioned. The Ravager constellation is connected to Beloved, who uses it as a means of influencing Cara.
Seven dragons live in Luster: Firethroat, Graumag, Fah-Leing, Redrage, Elliban, Master Bloodtongue, and Bronzeclaw. These were the last seven dragons on Earth, who fled to Luster when (according to the story's premise) they were unable to remain. Other members of their race live in yet another parallel universe, possibly the same universe glimpsed in Coville's novel Jeremy Thatcher, Dragon Hatcher, by the presence in both storylines of the wizard Bellenmore and his apprentice Aaron.
Between Luster and Earth, and presumably between other worlds, lies a realm of light in all the colors of the visible spectrum. Because this realm is sometimes used as a place of exiles, it is called the Rainbow Prison. It is accessible by means of certain jewels corresponding in color to individual 'shafts' of the Prison.