The Unicorn Chronicles is a high fantasy series of four children's novels published over sixteen years by American author Bruce Coville. They are chiefly set in a fictional parallel world called Luster, where unicorns, dragons, centaurs, gryphons, and dwarves fled from Earth, both to escape being hunted to extinction by humans, and to follow the magic which was fading out of the world. The protagonist, Cara, is a preteen girl whose family has complex connections on both sides of the divide between Earth and Luster: her father is a hunter of unicorns, and her maternal grandmother is revealed in the second book to be the heir to the hereditary monarchy of Luster's unicorns, living in disguise as a human on Earth. The primary challenges of the series are Cara's quest to be reunited with her missing mother, and the unified purpose of Cara's allies to end the millennia-long apocalyptic war of attrition between the unicorns and their ancient enemy, an immortal woman named Beloved.
The fourth book of the series is completely out of print and has no e-book currently available, though it does exist as an audiobook, which reviewers generally agree was very poorly made, with hammy voice acting that disrupts immersion and willing suspension of disbelief. The third book is available in print and audio, but not as an e-book. The first two books exist in all three formats. There are also three spin-off short stories which exist only in e-book format.
The long span of time elapsed between publication of the second and third books of the series has resulted in many readers returning to this series as adults, who read it as children. The content is age-appropriate for children, but the quality of the prose is still reasonably enjoyable for an adult returning to the series, which makes the series excellent for parents to read aloud with their children. The vocabulary used is diverse and extensive, excellent for children reading above their age level, as it encourages using context clues to figure out the meanings of advanced language. The themes are emotionally intense, ranging from coming-of-age narrative to betrayal and revenge plots, featuring families divided by irreconcilable ideological differences, and demonstrating how to recognise gaslighting and other forms of psychological abuse. The series predates the distinction of YA Literature from other age-based categories of books for children, but in retrospective, it doesn't quite land in the YA category: the protagonist is several years too young for the label to qualify, and she doesn't interact with humans in her own age range, or have growing experiences typical of human teenagers, due to her time being spent mostly among unicorns and other fantasy creatures.
Into the Land of the Unicorns (1994)
Song of the Wanderer (1999)
Dark Whispers (2008)
The Last Hunt (2010)
Accessory Short Stories
The Boy With Silver Eyes (2011)
The Guardian of Memory (2012)
After the Third Kiss (2012)
Iron Noder 2019, 7/30