Middle grade fantasy lovers will adore “The Unicorn Quest” by Kamilla Benko. It’s about sisters Sophie and Claire, who move with their parents into their Great-Aunt’s mansion after her mysterious disappearance.
Sophie is the older sister, the one who adores adventures. She calls them Experiences. Claire often follows along, but she’s the quieter sister, preferring to stay home and draw. The dark frightens Claire. Sophie had almost died of a strange illness and then was “magically” (according to the doctors who couldn’t figure it out) cured.
When Sophie and Claire find a ladder that ascends a fireplace in one of the rooms of the mansion, they climb it to find another world. It’s a dangerous world, though, and when they return, Claire makes Sophie promise to never go back. But when Sophie disappears, Claire knows that she has broken that promise, and Claire braves her fear to follow her sister to the other world to try to save her.
Claire faces danger but makes friends in Arden, this magical world where people are divided up into one of four guilds. Gemmers are those who can work magic on stone, Forgers on metal, Tillers on plants, and Spinners on clothes and fabric. The unicorns, once plentiful in Arden, have all been killed, and at night, people are in danger from deadly wraiths who come out once the sun sets.
What Claire finds out about the history and legend of Arden is surprising, but what she accomplishes is even more surprising. While the story has a slow beginning, it also has an action-filled ending, so give it a chance. It’s the first book in a series, so don’t expect a stand-alone book, and the ending is a bit of a cliffhanger.
Please note: This review is based on the final, hardcover book provided by the publisher, Bloomsbury, for review purposes.