“Secret in Stone” is the second book in “The Unicorn Quest” series by Kamilla Benko, and it truly is a fantasy adventure. The sisters, Claire and Sophie, are in an alternate world accessed by a chimney in their great-aunt’s house which leads to a well in the land of Arden, where magic lives.
But the Arden that the sisters visit is fraught with problems, and the magic is disappearing, withering away. In fact, since Queen Estelle had all the unicorns killed generations ago, the different clans, who have different magic, have separated and are now on the brink of war. Claire has discovered that she has Gemmer magic, she can work with gems and stones, but Sophie seems to not have any magic at all. Together, the sisters make their way through the land in search of the unicorn who saved Sophie’s life in the first book, and to find a way to unlock the magic of the unicorns — perhaps the only way to save Arden.
Claire is a wonderful main character. She is brave and clever, but she has faults, too. She is certainly a character that readers will be able to both admire and relate to. And although the main character is a girl, and the other main character is her sister, this book has enough dark adventures and certain peril that boys, who don’t typically read books with girl MCs, will find this a wonderful read.
The story has many facets that will cause thoughtful readers to ponder. Can a younger sister take charge and lead the two of them? Why does Claire have magic and Sophie have none? Who can they trust in this land of possible allies and possible enemies? Is Claire, the younger sister, the rightful heir to the throne since she is the one with the magic? Is Queen Estelle alive since the rock she was entombed in has disappeared? Is there really a unicorn running around somewhere?
These books have exciting action scenes, and readers learn that people are not always who they appear to be. The actions of the main characters teach compassion for living creatures and the importance of collaboration and cooperation between groups of people. And the stories are just fun to read — kids will enjoy them. All great reasons to put this series high on any list of suggested reading for middle grade fantasy lovers.
Please note: This review is based on the final, hardcover book provided by Bloomsbury, the publisher, for review purposes.