Coville, Bruce: Into the Land of the Unicorns; Song of the Wanderer

After finishing The Sign of Four, I gave some children’s books by Bruce Coville a shot, specifically the first two books of the Unicorn Chronicles, Into the Land of the Unicorns and Song of the Wanderer. I’d vaguely heard good things about Coville for a while, but never read any of his stuff. Chad’s mom went to a breakfast presentation by him last week, and snagged a book for us. Unfortunately, it was the second book, but she also had the first one around—which is incredibly short, so it was no problem to read it while I was lounging around Sunday.

These might be good, but I’m too old for them—which was somewhat of a surprise to me, considering the amount of YA stuff I read. On the other hand, these are children’s books, not YA books, and it does make a difference. For one thing, they’re twee. I mean, unicorns: not your interestingly revised unicorns à la Pamela Dean’s Secret Country books, either, but your standard beautiful sparkly noble healing unicorns. Also, the prose kept calling Thog’s Masterclass to mind. One line from the first book stuck in my mind: after a unicorn clears a pond with his horn, we are told that drinking the water “was like drinking diamonds.” Ouch.

There are a few interesting things about these: a nice throwaway line in the first about the dual nature of chains, for instance, and a pretty good conceit behind the main villain. But mostly I’m just too old for these, too old and too cynical to not see the plot twists coming from a mile away, to put up with the twee worldbuilding, and to overlook the level of the prose.

9 Comments

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  1. Surely diamonds would be rather scratchy on the throat?

  2. Like I said: ouch. =>

  3. This book roxs!!!

  4. I love to read! It rocks!!! Go reading
    Dear:
    DROP
    EVERYTHING
    AND
    READ

  5. One of the most beautiful books I have ever read. Read each during 5th grade, am now a freshman and still remember this book. I loved the storyline and the characters. If you love unicorns as much as I do, you will surely love this book.

  6. I love this book! I am at chapter 9, The Hunted. I LOVE THIS BOOK ^^

  7. This book is amazing! I’ve read book 1 and 2 and I am getting book 3. Its an awesome fantasy!

  8. I have read the books. unforunatly only the first two, but i am about to start the third one soon. i can’t wait. i absolutly loves these books that Bruce Covnille has written. I look forward to his next ones. i wish they could make a really good movie out of the story. anywho, i read this book a couple of years ago wen i was younger. i am 18 now and a freshman in college, still evnjoying every page i read. 🙂

  9. My kids have been enjoying Bruce Coville’s books for a couple years, and I have to agree with you on the Unicorn Chronicles. But, I would recommend the Magic Shop books to anyone in a heartbeat. They are some of the strongest books I’ve read from the YA dept, like you, I read a lot of it.
    Two in particular have stuck with me through rereadings; Jeremy Thatcher, Dragon Hatcher and The Skull of Truth. Both speak to me of dealing gracefully with loss and ambiguity. Although the premise of the books require magic, the conclusions for each one requires humanity.
    Coville can be tricky to read because he writes (I was going to say “dashes off”) so many books, and the intensity of them can be all over the map. I think of it as a more British writing model – whang them out and some extraordinary stuff will appear, spend too much time polishing any particular idea and it gets precious fast.

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