Monday, July 27, 2015

Song of the Wanderer by Bruce Coville, 1999

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Cara must return to Earth to save her grandmother, the Wanderer. But to do so, Cara must first travel through the wilderness of Luster, land of the unicorns, full of unknown creatures and perilous adventure around every bend in the road. Only at the back of the dragon Ebillan's cave will she find the gate that can return her to Earth.
Embarking on the journey of her life, Cara will face vicious terrain, delver attacks, and a surly dragon. Beyond all this looms one more danger: Beloved, Cara's infamous ancestor, who has dedicated a lifetime to ridding the earth of unicorns. Is Cara strong enough to resist Beloved's ruthless magic and trickery? Can she bear betraying her own blood?

(336 pages)

I reviewed the first book in the Unicorn Chronicles, Into the Land of the Unicorns, a few months ago. It was a good book, but very short (not even hitting the 200-page mark). Nothing about it particularly wowed me, but I did enjoy reading it and I looked forward to reading the later books. My biggest fear about the rest of the series? That they wouldn't be able to flesh the tale out as much as I anticipated was possible, because of their meager page counts. As you can see, this fear was laid to rest the minute I got my copies of the second and third books from the library. Song of the Wanderer is the size of an average novel at 330 pages, and the third book, Dark Whispers, was a cool 480 pages. The final book in the series, titled The Last Hunt (which I haven't been able to get my hands on yet), takes the cake at just over 600 pages. Yipe!

So we've got the room for fleshing things out. But did it really happen? Why, yes indeed. Of the three books that I've read, Song of the Wanderer is definitely my favorite. It's got danger, excitement, friendship, family, and (of course!) unicorns. Cara still feels a bit like a vanilla character, with no real depth besides the usual "bravery, loyalty, and love," but somehow that doesn't really bother me with these books. I think it's because she serves almost purely as a stand-in for the reader, so I get to feel even more absorbed into the story.

I still don't like her father, though, and of all the characters in the entire  series he is the only one who honestly just feels . . . fake. His motives, his actions, his words - it all comes across as a little too two-dimensional, like he's just a pawn on the board put into place by the author. I don't mind if Coville wants to use him that way (after all, characters basically are pawns controlled by the author!), but it definitely shouldn't feel like he's only behaving the way he does to move the story along. I also had trouble with him in the third book, but I'll go deeper into all of that when I review it.

Now I have to say that the ending was absolutely awesome. I totally didn't see it coming, and really loved where it took Cara's story! I had to immediately jump into the third book (review coming) because I was dying to find out what happened next. It's what really made the story for me. Everything came together beautifully, setting up a huge amount of potential for the third book.

All in all, this is absolutely my favorite book in the series so far. As for the series as a whole, I wouldn't call it one of my all-time favorites but it's definitely a great, well-written (if occasionally long-winded in the later books) series that I am really looking forward to finishing. As soon as I can schlep myself all the way over to the only county library in my state that actually has a copy of The Last Hunt (which went out of print after, like, five minutes).

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