Review + Giveaway: Wonder Light (Unicorns of the Mist #1) by R.R. Russell

Review + Giveaway: Wonder Light (Unicorns of the Mist #1) by R.R. RussellWonder Light by R. R. Russell
Series: Unicorns of the Mist #1
Published by Sourcebooks, Inc. on 2013-05-07
Pages: 256
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Twig is used to feeling unwanted. Sent to live on a pony ranch for "troubled" girls on a misty, haunted island, Twig is about to discover the impossible — someone who needs her.
Jolted awake from a bad dream, Twig follows the desperate whinny of a terrified horse out to the stables. There in the straw is a bleating little scrap of moonbeam. A silver-white filly with cloven hooves and a tiny, spiraling horn.

A baby unicorn.

Now Twig knows what secret is hiding in the island's mist: the last free unicorn herd. And a mysterious boy named Ben who insists that this impossible creature is now Twig's to care for. That she needs Twig's love and protection. Because there's something out there in the deep, dense shadows that's hunting for them...

I received this book from the author in exchange for an honest review.

The first thing I noticed after picking up Wonder Light was that Robin Hobb wrote a blurb for it. On the front cover is a quote. “Exhilarating,” she calls it. That sold me right then and right there. That’s what got me to open the book. R.R. Russell certainly got me to finish it. She crafts a great middle-grade novel with a spunky, brave heroine. Plus, unicorns. I’ve never been a unicorn enthusiast but I do appreciate that Russell makes unicorns regal again. There’s apparently a resurgence of My Little Pony enthusiasts but I think the show doesn’t give unicorns any dignity. They’re wild but can be tamed by the right person. They’re fierce but loyal. They have dimension. I think middle-grade kids will be wanting a unicorn for a while after reading this book. I mean, I’m almost 30 and *I* want a unicorn.

But it’s Twig who gives this story heart. Her stepmother, Keeley, sends her to live at a ranch for “troubled” girls. The tension is palpable at the beginning of the novel. Russell does a fantastic job making introducing their complicated relationship. More importantly, Russell creates a strong heroine who is a character that young girls and boys can emulate. Twig’s struggle is a real struggle for a lot of kids. It’s so important for them to know that they are not defined by their past and that there is a brave warrior inside of everyone.

Russell does an equally fantastic job creating a mythical atmosphere on the ranch where Twig lives. Mysterious screaming sounds? A ghost boy? It really drives the mystery. However, the one problem I have with Wonder Light is that it doesn’t do enough world building. There’s a passage to another realm on the island. I wanted to know so much more about Terracornus and the Queen’s need to draft unicorns into battle. I felt a little jilted by this lack of information. I also had a bit of trouble believing that Mr. and Mrs. Murley didn’t know that Twig was leaving at night to train for battle. Usually foster parents who run a correctional facility of any kind (therapeutic or not) are hip to the games that kids play. How did they not know? Also, when did Twig sleep? She left the house after everyone went to bed, trained all night, and came back just before dawn. I doubt if kids will notice these kinds of plot inconsistencies but it definitely kept me from giving this book the five-star review I think it would have warranted otherwise.

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