Introducing my family’s latest card-game obsession: Unstable Unicorns. The inscription on the box reads “Build a Unicorn Army. Betray your friends. Unicorns are your friends now.” Yeah, that’s a pretty accurate description of this game, actually. Starting out with one (adorable) baby unicorn, you work to build a stable full of unicorns–and sabotage other players from beating you to the goal. If you’ve ever played Exploding Kittens, there are a number of similar elements in the gameplay, although I think this game is a bit more complex. The art on the cards is fabulous, and the text is amusing and often punny. Generally speaking, this is quite a nerdy game, in the best possible sense of the word. Personally, I particularly enjoy the combination of strategy and chance that comes into play–it’s entirely possible to play the long game and have strategies planned out for numerous turns in advance. It’s also possible for another player to spring something on you and put all that planning to naught. . . . Of course, you can turn the same thing back on them, as well. The game is also quite adaptable, accommodating anywhere from 2 to 8 players with ease. There are also a number of expansion packs for added fun. Highly recommended.
NOTE: If you’re interested, you can find out more here.
Author: Jane Yolen
Illustrator: Tom McGrath
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Abbot Aelian took over Cranford Abbey with high hopes of turning it around, bringing it from (let’s face it) shabbiness back to glory. His secret recipe golden apple cider would be the perfect tool to make it happen, too. Only, every year an absolute horde of unicorns come rampaging in the orchards, eating all the golden apples before the abbey can harvest them! Not one to back down easily, Abbot Aelian begins to wage war–relatively peaceful war, as befits an abbey, but war nonetheless. Nothing seems to work, though. And just when all seems hopeless, a new arrival chatterbox boy with too many questions arrives . . . an arrival who just might hold the answer they need.
As expected, A Plague of Unicorns is another victory for Jane Yolen, although one fairly different from many of hers. I think the difference lies largely in the fact that this book is written to be appropriate for children in elementary (although it’s proven to be great fun for older readers as well!). Otherwise, this is classic Jane Yolen: an imaginative fantasy, full of varied and engaging characters, weaving history and legend into a seamlessly beautiful tale. I think it’s interesting how the first, maybe third?, of the story is told from Abbot Aelian’s perspective–and it is certainly amusing to see him struggling to find ways to defeat the unicorns. Then for the rest of the book, the perspective shifts to that of James, the son of the local duke. James is an interesting character to read (although he’d probably drive me crazy if I met him!), as is his sensible, daring big sister. I really felt drawn to relate to James throughout his part of the story and found that the problems he deals with go way beyond those of a fantasy, relating directly (but not obtrusively) to things kids deal with regularly in our own modern world. I would highly recommend A Plague of Unicorns to readers young and old, and especially to the curious.
Author: Peter S. Beagle
The unicorn lived all alone in the lilac wood, outside of time and quite content to remain there forever. That is, until she heard the rumor that all the rest of her people had disappeared, that some unknown menace was stealing them away, and that she was the last of her kind in the world. Unable to rest with this knowledge, the unicorn set out to discover what had happened to the other unicorns. Along with the human companions who join her in her journey, the unicorn gets swept up in the story, in time. And only time will tell whether she will be able to save her kin or will herself disappear.
Okay, so I know The Last Unicorn is totally a classic fantasy novel; I just discovered it. Sorry. It’s really incredible, and I wish I had found it ages ago. It’s definitely a book I will read multiple times over in the future. The story is beautiful, artful, poignant, and bittersweet, with nice notes of irony and satire. The characters are the same–well crafted, not exactly the heroic norm, but with something magic about them nonetheless. The descriptive language used in this story is particularly nice; it is lush and vivid but not overdone. The Last Unicorn is definitely a book I highly recommend, right alongside works like The Princess Bride and Alexander’s Prydain Chronicles. If you haven’t read it, you need to.
Team Zombie Editor: Justine Larbalestier/Team Unicorn Editor: Holly Black
My rating: 3.5 of 5
One of the great, longstanding arguments of this century is which is better: zombies or unicorns? Okay, maybe not, but it’s a longstanding debate between authors Justine Larbalestier and Holly Black. To help their readers decide once and for all, they’ve assembled an outstanding group of young adult fantasy/science fiction writers to tell the stories of these creatures.
This is quite a broad collection–the stories range from killer unicorns that eat people to zombie romances, and everything in between. It’s fascinating to see how many different ideas people have for what is, supposedly, the same creature. Overall, Zombies vs. Unicorns is an intriguing and enjoyable collection of stories, although it’s definitely geared to a modern young-adult audience and, as such, contains more sex, drugs, etc. that I really care for personally. Still, if you’re interested in knowing for sure which fantastic creature is better, Zombies vs. Unicorns would certainly be the recommended way to decide.
Team Zombie Authors: Libba Bray, Alayda Dawn Johnson, Cassandra Clare, Maureen Johnson, Scott Westerfeld, Carrie Ryan/Team Unicorn Authors: Kathleen Duey, Meg Cabot, Garth Nix, Margo Lanagan, Naomi Novik, Diana Peterfreund