Thursday, 10 November 2011

Unicorn Riders: Quinn’s Riddles

Unicorn Riders: Quinn’s Riddles by Aleesah Darlison, illustrated by Jill Brailsford (Walker Books)
PB RRP $6.50
ISBN 978-1-921529-97-9
Reviewed by Emma Cameron

When Prince Simon of Avamay is kidnapped it is the Unicorn Riders, Quinn, Willow, Krystal and Ellabeth, who Queen Hearts calls upon for help. In order to rescue the queen’s son, the riders must follow a series of riddles that uncover a greater revelation about Quinn than she could have imagined. Quinn’s Riddles is the first in a series of six adventures that readers aged eight and up will delight in. Four are available now and two more in 2012.

This story’s magical and uplifting feel took me back to many I loved as a child. While good battles evil, and good naturally succeeds, there is not too much unbearable darkness. Enough danger to engage readers but not so much that they won’t read on. One of my favourite examples of gentleness in it is that it is even against the Riders’ Code to restrain a unicorn because the beautiful yet powerful creatures can’t “bear the touch of a bridle around their majestic heads or the weight of a saddle on their proud backs”.

By moving forward at a lively pace, and feeding out clues and suspense along the way, the story holds attention. My past work in school libraries tells me this series won’t sit idle on shelves. The characters are admirable and unique in their own magical way, each with special skills that they bring to the team. Their motto is ‘We ride as one’. I imagine it will see girls playing Unicorn Riders in the playground, picking their favourite character as the one they wish to be and setting off together on missions to save others.

Illustrations throughout the story help readers see into the land of Avamay and break up text so it doesn’t appear overwhelming to young readers. Darlison’s writing has the right balance of simplicity and complexity to appeal to a wide range of readers and will help them open their imaginations. Clues, given in riddles, are sure to delight readers who will be solving the mystery with the team of strong, supportive friends, rather than simply reading about it. 

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