Friday 27 January 2012

Unicorn Riders Bk 2 : Willow’s Challenge

Unicorn Riders Bk 2 :Willow’s Challenge by Aleesah Darlison, illustrated by Jill Brailsford (Walker Books)
PB RRP $12.95
ISBN 978-1-921529-98-6
Reviewed by Emma Cameron

Does a greasly venturing from the forest signal a bad omen? Or is that an old wives tale? Willow believes ‘where ever greaslies go, bad luck follows’ and is proven right. Lord Gildenfair, struck down with a mystery illness, has sent the riders a message asking them to bring him a last resort elixir to save his life. He says Flossy, AKA Willow, knows the way to Arlen. But Willow doesn’t wish to help. She feels he harmed her family in the past.

The riders discover Lord Gildenfair is her uncle and reason that she must go but, seeing as the message was sent to the group, say they will ride as one. Willow takes some convincing but agrees. On their way to Arlen they spot soldiers, led by Lord Elsen, on a mission to attack and overtake Arlen. When the riders reach Arlen, Willow discovers a childhood friend, Calder, is her uncle’s servant.

Gildenfair’s condition continues to worsen and he says the doctor’s medicine makes him ill. He is in no position to help his people and when Arlen is surrounded by Elsen’s troops things turn desperate.
The riders gather with the people of Arlen to defend the city and Ula, Quinn’s unicorn, sends Quinn a mind message to say that the enemy is already among them. The riders agree the best option is to prevent battle but the soldiers attack and turmoil ensues.

To add to this, the enemy among them traps Willow so she can’t give her uncle the elixir. Her quick thinking and teamwork of the riders sees them using magic to overpower evil, save the city, and get the elixir into Gildenfair just in time. By story’s end, readers have learnt, and may be shocked by, who the true enemy among them was. They will also know that justice will be served.

Thoughtful illustrations pull readers into this fast paced, powerful tale. Readers see Willow overcome past fears and anger as she learns the truth and understands that life is not always as it seems. A strong message that forgiveness shows strength, not weakness, comes through clearly and the deceit and double-crossing at play shows how greed and poor values can only cause grief and harm.

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