Sunday, December 1, 2019

The Unicorn Key (Realm of Light & Fire #1), by J.A. Culican & J.A. Armitage

Armitage & Culican, December 2019

Freya is living quietly with her mother and grandfather, on their farm. Five years ago, when she was just thirteen, her grandfather had a stroke and hasn't spoken a word since. He just sits in his rocker by the fireplace, rocking.

So it's rather a shock when two young people, a young man named Jet, with startlingly black hair, and a young woman named Opal, with pink hair. They want Seth, her grandfather, to go with them on a quest to recover the diamond that maintains the balance of dark and light. It's been stolen, and the dark is taking over.

Freya is very, very annoyed with these people, who obviously don't know her grandfather at all--until one of them mentions that Cassiopeia sent them. After not speaking and barely moving for five years, he wakes up. Cassiopeia, he knows. Cassiopeia, he wakes up for. He's not strong enough to go with them himself, but Freya, he says, has to. And he gives her a pendent he wears.

Freya can't refuse the request her grandfather makes the first time he speaks in five years.

Seth is soon silent and rocking in his chair again, but Freya has promised, and her mother encourages her. And, heck, it'll be an adventure, right? And she'll surely be back in a few days?

Of course not, but she doesn't know that. They do stop at a tavern, where the food is barely edible, but there they pick up River, the handsome, bad-boy son of an outright swindler, who has two advantages over any of them: He can read maps, and he has done a lot of traveling in the wilderness. Opal grudgingly agrees to pay him, and the next morning they set off.

This is an odd book. A lot of the setting and background details suggest a typically medieval-type setting; a lot of phrases and attitudes suggest a much more contemporary setting. This annoyed me, off and on, throughout the book. Yet the characters are likable and interesting, and the plot moves. I was never annoyed enough that I wanted to stop reading. Instead, I wanted to see what happened. The target audience here is young adult, and I honestly don't know whether they'll be more or less annoyed by the uncertain setting, but I can say that I enjoyed the book.

I received a free electronic galley from the authors, and am reviewing it voluntarily.

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