Literature: Unicorns of Balinor
How's THAT for a badass unicorn?
A series of eight short books by Mary Stanton. They're about unicorns. Of Balinor
But on a more helpful point, it's a surprisingly inventive, fantasy-steeped horse story. The series begins with the heroine Arianna (Ari for short) waking up in a hospital with both her legs broken from a horrific accident, barely recalling her own name — and that of her horse, Chase. After encountering her collie Lincoln, who came with a ruby necklace
, she is discharged to Glacier Ridge Farm with her foster parents and a local doctor who makes sure her legs mend properly (Dr. Bohnes). Eventually she starts hearing a voice in her head whenever Chase is angry, having strange but nice dreams where a unicorn mare talks to her, and finding spiral-shaped pebbles around the stable.
When her foster parents decide that they need to lease Chase out to Lori, a wealthy and snobby girl
who's taken a shine to him, both Ari and Chase are adamantly against it despite Ari knowing that the hefty hospital bills leave them no other choice. One spectacularly bad session with an angry Chase later, the pair decide to run away to the nearby caves — unfortunately getting followed by Lori, who won't give up until she gets Chase.
After falling through a tunnel into a strange forest, they get through it unscathed and end up in a town called Balinor. It's discovered that the animals can talk, but ever since their princess and her unicorn went missing, they have slowly begun losing their speech. Turns out that Ari is
the Royal Princess and Chase is both a unicorn and the Lord of the Animals, whose horn was broken when the royal family got betrayed by the malevolent Shifter. Both the necklace and the stones Ari found were parts of Chase's horn, which she eventually restores, but that's nowhere near the end of their troubles: They still have to defeat the Shifter. When that's
done, Ari needs to earn the right to continue as the Royal Princess through three trials that test her leadership and diplomatic skills — and even when both of those tasks are done, the series ends when she begins the search for her parents.
This series contains examples of:
- Author Appeal: Aside from Mary Stanton's genuine horse knowledge, which isn't surprising as she owns several of them, she spends an awful lot of time describing Chase and how SUPER-SPECIAL-AWESOME he is. It's obviously platonic, though, and not exactly unusual for the genre.
- Blondes Are Evil: Lori Carmichael is selfish, whiny and immature compared to the bronze-haired protagonist. However, it's not likely Lori dyes it since she is, in fact, fourteen — and Character Development smooths her out a bit.
- Bond Creatures: Every Royal Princess is Bonded to the (current) Lord of the Animals to ensure that the creatures of their world can talk. When Ari and Chase were wounded amnesiacs recuperating in our world, it was not a good thing, but they recover.
- Capital Letters Are Magic: The Gap, Entia the Shifter, the Shadow Unicorns, the Celestial Valley... this happens a lot.
- Carnivore Confusion: Surprisingly averted. See Veganopia below.
- Cool Unicorn: Many. Especially Chase, who's pictured above.
- Deadly Race: Ari and Chase enter in a steeplechase with five-foot tall burning fences.
- Defanged Horrors: Kraken and the Shifter. Obviously they were meant to be scary, but Mary Stanton's writing abilities and her use of less-than-pleasant smells or sounds makes her villains rather jarring.
- Heroes Want Redheads: Finn, who starts out asking Arianna far too many uncomfortable questions about herself and her unicorn, ends up being liked by both girls though absolutely nothing comes of it at the end.
- In a sort-of version of this trope, Finn often ends up working with Rednal, a red celestial unicorn.
- Humanity Is Superior: While Entia likes the power of other forms, he really likes humans... especially their hands.
- The Magic Almost Goes Away: The animals of Balinor were starting to lose their speech by the time Ari and Chase got back.
- Magic Pool: Celestial Unicorn Atalanta uses one to keep track of things in Balinor.
- The Masquerade: Inverted in the beginning — neither Ari nor Chase even remembered who they were, and thus the masquerade was imposed upon them to ensure their safe recovery and to make sure the Shifter wouldn't find them. Played straight several times later, when using their real identities would be risky.
- Modest Royalty: Used dead straight with Arianna, though Chase seems to have no problem lording over people when they disrespect his mistress.
- Eerie Pale-Skinned Brunette: Lady Kylie.
- Portal Network: The Gap, which is not to be confused with the trendy clothes store chain.
- Royals Who Actually Do Something: Ari needs to do a LOT to get Balinor back in order: Fix Chase's horn, defeat the Shifter, get the palace up and running, find out which of the nobility is still loyal/alive...
- Scaled Up: Lady Kylie has this ability, in part to show just how eeeeevil she is.
- Talking Appliance Sidekick: The royal sceptre, which at first can only speak if you ask it a question, but later gains the ability to talk on its own.
- Unicorn: Well yeah.
- Veganopia: A logical conclusion since the animals of Balinor can all talk. Probably helps that Balinor has magic to prevent vitamin deficiencies.
- Voluntary Shapeshifting: Entia, the Shifter.
- You All Meet in an Inn: While it doesn't start there, the first place Ari finds in Balinor is in fact an inn, and later uses it as her primary base of operations.