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Literature / The Unicorn Chronicles

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The Unicorn Chronicles is a young adult series by fantasy writer Bruce Coville, chronicling the journey of a young girl named Cara through Luster, a land populated primarily by unicorns. Pursued by mysterious forces, she is forced to leave behind her life as an Ordinary High-School Student and is sent to Luster by her grandmother with a mission to deliver a message to the Old One. Along the way, she uncovers the history of Luster and the unicorns, as well as some amazing things about her own family.


Part of the same multiverse as Coville's The Foolish Giant, The Dragonslayers, the Goblins duology, the Magic Shop series, and the short story Wizard's Boy (1996)note .

The series consists of:

  • Into the Land of the Unicorns (1994)
  • The Song of the Wanderer (1999)
  • Dark Whispers (2008)
  • The Last Hunt (2010)
  • The Guardian of Memory (1998; short story from Ivy Morris's point of view)note 
  • The Boy With Silver Eyes (2008; short story)note 


Tropes found in this work:

  • Action Girl: Several, including Belle, and M'Gama.
  • Action Mom: Both Cara's mother and Ivy Morris.
  • Always Chaotic Evil: The unicorns treat the delvers this way. The delvers think of themselves somewhat differently, though.
  • The Atoner: The Guardian of Memory.
  • Baleful Polymorph:
    • Ivy is actually a unicorn changed into a human by a protection spell. The spell reverses in Song of the Wanderer.
    • Cara is turned into a unicorn in The Last Hunt so that she can outrun her pursuers. She doesn't change back by the end of the book.
  • Bigger on the Inside: Thomas's cart.
  • Bittersweet Ending: In The Last Hunt the Hunters are defeated, Luster is saved from being destroyed, Rocky becomes the king of the delvers, and Cara's parent finally reunite. But . . . Cara has to Mercy Kill Beloved and is stuck in unicorn form, meaning she can never return to Earth and neither can her parents, the Dimblethum is dead, and M'Gama and Zamza are comatose while helping the world heal.
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  • The Big Guy: The Dimblethum in the first book. He shares the position with Finder in the second.
  • Calling the Old Man Out: Cara to Ivy in Song of the Wanderer for lying to her about everything. Cara's mother follows suit off-screen in The Last Hunt.
  • Can't Argue with Elves: Deconstructed. The reason why the unicorns are so pure of heart and suffering from Chronic Hero Syndrome is because they forcibly removed their flaws and negative traits, as revealed in Dark Whispers. Said whispers are the combination of those flaws, still living and acting as The Corrupter to anyone who will listen.
  • Chekhov's Gun: Cara's missing last name, and the song that Medafil's shell sings
  • Chronic Hero Syndrome: Unicorns are drawn to distressed maidens by instinct ( this is how Moonheart first meets "Ivy Morris", by the way). Knowing this, Hunters often use young girls as bait to lure out unicorns.
  • Cliffhanger: The Song of the Wanderer ends on one that then wasn't resolved for nearly a decade.
  • The Corrupter: The titular Dark Whispers corrupts the delver king and the Dimblethum.
  • Cryptic Background Reference: Loads of them, ranging from Grimwold's cousin Droopwillow in the first book to Firethroat's mention of Luster's hidden seventh dragon in the final.
  • Dark Action Girl: Beloved surprisingly enough proves to a formidable fighter.
  • Dating Catwoman: And at least initially, it worked out. Cara's maternal grandmother was a unicorn permanently transformed into a human, and the connection to unicorns seems to have passed itself down to the succeeding two generations. Cara's father was a descendant of, and follower of, Beloved, and a hunter of unicorns. It seems the parents never learned each other's secrets, but the mother is long gone when the story starts. However, she returns by the end of the series.
  • End of an Age: The former magical age of the earth is implied.
  • Evil Old Folks: Beloved.
  • Face–Heel Turn: The Dimblethum
  • Fantastic Racism: The Hunters hate unicorns.
  • Fate Worse than Death: A unicorn heals wounds by piercing the injury with its horn, leaving a star-shaped scar. The process is incredibly painful, but only for a moment. So what would happen if the horn broke off in the injury and could not be removed? Beloved is immortal with the horn in her heart, but the pain never leaves her.
  • First-Name Basis: Cara through most of the first book. It turns out her last name's Hunter.
    • Not exactly. Her parents are identified as 'Ian and Martha Hunter' in a single line very early on, long before the reader has a clue that theirs is a name of any significance.
  • Foreshadowing: In the very first book, the Dimblethum's introduction describes him as resembling nothing so much as "a man that started to turn into a bear, but stopped before the process was complete." In the final book, it's revealed that that's almost exactly the case.
  • Goshdang It To Heck:
    • Medafil, with endless variation.
      • "Dingfangled pointy things! No, not that. Grambabbit, where is that spartbongle anyway?"
    • And to some degree the Squijum, although with him it's usually something like referring to unicorns as 'mean hornheads'.
  • Grumpy Old Man: Moonheart. He's got the personality, but it's not clear whether he qualifies as "old" by unicorn standards. Younger unicorn Lightfoot certainly thinks of him this way. Grimwold the dwarf is a more obvious example of this trope.
  • Half-Human Hybrid: Due to the true nature of her grandmother, Cara is part unicorn (it's complicated). Also, the Dimblethum has the appearance of being half-human and half-bear, but it's unknown why he's that way.
  • Heart Trauma: In order to communicate with unicorns, your heart must be pierced by a unicorn's horn.
  • Heel–Face Door-Slam: The first man who wrote about hunting unicorns actually happened to come across one already dead and wrote a lie about slaying it and how fierce the unicorns are. When he realized the damage he had done, so that the unicorns were no longer safe on Earth, he tried to recant but died with the legend still intact.
  • Heel–Face Turn: Cara's father, who turns on his ancestor Beloved in favor of his daughter.
  • Here There Were Dragons: Creatures such as unicorns and dragons used to live on earth, but human persecution forced them to migrate to other worlds (Luster, in the case of the unicorns).
  • I Am Who?: The Dimblethum is Elihu, Luster's creator.
  • Interspecies Romance: Jacques and Ivy Morris
  • Last of His Kind: Implied to be the case for the Dimblethum and the Squijim. The dragons only sort of qualify - there's only seven left in Luster, but there are hundreds more known to exist in another dimension.
  • Living Relic: The Guardian of Memory, whose job is basically to be the only unicorn on Earth.
  • The Lightfooted: Lightfoot, of course. Like all unicorns, he barely makes a sound when he walks and leaves next to no hoofprints.
  • Love Confession: Finder to Belle as he's dying
  • Luke, I Might Be Your Father: In The Song of the Wanderer, Cara meets the Queen's Players, a group of human performers traveling around Luster. The group includes the acrobat Jacques, who was once married to Cara's grandmother Ivy Morris. He is uncertain if Cara's mother Martha was his child, or the child of someone Ivy met on Earth; either way, as far as he's concerned, any grandchild of Ivy's is his as well.
  • Luke, I Am Your Father: It turns out that Ivy Morris is the granddaughter of Arabella Skydancer. Also, Cara is the daughter of one of the Hunters and descended from Beloved.
  • Magic Land: Luster
  • Meaningful Name: Much is made of Cara's last name, of course, but it's worth noting that her middle name is Diana.
  • Mercy Kill: Cara in unicorn form does this to Beloved, healing the horn shard trapped in her heart and keeping her in eternal, living pain. Beloved rapidly ages from the healing and dies in peace.
  • Morality Chain: Cara for her father. When Beloved takes Cara hostage, he pulls a Heel–Face Turn.
  • The Multiverse: Known worlds in it include Earth, Luster, the Rainbow Prison, and the world where Bellenmore sent the majority of the dragons.
  • Never Mess with Granny: Beloved is extremely old, but she can kick ass.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero!: The basis for Beloved's vendetta against the unicorns is a misunderstanding between her father and a unicorn who tried to help her.
  • One Degree of Separation: Cara's family tree is very... extensive.
  • Opposites Attract: Belle (small but rough and aggressive) was a Love Interest for Finder (mellow Big Guy).
  • Our Gryphons Are Different: Medafil is pretty much a classic gryphon. He even hoards treasure.
  • Revenge: Key motive for Beloved.
  • Soul Jar: Cara briefly carries a dragon's soul jar in the first book, and astonishes Firethroat by immediately returning it. In gratitude, the dragon grants her the gift of languages.
  • Spell My Name with a "The": The Dimblethum.
  • The Squadette: Belle, who is part of the Queen's Guard.
  • Take Our Word for It: In the first book (two pages from the end) Cara and her companions make the final trip to Summerhaven. We're told that the journey there was "filled with marvels and wonders" and get no elaboration on any of it.
  • Team Pet: the Squijim
  • Theme Naming: The centaurs have Greek names.
  • Touch Telepathy: Unicorns need physical contact in order to speak to people telepathically.
  • Translator Microbes: Takes the form of a gift of dragon's blood.
  • Walking the Earth: Most of the humans in Luster are nomadic.
  • Wandering Minstrel: The Queen's Players.
  • Wanderlust Song: The "Song of the Wanderer".
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: In Song of the Wanderer, we hear the story of one of Luster's dragons, who has been trying to get to the world created for dragons, where his lover went. His story is never resolved.
  • Would Hurt a Child: Beloved would certainly hurt her own great-great-great-great-granddaughter.

Alternative Title(s): Into The Land Of The Unicorns, The Song Of The Wanderer, Dark Whispers, The Last Hunt


Example of: