A series of eight short books by Mary Stanton.
It is a fantasy-steeped horse story that begins with the heroine Arianna Langley (Ari for short) waking up in a hospital with both her legs broken, only 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, Frank and Ann Langley, and the local Dr. Bohnes, who makes sure her legs mend properly. Eventually, she starts hearing a voice in her head when Chase is angry, having strange dreams where a unicorn mare talks to her, and finding spiral-shaped pebbles around the stable.
When her foster parents say 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's hefty hospital bills leaving them no other choice. One spectacularly bad session with an angry Chase later, the pair run away to the nearby caves—and they're unfortunately 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, while Chase is both a unicorn and the Lord of the Animals. His horn was broken when the royal family got betrayed by the malevolent Shifter.
Both the necklace and the stones Ari found were actually 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 latest book ends when she begins the search for her parents and brothers.
This series contains examples of:
- A Girl And Her X: Unicorn, in this case. Arianna and Chase are bonded by magic and the narrative spends a significant amount of time hammering home that Chase is hers.
- Ambiguous Time Period: Despite the Standard Fantasy Setting Balinor takes place in and the rift between worlds mucking up time-flow, there are hints of an early-modern era peeking out.
- Ari can still recognize English/British accents by sound if not names while recovering from amnesia, because she compares Chases accent to an English dressage teacher when she starts hearing him telepathically. Hes distinct from herself, Frank, and Anne, so Balinor clearly has people with American-counterpart accents, which would put Balinors current time-period somewhere in the 1800s-1900s.
- Faceted gemstones, such as Chases restored horn having a brilliant-cut ruby at the base, would put the earliest time period for Balinor at 1475.
- Archon the Archivist has quite a distinct job-name compared to a historian or record-keeper, and would be called such after 1571 at the earliest on Earth.
- Author Appeal: Aside from Mary Stanton's genuine horse knowledge, which isn't surprising as she owns a horse farm, 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.
- 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 wasn't 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.
- Carbuncle Creature: All of the Celestial Valley and Royal Unicorns (Atalanta and Sunchaser respectively, for example) are this, having gemstones at the base of their horns.
- Carnivore Confusion: Surprisingly averted. See Veganopia below.
- Cool Old Lady: Eliane Bohnes, a doctor and Resistance member who responds to the Shifter's takeover with only mild frustration, even as everyone around her is losing their minds.
- Cool Unicorn: Many. Especially Chase, who's pictured above and in much of the original cover-art. He's a stallion the color of bronze with an ebony horn, and quite tall at seventeen hands.
- Deadly Race: Ari and Chase enter in a steeplechase with five-foot tall burning fences to won the prize for one of the magical tests.
- Defanged Horrors: Kraken and the Shifter. Obviously they were meant to be scary, but Mary Stanton's villains are rather jarring compared to the rest of the cast.
- Eerie Pale-Skinned Brunette: Lady Kylie.
- 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.
- In a sort-of version of this trope, Finn often ends up working with Rednal, a red celestial unicorn.
- Hot-Blooded: Sunchaser, being an intact stallion as well as a Physical God. Hes quick to anger, aggressive in battle, and extremely high-minded, which makes him terrible at keeping a low profile when he and Ari need to go undercover.
- Humanity Is Superior: While Entia likes the power of other forms, he really likes humans... especially their hands. Of course, for humans it would be Mundane Utility.
- 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: The Celestial unicorn Atalanta uses one to keep track of things in Balinor.
- The Masquerade: Inverted in the beginning—neither Ari nor Chase remembered who they were, so 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.
- Matriarchy: Implied Trope. The Royal Princesses of Balinor go through magical rites so the animals of the world can retain their speech, and they must keep the Balance Between Good and Evil. The magic and the queenship is passed down from mother to daughter, so Tace's and Bren's future daughters won't inherit the magic or the throne, while Ari's future (first?) daughter will. With Balinor being such a large country (spanning quite a few biomes and a length of coastline), Ari's quests have sent her on days to weeks of travel at a time. Even considering its not the normal situation, trekking off somewhat less often (say, every couple of months) is still not ideal for a future queen in our world, whod need to attend to mundane/political matters. It's quite likely that Ari's brothers and future husband would hold the fort at home, with local and palace-based issues, while Ari is off dealing with magical troubles.
- Memento MacGuffin: The ruby necklace that Ari's dog Lincoln has, when she first (officially) wakes up in the hospital. Her foster-parents tell her to never let it out of her sight, and they flat-out refuse to sell it, even when the farm is going through financial issues and they're forced to lease Chase out to Lori. Ari thinks they're putting Honor Before Reason and figures it's a memento from her missing parents, but when her memories come back, she remembers that it's part of Chase's horn.
- Modest Royalty: Used dead straight with Arianna, though Chase seems to have no problem lording over people when they disrespect his mistress.
- Orphaned Series: Apparently. The last book is the eighth, released in 2000, but the series as a whole is clearly not finished. Stanton last posted on her Facebook page in 2013, stating that she'd wrap up the last few plot ends for this series and her other works, but nothing has since materialized.
- Physical God: The animals of Balinor treat the Celestial Valley unicorns, specifically Atalanta, as this.
- 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...
- Rule of Three: Ari does three tests to restore the sceptre to its true power, undergoes three trials in By Fire, By Moonlight, and she has two older brothers (Tace and Bren), which makes her the youngest of three.
- Scaled Up: Lady Kylie has this ability, in part to show just how eeeeevil she is.
- Snakes Are Sinister: Lady Kylie in her snake form.
- Sssssnake Talk: Servants of the Shifter, like Lady Kylie, do this regularly.
- Strong Family Resemblance: Numinor, Sunchaser, and Rednal are all brothers and they all are colored like precious metals—Numinor being gold, Sunchaser bronze, and Rednal is copper.
- 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: Downplayed Trope. Everyone is vegetarian, since the animals of Balinor can talk. Humans eat dairy products and fish, and carnivorous animals eat fish and bugs. If they break the laws on eating other creatures, they lose their speech as punishment. Leather is also clearly used for its normal purposes—perhaps when some animals die, in a waste not, want not mentality? Notably, they also eat eggs—early on, Samlett is carrying a basket of them to the kitchen.
- 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.