Acorna: The Unicorn Girl (Acorna Series #1)

Acorna: The Unicorn Girl (Acorna Series #1)

4.2 72
by Anne McCaffrey, Margaret Ball

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"Something's Alive In There!"

She was just a little girl, with a tiny horn in the center of her forehead, funny-looking feet, beautiful silver hair, and several curious powers: the ability to purify air and water, make plants grow, and heal scars and broken bones. A trio of grizzled prospectors found her drifting in an escape pod amid the asteroids, adopted


"Something's Alive In There!"

She was just a little girl, with a tiny horn in the center of her forehead, funny-looking feet, beautiful silver hair, and several curious powers: the ability to purify air and water, make plants grow, and heal scars and broken bones. A trio of grizzled prospectors found her drifting in an escape pod amid the asteroids, adopted her, and took her to the bandit planet Kezdet, a place where no questions are asked and the girl might grow up free.

But Kezdet has its own dark secret. The prosperity of the planet is based on a hideous trade in child slave labor, administered by "The Piper" — a mystery man with special plans for Acorna and her powers. But free little girls have a way of growing into freedom-loving young women, and Acorna has special plans all her own. . .

Editorial Reviews

VOYA - Margaret Miles
An alien infant, jettisoned in an escape pod shortly before her parent's spaceship is attacked, finds a new home with three itinerant asteroid miners. Though baffled by her physical appearance-she has a small horn in the center of her forehead, and strangely shaped hands and feet-and her amazing capabilities-she grows far more rapidly than a human infant, can purify the ship's air, and is a whiz when it comes to learning just about anything-Gill, Calum, and Rafik are immediately charmed by their young "niece." It is a good thing they're so besotted, because before long they are on the run from just about everybody, trying to save young Acorna from being analyzed to death by corporate scientists, being "collected" by Rafik's conniving Uncle Haviz, or being exploited and misunderstood. When the four arrive at the planet Kezdet, infamous for its exploitation of child labor, the reclusive Delszaki Li wants to acquire Acorna too; he believes she is a ki-lin, the unicorn of Chinese mythology whose presence augurs great things for the humans it visits. Sure enough, Acorna becomes the catalyst for planetwide change. McCaffrey at her best has created some of the most remarkable and well-loved worlds of modern science fiction. Pern and its dragons still catch and charm the imagination, even though recent novels lack the imaginative power of the older titles such as Dragonflight (Ballantine, 1968) or Dragonsong (Atheneum, 1976). The Ship Who Sang (Walker, 1969), powerful McCaffrey vision, has led to some successful collaborative sequels, including ParterShip (Baen, 1992), the previous McCaffrey/Ball collaboration. Ball also has produced memorable solo work, from the mystical Tibetan Flameweaver (Baen, 1991) to recent comic fantasies such as Lost in Translation (Baen, 1995/VOYA April 1996). It is a pity, then, that Acorna is so bland, not showing any real distinction in plot, characters, or setting. But most McCaffrey fans will not particularly mind, nor will readers who enjoy light, undemanding science fantasy with a romantic touch. VOYA Codes: 2Q 4P S (Better editing or work by the author might have warranted a 3Q, Broad general YA appeal, Senior High-defined as grades 10 to 12).
Kirkus Reviews
First of a projected series from the authors of a previous collaboration, PartnerShip (a 1992 mass market). Three space miners, Gill, Calum, and Rafik, find a survival pod drifting in space; inside sleeps Acorna, a furry, unicorn-like humanoid infant. Young Acorna, who grows—and learns—swiftly, soon manifests the ability to purify air and water, and heal injuries with her horn. When the miners return to base, though, some scientists try to snatch Acorna for study, so she and the miners retreat hastily into space. Bargaining with Rafik's uncle Hafiz, they arrange to switch their ship's registration and start new careers as space traders. But Hafiz also covets Acorna, so they flee again; one thing leads to another, and eventually they end up on planet Kezdet, the last place they wanted to go. Vengeful Security Guardians hope to nab the miners for previous indiscretions; Hafiz's agents are hot on the trail; and Chinese mystic and enlightened businessman Delszaki Li wants to catch Acorna, since he's convinced that she's the key to overthrowing Kezdet's vicious and thoroughly entrenched system of child slavery.

More fantasy than science fiction with a bustling yet flimsy plot, lots of scene-shifting, stereotyped characters, and the McCaffrey hallmark to pull in the crowds.

Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
Acorna Series , #1
Edition description:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
6.76(w) x 11.10(h) x 1.10(d)
Age Range:
14 - 18 Years

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

At first Gill assumed it was just another bit of space debris, winking as it turned around its own axis and sending bright flashes of reflected light down where they were placing the cable around AS-64-B1.3. But something about it seemed wrong to him, and he raised the question when they were back inside the Khedive.

"It is too bright to have been in space very long," Rafik pointed out. His slender brown fingers danced over the console before him; he read half a dozen screens at once and translated their glowing, multicolored lines into voice commands to the external sensor system.

"What d' you mean, too bright?" Gill demanded. "Stars are bright, and most of them have been around a good while."

Rafik's black brows lifted and he nodded at Calum.

"But the sensors tell us this is metal, and too smooth," Calum said. "As usual, you're thinking with the Viking-ancestor part of what we laughingly refer to as your brain, Declan Giloglie the Third. Would it not be pitted from minor collisions if it had been in this asteroid belt more than a matter of hours? And if it has not been in this part of space for more than a few hours, where did it come from?"

"Conundrums, is it? I'll leave the solving of them to you," Gill said with good humor. "I am but a simple metallurgic engineer, a horny-handed son of the soil."

"More like a son of the asteroidal regolith," Rafik suggested. Not that this particular asteroid offers much, we're going to have to break up the surface with the auger before there's anypoint in lowering the magnetic rake. . . Ah! Got a fix on it." An oval shape, regularly indented edge, appeared on the central screen. "Now what can the sensors ten us about this little mystery?"

"It looks like a pea pod," Gill said.

'It does that," Calum, agreed. "The question is, what sort of peas, and do we want to harvest them, or send them gently on their way? There've not been any recent diplomatic disagreements in this sector, have there?"

"None that would inspire the placing of mines," Gill said, "and that's not like any space mine I ever saw. Besides, only an idiot would send a space mine floating into an asteroid belt where there's no telling what might set it off and whose side might be worst injured."

"High intelligence," Rafik murmured, "is not inevitably an attribute of those who pursue diplomacy by other means. . .close reading," he commanded the console. "All bandwidths. . .well, well; Interesting."


"Unless I'm mistaken Rafik paused. "Names of the Three Prophets! I must be mistaken. It's not large enough. . .and there's no scheduled traffic through this sector. . .Calum, what do you make of these sensor readings?" I

Calum leaned over the panel. His sandy lashes blinked several, times, rapidly, as he absorbed and interpreted the changing colors of the display. "You're not mistaken," he said.

"Would you two kindly share the great insight?" Gill demanded.

Calum straightened and looked up at Gill. "Your peas," he said, "are alive. And given the size of the pod -too small for any, recycling lifesupport system-the signal it's broadcasting can only be a distress call, though it's like no code I've ever heard before."

"Can we capture it?"

"We'll have to, shan't we? Let's hope — ah, good. I don't recognize the alloy, but it' definitely ferrous. The magnetic attractors should be able, to latch on — easy, now," Rafik admonished the machinery he was setting in action, "we don't want to jostle it, do we? Contents fragile. Handle with care, and all that.... Very nice," he murmured as the pod came to rest in an empty cargo bay.

"Complimenting your own delicate hands?" Calum asked caustically.

"The ship, my Mend, the Khedive. She's done a fine gentle job of harvesting our pea pod; now to bring it in and open it.

There were no identification markings that any of them could read on the "pea pod," but a series of long scrolling lines might, Calum, surmised, have been some sort of alien script,

"Alien, of course," Rafik murmured. "All the generations of the Expansion, all these stars mapped and planets settled, and we're to be the first to, discover a sapient alien race I don't think. It's decoration, or it's a script none of us happens to know, which is just barely possible, I think you'll agree?"

"Barely," Calum, agreed, with no echo of Rafik's irony in his voice. "But it's not Cyrillic or Neo-Grek or Romaic or TriLat or anything else I can name. . .so what is it?"

"Perhaps," Rafik suggested. "the peas will tell us." He ran delicate fingers over the incised carvings and the scalloped edges of the pod. Hermetically sealed, of a size to hold one adult human body, it might have been a coffin rather than a life-support module. . .but the ship's sensors had picked up that distress signal, and the signs of life within the pod. And the means of opening, when he found it, was as simple and elegant as the rest of the design; simply a matter of matching the first three fingers of each hand with the pair of triple oval depressions in the center of the pod.

"Hold it," Calum, said "Better suit up and open it in the air lock, We've no idea what sort of atmosphere this thing breathes."

Gill frowned. "We could kill it, by opening it. Isn't there some way to test what's in there?"

Not without opening it," Calum said brightly. "Look. Gill, whatever is in there may not be alive anyway — and if it is, surely it won't last forever in a hermetically sealed environment.

Meet the Author

Anne McCaffrey, a multiple Hugo and Nebula Award winner, was one of the world's most beloved and bestselling science fiction and fantasy writers. She is known for her hugely successful Dragonriders of Pern books, as well as the fantasy series that she cowrote with Elizabeth A. Scarborough that began with Acorna: The Unicorn Girl.

Margaret Ball lives in Austin, Texas, with her husband, two children, three cats, two ferrets, a hedgehog, and a large black dog. She has a B.A. in mathematics and a Ph.D. in linguistics from the University of Texas. After graduation, she taught at UCLA, then spent several years honing her science fiction and fantasy skills by designing computer software and making inflated promises about its capabilities. Her most recent book publications are Lost in Translation and Mathemagics. When not writing, she plays the flute, makes quilts, and feeds the pets.

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Acorna 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 72 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
What a fun read. Sci-fyi with humor, very well done. I have always been a fan of Ann McCafrey and with this co-author they have produced a wonderful set of charaters With human failings and surprising results from human plans gone awry. Relax and enjoy the entertainment.
Jmmbear More than 1 year ago
A good read
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is amazing beyond words. Can't wait to read the rest of the series!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book was hard to put down. Typical of all McAffrey books!
MIllers More than 1 year ago
This is a good well paced novel that both genders will enjoy but seems to be particularly of interest to girls and women. Lightly touches on sex without being prudish. There is some violence but not gory.
rodeo-cowgirl More than 1 year ago
This is the third time I have read this series. I really enjoy it. I am an advanced reader and this book keeps me entertained. I would reccomend this book to anyone who can't find a book that is hard enough to keep them reading and likes long series! If you get the chance, read it!
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book was recommended to me a long time ago by a friend. I kept putting it off because it looked corny, but I wish that I had read it sooner because it was really good. A little predictable, but awesomly zany.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Does not!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Beautiful series!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Kiss yye hand 3 times then repost this to 3 books then look under ye pillow!!! It really works!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I began this series when I was very young, so I cannot give an adult review of it yet. I plan to revisit it along with starting some of her other series'!
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This book really caught me off guard. Definitally not you typical girl gets rescued and goes exploring in space. It does have a pretty good story line but the decriprion of Acorn a leaves me feeling like she's more of a super intelligent Mr. Ed goes unicorn. Its hard to get invested in her story and relate to her cause there is her little explanation of what her species is like. I like it as a slow pick up when you feel like a little reading but don't mind if your interrupted and have to get back to it later. I already bought book 2 but not sure I will read it.
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