Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Introduced in McCaffrey and Ball's Acorna: The Unicorn Girl (1997), the eponymous unicorn-horned girl of mysterious origins was found in a jettisoned spaceship's escape pod by kindly asteroid miners, and raised to young adulthood in secret in order to keep unsavory space businessmen from exploiting her superior intelligence and psychic abilities. This second book in the series finds Acorna determined to escape the protective bubble her friends have built around her and to set off across space in search of her people. Her trip stalls early on, however, when trouble with her ship forces her and her space-pilot partner, Calum, to land on Rushima. There they find starving colonists, victims of a nefarious band of Starfarers who used stolen meteorological technology to wreck Rushima's weather when the colonists wouldn't submit to their extortion plot. Acorna and Calum are captured by these Starfarers, then rescued by rebel Starfarers and caught up in a small-scale civil war. Meanwhile, Acorna's people, the Linyaari, are seeking allies in their war against the evil, insectiod Khlevii--who just happen to be headed toward Rushima. Despite brief moments of mild humor, the novel struggles under the weight of stereotypical characters, a predictable plot and an excess of backstory. Only faithful McCaffrey (the Dragonriders of Pern series) fans are likely to enjoy this weak series entry. (July)
VOYA - Rosemary Moran
In this sequel to Acorna: The Unicorn Girl (HarperPrism, 1997/VOYA December 1997), Acorna has grown into a lovely adolescent humanoid whose physical appearance is reminiscent of the fabled unicorn. Her human protectors plan to help her seek her home world, but she and Calum leave prematurely and follow an unpredictable path on their mission to search the sector of space where her survival pod was launched from. Subsequent events intervene with her quest for home. Acorna and Calum are captured by Starfarers, who threaten to alter an agricultural planet's weather if the planet does not give in to their demands. The sudden appearance of four beings with Acorna's physical characteristics causes much consternation, especially because they bring word of a potential invasion by a warlike race called the Khleevi. A space battle in which the Red Bracelet forces use the captured weather control programs to defeat the Khleevi, and the reunion of Acorna with her people, form the conclusion to this space opera. All details are neatly wrapped up in the conclusion, which still provides the opportunity for another sequel. Told in apparently unrelated chapters that follow the actions of unconnected characters, everything is brought together in the final chapters. A lengthy prologue provides enough knowledge of the previous book so that this novel stands alone. The characterization is somewhat lacking, and although the authors did make efforts to differentiate the characters, they did not succeed in making either the humans or the Linyaari (Acorna's people) stand out as individuals. Only Acorna, with her empathy for all humans, especially children, her desire to use her talents to help all who need it, and her determination to find her own people, comes across as a character the reader cares about. The writing is often choppy and brief; actions that drive the plot forward often take place outside the action of the novel. While it almost reads like an expanded outline of a novel rather than the complete novel, McCaffrey and Acorna fans will delight in this. VOYA Codes: 3Q 4P J S (Readable without serious defects, Broad general YA appeal, Junior High-defined as grades 7 to 9 and Senior High-defined as grades 10 to 12).
Read an Excerpt
Maganos, Unified Federation Date 334.05.11
Acorna's office in the Dehoney facility onMaganos Moon Base was far too full forher comfort, and the meeting had beengoing on so long that she was developing an alluring fantasy about escaping the comfort of the basefor the freedom of a good planetside gallop anyplanet, anywhere, just so it offered her clean firmearth to run on and a horizon very far away. Theneed for earth and sky and open space was becoming almost an obsession for her as the meetingdragged on just as dreaming up all these newways to stop her and Calum from starting on theirmission to find her species' home world had becomean obsession for Pal.
She tried to compose herself, remembering that it was probably even worse for Calum. He considered finding her home world his first duty to her, even before his love for Mercy. The sooner Acorna could release Calum from that self-imposed quest, the sooner he and Mercy could marry. Acorna understood why some of her friends were reluctant to see the Acadecki depart. Gill and Judit were happily settled now, overseeing the care and education of the bondchildren still arriving to study and work at Maganos; and Rafik was presumably satisfied with his new career as assistant and heir apparent to his uncle Hafiz, the head of House Harakamian. But couldn't they see that Calum needed to complete his quest for her home planet and that she needed to find her own people before she could be content anywhere?
Pal continued inexorably to read on from the notepad in his hand. "Supplies and munitions are still not completed. But right now" and he looked directly atAcorna and then Calum, shaking his head sadly "the worst problem is that of reinstalling and testing the Acadecki's defense system. My people estimate it will take at least four weeks to be certain that the new defenses are accurately installed this time."
"Wait a bleeding minute!" Calum jumped to his feet. He and Acorna exchanged a glance that told her he felt sure this was yet another one of the many phony little delaying tactics thought up by Pal in collaboration with his sister Judit and Gill. Possibly even Delszaki Li had had a hand in this one; although the Acadecki had been supplied by Hafiz Harakamian, Mr. Li had offered to finance its refitting to make it the perfect vessel for this long-distance quest. Had that generous offer really been a sneaky way of seeing that Delszaki Li retained control over the ship and could drag out the refitting until they gave up the search?
Calum shot a second, almost accusing glance at Mr. 4 who was floating quietly in the chair which allowed him such mobility as his increasing paralysis permitted. Some people had made the mistakesometimes a fatal mistake of underestimating Delszaki Li because of his great age and the debilitating neurological disease which had all but paralyzed him. Not Calum! He was all too aware of the dear, penetrating mind encased in that ancient body. Delszaki Li was a force to be reckoned with benevolent, powerful, astute, and, Calum thought wryly, about as straightforward as a spiral staircase in an Escher print.
Calum knew that Mr. Li found it hard deep in the heart which Acorna's beauty charm, bravery, and intelligence had thawed to let her start out upon her search. He did make every appearance of helping to secure her ambition of finding her folk, but he was easily tempted into thinking up new ways to delay her actual departure. And Pal Kendoro, his personal assistant, was not limited by even the pretense of wanting to help Acorna on her quest! He considered himself in love with Acorna, could not or would not see why she couldn't settle down happily with him while remaining in ignorance about her own race, and absolutely did not want her going off alone for months, possibly years, with Calum. Neither of Pal's staters could convince him that Calum Baird had absolutely no interest in Acorna, apart from completing his self-imposed task of finding her species.
Cal might seem totally immersed in technologies, improvements, designs, star systems and analyses thereof, but he wasn't oblivious to Pal's obvious jealousy, and he did his best to defuse situations which fed that unreasonable attitude.Sometimes he wondered if it wouldn't be better to openly declare his love for Pal's youngest sister Mercy and his desire to marry her as soon as he had completed this mission though that would not be fair to Mercy; she should not be tied down while he went away on a quest of unknown duration.But right now, all Calum's good intentions of calm, rational behavior had gone out the nearest air vent as, once again, Pal seemed to be sabotaging the start of their voyage.
"If you think," Calum went on, his anger apparent in his acid tone of voice, "thats a lousy defense system," Acorna jumped in to support him, "so far beyond what was originally designed for that class of ship, I do not know."
"Is not sensible to send you so far without every possible consideration taken for your safe return," Mr. Li said.
"We have communications devices that can reach a habitable system soon enough to summon help if the long-range missiles, the mines, the war-heads, and the laser cannon do not dissuade a pirate," Calum went on.He was seething with resentment.Acorna's Quest
. Copyright © by Anne McCaffrey. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.