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From Barnes & NobleThe Barnes & Noble Review
Acorna's Search, the fifth book in Anne McCaffrey's Acorna series, takes the saga of the beloved unicorn girl to an all-time high -- or low, depending on how you look at it. As Acorna and her Linyaari people begin to rebuild their home planet (which was practically destroyed by the evil insectoid Khleevi in Acorna's World), members of Linyaarian research parties begin to disappear one by one. Soon whole shuttles are just vanishing into thin air. Among the missing is Acorna's life mate, Aari. After consulting with the Ancestors, Acorna concludes that she must go deep underneath the planet's surface to solve the potentially horrific mystery.
The once cool, idyllic world of Vhiliinyar is now like something out of a nightmare. "The whole planet was, for the most part, stifling, with much of its protective ozone layer punctured by volcanic explosions and toxic chemical reactions from its unstable land masses and destroyed seas." Instead of green meadows filled with beautiful flora and fauna, there are now carnivorous plants, poisonous geysers, bogs and apelike monsters. While trying to escape these hairy, spear-toting beasts, Acorna is forced deep into a cave and stumbles across the opening into an ancient subterranean city.
The mysterious history of the uni-horned Linyaari people is steeped in fable, and when Acorna discovers the mythical city of Kubiilikaan, the legendary home of the Hosts, much of what she thought was historically true becomes suspect. As Acorna unravels the mystery with the help of the royal temple cat Roadkill and Mac the android, she finds out Aari isn't lost in space, but in time.
For those of you who aren't familiar with the series, here's a quick overview. In the first book in the series, Acorna, we're introduced to the lovable orphan after her family's spaceship is mysteriously destroyed. She escapes in a space pod and is found by a salvage ship crewed by three humans. The men had never seen anything quite like Acorna before. The Linyaari were a race of humanoids with unicorn characteristics -- a flowing, curling mane and feathery hair from ankle to knee, hooves, three fingers and, of course, a horn protruding from their foreheads.
The men, obviously with nowhere to take the orphan, are forced to raise the strange girl themselves. During their months aboard ship, they bond with the lovable kid and she slowly learns their language and culture. But with none of her kind around, and no way to know if any even still exist, Acorna struggles to find her own identity. When the salvage ship finally returns to Federation space, Acorna becomes the center of attention. Rumors spread like wildfire about a unicorn girl with magical powers.
Over the course of the next two novels (Acorna's Quest and Acorna's People), Acorna finds the Linyaari homeworld and becomes reunited with her people. She learns about her race's history and culture and also about its enemies, the Khleevi. I have to tell you, the Khleevi are right up there on my Top Ten list of most despicable aliens. They're basically oversized cockroaches that travel the galaxy looking for worlds to plunder and life forms to torture.
In Acorna's World, the fourth installment, Acorna and her people come face-to-face with the Khleevi, except this time they have the Federation's help.
I recommend this series to fantasy lovers of all ages. McCaffrey and Scarborough (who coauthored the last three books in the series) create an interesting, realistic world without exploitative sex or violence. And, because the main character is a young, strong, good-hearted female, this series would be particularly perfect for young girls interested in fantasy. (Paul Goat Allen)