The 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)
Read an Excerpt
Acorna's SearchChapter One
Home! The word sang in Acorna's mind, a song of chiming silver streams and drumming waterfalls, of wind fluting across the tops of bending blue-green grasses and through the spade-shaped leaves of gigantic trees in vast forests. The song echoed in the minds of every Linyaari present as they beheld Vhiliinyar-that-was.
The first homecoming place was on a high plateau, overshadowed by a conical mountain. Among deep purple and azure wildflowers lay a sprinkling of snow, while a pinkish cap of glacier frosted the distant peak, silhouetted against a delicate violet sky. A cascade flowed majestically from a plateau, the water forming a roaring curtain that plunged down to the mountain's base, ending in a froth of rainbow mists and white water that smoothed out into a broad plum-colored lake.
Acorna felt instinctively that this lake had tremendous significance for her but she didn't understand what that significance could possibly be. She wanted to stop and stay there, gazing into it, looking for something she was sure she could find if she just had time to look for it, but the world around her swooped onward, as if she and her traveling companions were flying through it in an open-topped flitter.
The violet skies of Vhiliinyar arched overhead, edged by the scalloped beauty of snow-covered mountains, as the spectacle swiftly segued from one glory to another.
Acorna almost forgot to breathe. This was the world she had dreamed of for so very long. She didn't hear the thoughts of the others, not even Aari or Neeva, nor did she seek them out. Surely they were as overwhelmed as she was by the sheer beauty ofVhiliinyar.
Abruptly the sky darkened, the moons rose, and sunset-colored words blazed overhead:
Brought to You Courtesy of Harakamian Homeworld Holograms and Terrestoration Making Any World a Better OneÂ®
A collective sigh went round the room as the images faded. Everyone began talking, aloud and with thought-talk, all at once, so that the resulting words were little more than confused babble.
Despite all the verbal confusion, Aari's communication was very clear. He was trembling and looked rather greenish. His jaw was firmly clenched and his brimming eyes stared straight ahead.
"What is it, yaazi?" Acorna asked, using the Linyaari term for "beloved." Taking Aari's arm, she led him quickly to the main exit from the holo-bubble. She felt, rather than saw, Aari's parents, his sister Maati, and Thariinye, who had become Aari's friend, following them.
Aari's answer to her question came into her mind in a wave of pain and shock, the sort of emotional trauma he had seemed to be free of for some time now. Acorna placed her gleaming horn against his cheek to reassure him. Normally, among Linyaari, this caress would have been horn-to-horn, but Aari had been mutilated during his capture by the evil Khleevi. His horn had been destroyed. Thanks to hard work by some of the best Linyaari healers and a tissue donation from his younger sister Maati, Aari's horn had regrown to a short, twisted knot protruding an inch or so from his forehead and in time would be fully restored, but horn-to-horn gestures weren't possible for him yet.
His friends and family, emerging from the holo-bubble that had been temporarily transformed into their lost home, sensed Aari's anguish and joined their horns with Acorna to try and soothe him.
Hafiz Harakamian bustled out, the silk panels of his robes flying behind him like the wings of varicolored butterflies. His round face retained its geniality, but Acorna, raising her head to watch her adopted uncle's approach, felt a subtle blend of pique and embarrassment beneath his surface cheer, and saw the right half of Hafiz's mustache twitch irritably.
"How is it that my small conjuring trick to bring to life your once-exquisite home world has so distressed our heroic Aari that all of you must leave so precipitously, O She Who Is Closer to My Heart than Any Daughter of My Flesh Could Ever Be?" Hafiz complained, addressing Acorna.
But it was Maati, a youngling not afraid to rush in where diplomats feared to tread, who raised her horn from her brother's chest and answered, "The Khleevi made him watch while they destroyed it all, Uncle Hafiz. It was awful. They killed all of those beautiful animals for sport, and ate every living plant and tree. Then they fouled the lakes and streams with their horrible excrement before they blew the mountains apart and filled the valleys with rubble."
"Yes, yes, these regrettable circumstances are common knowledge. But have we not just demonstrated with our science which is so much like magic how the damage can be repaired and the planet reterraformed so it is as good as nay, better than new? You cannot but be aware of the extensive interviews we have conducted with Linyaari who lived on Vhiliinyar, in order that we may gather their memories of the place so that our scientists' efforts can bring them to life once more? Now all that remains is a simple aerial topographical mapping expedition and ... "
"Nothing remains to map," Aari said, his voice flat with a lack of emotion that was painful to hear. "How will you know where to put a river when there are no mountains to feed it or seas for it to flow into? Even Joh Becker could find nothing to salvage from the planet except the bones of our ancestors."
Acorna considered this statement as the holo-bubble emptied of the rest of Hafiz's Linyaari guests. From them she heard random snatches of troubled thought.
(I don't remember that mountain as being quite so high.)
(No, and there was always a summer settlement near the mouth of the Paazo river. The channels were all wrong.)
"There is still at least one recognizable landmark," Acorna said thoughtfully. "Maybe more than one ... "Acorna's Search
. Copyright © by Anne McCaffrey. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.