The Princess and the Unicorn

The Princess and the Unicorn

4.5 12
by Carol Hughes

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Noble, with hooves and horn of gold, the unicorn is the embodiment of magic. When Princess Eleanor of England catches sight of him in Swinley Forest, she can’t resist taking him back with her to Buckingham Palace. Unfortunately, once the unicorn leaves the forest, both he and the forest begin to sicken. As the only witness to the unicorn’s departure,

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Noble, with hooves and horn of gold, the unicorn is the embodiment of magic. When Princess Eleanor of England catches sight of him in Swinley Forest, she can’t resist taking him back with her to Buckingham Palace. Unfortunately, once the unicorn leaves the forest, both he and the forest begin to sicken. As the only witness to the unicorn’s departure, Joyce, an intrepid and curious young fairy, sets out for London on a grand adventure to rescue the unicorn—and maybe help the princess while she’s at it.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
Praise for Dirty Magic:
“Intriguing Neil Gaiman–like fantasy that will have readers on the edge of their seats.”—School Library Journal

Children's Literature - Shirley Nelson
Joyce, a precocious young fairy living in Swinley Hope, longs for adventure. It is commonly thought that flying will make wings tough and unbeautiful, so the fairies of Swinley Hope are not allowed to fly. Joyce is constantly late for school or chores because she is secretly flying around Swinley Forest. One day she actually sees the unicorn that magically protects the forest and town. In her excitement, she allows herself to be seen by ten-year old Princess Eleanor, who lives in Swinley Castle. Eleanor also sees the unicorn and wants it as a pet. Her governess arranges for the unicorn to be moved to Buckingham Palace in London when the princess travels there. Knowing the forest will die without the unicorn, Joyce begs to be allowed to bring it back and thus sets out on a grand adventure as she flies to London to save her home. While Joyce meets many helpful fairies along the way, she must also travel through a dangerous forest. In the meantime, Princess Eleanor becomes distressed that the unicorn is obviously ill, as he is losing the golden sheen from his horn and hoofs, the brilliant white of his coat, and his beautiful hair by the handfuls. Eleanor also begins to suspect that her governess Merrie has a wicked plan to sell the unicorn. Joyce and the princess meet and work together to save the unicorn and return him to the dying Swinley Forest. By facing dangers and standing up for what is right, both Joyce and Princess Eleanor become confident and independent young women. Reviewer: Shirley Nelson
School Library Journal

Gr 4-6

When Princess Eleanor spots a unicorn in the woods near Swinley Castle, she decides he must come with her to Buckingham Palace, not realizing that once the creature leaves both he and the forest will sicken and eventually die. Joyce, the plucky young fairy who observes the unicorn's capture, is sent by her village elders to bring him back. Having never left home before, she has no idea how she is going to manage the task set before her, but she soon encounters castle fairies who give her a map to London, and her quest begins. Meanwhile, Eleanor's sly governess hatches a wicked plot to deceive Eleanor and sell the creature. Unlike most humans, Eleanor can see the fairies that live all around them, and when Joyce arrives at the palace, the two team up to foil the villain. The novel's exposition is somewhat hackneyed and therefore slow going. The characters are stereotypical and never well developed. However, once the fairies and humans are working together, the writing includes humor and cleverness that make the story much more entertaining. Readers who like the triumvirate of fairies, princesses, and unicorns will pick this book up because of the cover. They won't find anything terribly original inside, but they'll enjoy it nonetheless.-Cheri Dobbs, Detroit Country Day Middle School, Beverly Hills, MI

Kirkus Reviews
Very pink, definitely didactic-the lessons here always loom larger than the story. Princess Eleanor, age ten, is heir to the English throne and can see fairies, although she is under the thumb of a governess misnamed Merrie, who clearly has other stuff on her mind. Joyce, the young fairy Eleanor espies, loves to fly even though such activity is deeply frowned upon in her fairy village of Swinley Hope. When Eleanor comes across the unicorn that keeps Swinley Forest alive, she takes him back to the palace, not knowing that the land and the unicorn cannot survive apart. Meanwhile, the governess hatches a nefarious plan to make her fortune by selling the unicorn to a few ugly American researchers. Rather nifty battles of the action-movie type ensue, with combatants human and fairy, and both worlds reach a better understanding. Joyce and Eleanor are both plucky girls with imagination; Merrie is an EEE-vil caricature. Possibly charming, certainly twee. (Fantasy. 8-12)

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Product Details

Random House Children's Books
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
5.10(w) x 7.60(h) x 0.80(d)
Age Range:
8 - 12 Years

Read an Excerpt

Swinley Castle, that world-famous ancient monument and official Royal residence, stands atop a high hill some thirty miles west of London. It is one of the most splendid castles in the world, and on a clear day the magnificent honey-colored turrets and towers can be seen from miles away.  

Like many Royal buildings nowadays, Swinley Castle is open to tourists for a small entrance fee. A visitor may view the great staterooms, the chapel, and the Royal kitchens. They may even see a Royal bedchamber or two, but no more. The remainder of the castle is strictly out of bounds. This is because it is still used frequently by the Royal Family. The king, the queen, and their only child, H.R.H. the Princess Eleanor, often occupy a wing of private rooms.  

When the Royal Family is in residence, the union flag flies from the castle's flagpole. But don't think that if you are visiting the castle and the flag is flying, you will catch sight of any of Their Highnesses. They tend to keep to their own quarters when the castle is open to the public, and who could blame them? They may be Royal, but they are still people.  

Like the castle itself, the extensive grounds of Swinley are beautiful. Within the castle wall there are the Royal gardens—kitchen, herb, and formal—and a few velvety green lawns where the princess occasionally plays croquet with her governess. Beyond the castle wall a large meadow rolls away to the south. It dips down into a valley and then rises in a long sweep to the edge of the Great Forest of Swinley, one of the last truly ancient forests in Europe.  

Swinley Forest is fiercely protected. No human, neither gardener nor tree surgeon nor member of the Royal Family, has set foot in those woods for a century. The forest is an ecological miracle and a national treasure. It is also a little bit spooky.  

One summer morning when Their Majesties were still slumbering in their Royal beds, much was happening in a part of their kingdom that none of them knew existed.       The ancient fairy town of Swinley Hope is situated in the exact center of the ancient forest of Swinley, and it is here, in this long-forgotten outpost of the fairy world, that our story begins.  

It was market day in Swinley Hope, and although the sun was only just up, carts laden with all sorts of summer goodies were rolling into the market square. Merchants and farmers were setting up their stalls. Wild strawberries as big as a fairy's head, bushels of tiny truffles, and mounds of early cranberries were being carefully arranged on the wooden tables.  

It promised to be a pleasant day. Nearly all the fairies, elves, and pixies who lived in the vast expanse of Swinley Forest came to town on market day. They came to sell, to buy, to gossip, or to just enjoy themselves.  

High above the square a young fairy by the name of Joyce lay on her belly along a twig at the top of her home tree. Although she'd been up for hours, she was still in her pajamas and her hair was mussed from sleep.  

"Ah, summer," she said, sitting up and stretching out her wings behind her. "Summer is absolutely my favorite season." And she really meant it. Then she remembered that every season was her favorite season, and she laughed, causing the twig to bounce beneath her weight.  

Joyce and her family lived, like the other fairies in Swinley Hope, in a house that was built into the trunk of one of the trees. Joyce's house was the last house at the top of a horse chestnut tree that stood along the southern edge of the square.  

Being so high up on the tree meant that theirs was not a large house. In fact, Joyce could stand in the kitchen/living/dining room and, by stretching out her arms, easily touch both walls at once. When she and her two sisters and her parents were all in that room together there was barely space to stand, and if her sisters decided to preen their wings at the same time, there was no room whatsoever. Joyce loved their small house, though. Living in the last house on the trunk meant she could climb out and sit in the branches and no one would wander past her on their way home. It was, in her opinion, a delightful place to live.

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