Henry discovers a horse with a scar on his forehead in his front yard. He will discover later this is a hornless unicorn, the victim of a brutal attack that happened over a hundred years ago in a land called Altara.
The horse carries him to Altara where the first person he meets is an old man called Papo. After traveling for two days with Papo his suspicions are confirmed, Papo is plotting to use Henry for his own purposes and then to “be rid of him and the other boy.” Henry sets off alone, struggling with whether or not he can be hurt or even killed in this alternate world.
At the end of each day in Altara Henry falls asleep only to wake up in his own bed in his own suburban life. At home he has two friends, Jamal and Fred and a little brother named Larry. While Henry is struggling to understand his alternate world he is also struggling with the challenges of his middle school life. A great deal hangs on a chess match against the coach. Also, Jamal falls in love but needs Henry and Fred to go to the dance with his girlfriend’s best friends. This is Henry’s first middle school relationship and his stomach is tied in knots. He also must face his anger issues and his fear that dweebdom is an inescapable black hole.
Back in Altara Henry meets Anree who in a few days will be raised up as the Tara, the leader of the land of Altara. They are identical, this was the fact Papo and his friends planned to use to unseat the new Tara.
Henry and Anree decide they must find the lost key to the Gates of Altara and heal the ancient wrong done to the unicorn in order to fully establish the true Tara. The horn that was brutally taken from the unicorn a hundred years ago has been hidden in plain sight in the apartment of one of Papo’s co-conspirators, and amazingly Henry’s grandfather has the key to the Gates. Henry not Anree, is the true heir to the role of the Tara.
Through all this Henry discovers he can accept his assigned place in school as a dweeb with a chessboard or decide he will be something more. He realizes the reason he doesn’t have many friends is he is a lousy friend. He learns he must take responsibility for Henry.
In the final pages Henry wakes up in his bed at home to find his mother reading his journal. She wants to know if this is fact or fiction and whether Henry or Anree has come home to her.
About the Author
I now live in the Northern Virginia suburbs of Washington, D.C. where I have learned how to keep my fire alive.