Now that you've read our fabulous Q&A with R.R. Russell, why not check out our review of the book?
Hardcover, 248 pages
Published May 7th 2013 by Sourcebooks Jabberwocky (first published May 1st 2013)
Format read: E-ARC via NetGalley
When people say unicorn, I typically think of one thing: the neon, psychedelic, primped unicorns from Lisa Frank. Or, this.
(I blame the fact I'm essentially a child of the late '80s, early '90s).
So when I read a synopsis describing Wonder Light as the story of a young heroine's discovery of wild, unicorns, I was intrigued. I politely requested a copy from Sourcebooks, and was delighted when my request was granted.
Twig is used to feeling out-of-place and unwanted.
When circumstances land her on a mysterious island that is home to a pony ranch, and a home for troubled girls, Twig struggles to fit in.
However, it's not long before Twig wakes up one night, and stumbles upon the one thing she never expected: a baby unicorn.
What follows, is a thrilling, mysterious adventure, as Twig learns that she alone can help save the last unicorn herd, and protect them from the dangers lurking in the mist.
Things that worked:
* The characterizations
First and foremost, I would say that one of the greatest strengths of Wonder Light were the characterizations. R.R. Russell's characters are rich, well-rounded, and display a complexity that I honestly never thought I'd find in a MG novel.
Even though Twig was a lot younger than I was, I related to her struggles, both physical and emotional, in a very universal sort of way. I understood her feeling of abandonment, loss and grief. And I also understood (and was overjoyed) when she began overcoming her emotional obstacles, to find unconditional love and acceptance for the first time. I was absolutely charmed by her, and can't wait to read more about her in the sequel.
As for the secondary characters, they were all written with the types of details - both large and small - which really brought them to life for me. I especially loved the Murleys - they're not portrayed as idealized adoptive parents. Instead, Russell considerately shows their strengths and vulnerabilities, beautifully portraying their earnest desire to just love each of the girls on the ranch, as they are.
I actually couldn't help but think what a wonderful companion this book could be for younger readers who are in similar situations, and how this book could encourage them.
* The setting
One of my favorite parts of Wonder Light, was the world-building. R.R. Russell is extremely adept at building up the world of Lonehorn Island, and immersing her readers into the spooky, mist-filled environment that Twig move into, and encounters.
Let me put it another way: I was reading Wonder Light while sitting in at a laundromat in 110 degree weather, and I actually felt a chill at certain points. That's how rich and detailed Russell's writing is.
(I was also frequently hungry, after reading about Mrs. Murley's meals, but that's a whole other story!)
* The mythology
As someone who has previous thought of unicorns as bright, fluffy creatures, I loved R.R. Russell's take on their mythology. They became more noble, more majestic, and in many ways, even more human.
Without giving any spoilers away, I think Carl Olson on Goodreads said it best: "As J.R.R. Tolkien strove to free the elves from the Victorian nursery, Ms. Russell succeeds in freeing unicorns from the toy store shelves."
R.R. Russell's unicorns will have you viewing their mythology in a completely different way, and in a very unique way.
* The plotting/action
Russell plots with the practiced hand of a veteran novelist. The obstacles, discoveries and action in Wonder Light flows smoothly, and sets up the book perfectly for the second installment.
Things that didn't work:
R.R. Russell's book had everything that I could want in a fantastically plotted MG book - it's detailed, rich, clever, beautifully written and most importantly, it's also written in a way that's wholly accessible not only to an older reader like myself, but to a younger reader who's just getting into book for the first time. THAT's talent right there.
I never thought I'd lose my heart to a mysterious MG novel about unicorns, but Wonder Light: Unicorns of the Mist has proven me wrong.
R.R. Russell's hardcover debut is one of those books where you'll want to recommend it to everyone, whether it's the young reader who's discovering MG books for the first time, or an older relative who loves the mysterious. I think this is a book that will end up on the shelves of generations of readers, for years to come!
Disclaimer: I received an e-ARC of Wonder Light: Unicorns of the Mist from Sourcebooks via NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review. Thank you!