Book Review: Unicorn Tracks by Julia Ember

Author: Julia Ember

Publisher: Harmony Ink Press

Genre: YA fantasy, romance, LGBTQ

One of the things that really impressed me about Unicorn Tracks was the attention to detail and the world building. Considering the book was short (around 160 pages for my Kindle version) the world really came to life—it really did feel like a place inspired by Africa (or at least somewhere similar to it), from the names to the wildlife and the lush descriptions of the surroundings. I loved the setting as it was very unique and diverse, and the wildlife research element (and Kara’s classifications of the different creatures at the end of the novel) reminded me of A Natural History of Dragons by Marie Brennan, which is one of my favourite books.

To talk a little more about the wildlife—the creatures were so different! Although there were unicorns, they weren’t your typical ones, and I loved the moonstone and battle fever element tied into the creatures. And the mermaids? They were kickass, too. One of my favourite scenes was the mermaid scene close to the end of the book. I won’t spoil it, but it did make me smile. The fantastical elements of this book are quite subtle, in a way, and perfectly balanced. I’ve become quite tired of typical, run of the mill fantasy that’s rife with clichés, so this book was a breath of fresh air.

Again, although this was a short book, the characters were instantly likeable and had a lot of depth. I cared about the conflict that surrounded them. I especially loved the lesbian relationship, which was handled so well—they fully accepted their sexualities and their attraction to each other, there was no debate about them being together as two women (even from the other characters), and the scenes between the two of them were beautiful and heart-warming, even if things did develop a little quickly.

The writing was also a treat. I love Julia Ember’s use of language; she has a certain artistry with words that I really admire, and she can write a hell of an action sequence. I only have one criticism (if it can even be considered one)—I wanted more! I felt like this book could have easily been a longer novel and I really wanted to know what happened to Mnemba and Kara after the events of Unicorn Tracks.  

All in all, a great book, and I’d really like to read it again sometime.

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