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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Review: The Loneliest Girl in the Universe

32601841Author: Lauren James

Publisher: Walker Books

Genre: YA science fiction

The Loneliest Girl in the Universe was incredible. I read it in less than twenty-four hours and finished it in one sitting. The content of the novel is quite different from the blurb, once you get down to the nitty gritty of the plot, and I mean that in the best possible way. I don’t want to spoil anything in this review, so I’ll just say that although I did guess a certain element of the plot twist, I didn’t predict how exactly it would pan out and all of the complex details involved that made this book so unique. I was still absolutely blown away by the story.

I also loved Romy as a character. She’s intelligent and capable, yet she has flaws and hang-ups, and things that haunt her. Despite the fact that she’s alone on a spaceship for the majority of the story, her character really comes to life in so many ways: she’s geeky, she’s a bit anxious, she worries a lot, she daydreams about romance, she’s lonely. I felt so connected to her; she was very relatable. I also loved that she wrote fan fiction; some of her short fics are inserted into the narrative and I found it to be such a refreshing element, especially within the sci-fi setting.

The writing and pacing was spot on, which explains why I couldn’t put this book down. Everything is so vivid. The action sequences, and Romy’s fears and emotions, in particular, were so well written that I literally couldn’t stop turning the pages and may have neglected cooking dinner for a good few hours.

Finally, the psychological aspect of this novel has to be one of my favourite things about it; I love a good psychological thriller, and this certainly felt like a thriller in space. Without giving too much away, the exploration of emotions and psychology, and the ways people react in certain situations, was explored in-depth via different characters, and this created some incredible tension within the story.

Overall, I loved this and I’d say it’s one of my new favourites. I can’t wait to get my hands on some of Lauren James’s other books.