In telling the story of a girl summoned to save a world of magical beasts from a tyrant, Vancouver’s C.C. Humphreys (author of the Runestone Saga) avoids the most obvious cliché of such dual-world fantasies: it isn’t chance, but rather family history that draws young Elayne away from her New York home and into the magical realm of Goloth. A unicorn named Moonspill summons her, invoking a promise of aid made by a distant ancestor.
The novel’s New York landscape is vividly portrayed: the Cloisters and its unicorn tapestries, the parks and streets through which Elayne rides the unicorn all come alive. Goloth is less colourfully depicted. Though individual elements, such as the arena in which magical beasts are slaughtered, are memorable, the town and its human inhabitants are more like parts of a stage set: generic outlines without depth. Elayne is outraged by the slaughter of the magical beasts, and there is a prophecy stating she and Moonspill will become catalysts of revolt, but she never becomes emotionally or intellectually involved with the revolution, leaving that aspect of the story lifeless.
Compensating somewhat is a plot that is fast-paced, entertaining, and filled with humour. The amphisbaena (a two-headed translating snake) provides a broadly comic commentary on the evolution of language, employing both well-rendered Elizabethan English and the middle-school slang Elayne indignantly claims to have outgrown. Elanye is quick-thinking and likeable; her relationship with her dying father is painful without being maudlin. Readers will enjoy time spent in her company, even though at the end of the story, her personal goals achieved, she is much the same as she was at the start.
All in all, The Hunt of the Unicorn is a workmanlike book that will appeal to casual teen fantasy readers – and, perhaps, to unicorn lovers.