The Black Unicorn
By Terry Brooks
Published by Brilliance Audio
Read by Dick Hill
This is the second book in Brooks’ Magic Kingdom of Landover series. Ben Holiday has been in Landover for over a year now so he can legally return to Earth without negating the contract that allowed him to buy the magic kingdom. That was when Ben had a deeply disturbing dream that his former partner, Miles, was in trouble. When the other members of his court turn out to have had strong dreams of their own, Ben decides he must return to Earth to make sure Miles is okay.
However the dreams turn out to be a trap, allowing one of Ben’s enemy, Meeks, to return to Landover almost literally on Ben’s coat tails. On Ben’s first night back he awakes to find Meeks gloating over him having cast a spell that switches their appearances and having taken the medallion that summons the Paladin, the protector of Landover. Now Ben finds he is an outcast, recognized only by his worst enemies and without the help of the Paladin to make it all right again.
The story is not particularly deep and , at times, feels more like fantasy by the numbers as though Mister Brooks had a check list; Evil Wizard… check, Wicked Witch… check, evil Dragon… check. Good Guy King… check, Good Wizard… check, Comic-relief Little People… check, Man permanently transformed into a dog… check. Woman who periodically becomes a tree… check and so forth. Even the situations are pretty much predictable and with the somewhat blatant clues a new character called the Prism Cat keeps dropping it is hard to believe that Ben doesn’t figure out how to fix it all by the end of the third chapter. Certainly the readers should have.
However in spite of predictability, it is mindless literature and if you have been reading too many hard core fantasies lately this might be a nice change of pace. However if you are the sort of reader who likes their mind challenged, find something else. There is nothing challenging to the intellect here. This is the fantasy equivalent of a Slushy Romance novel without the benefit of having Fabio on the cover, although in some editions, the depiction of Willow is eye-candy for the fan-boys.
Dick Hill did not do a bad job reading this story, but I could not help but think he was trying too hard. This became especially obvious as the story reached the climax. Everything was read as though it was of the most mind-shattering importance and as though we really were supposed to be surprised and feeling Ben’s agony even more than he did. It was over the top and a less emotional reading of the narrative passages might have been better. It certainly would have highlighted what Ben was going through better. Maybe I’m wrong there, but considering I saw where the story was going long before it got there, the attempt at dramatics just hit me the wrong way. Actually my reaction was that Ben needed Leroy Jethro Gibbs on hand to slap him upside the head every time his so-called logic led him in the obviously wrong direction.
Fortunately the dramatic passages were almost all near the end because I would have been exhausted had I been expected to sit on the edge of my seat throughout the entire reading.
So I found this to be a passable, but mediocre story and while the reader technically gave the full emotional gambit to the text as he read it, it was too much for me and my most satisfying moment of this story was when it came to an end.