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Children's Literature Reviews
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Black unicorn
Tanith Lee ; illustrated by Heather Cooper.
New York : Atheneum ; Toronto : Maxwell Macmillan Canada ; New York : Maxwell Macmillan International, 1991.
138 p. : ill. ; 24 cm.


"A Byron Preiss book."
With her talent for mending things, sixteen-year-old Tanaquil reconstructs a unicorn which, brought to life, lures her away from her desert fortress home and her sorceress mother to find a city by the sea and the way to a perfect world.

Best Books:

YALSA Best Books for Youth, 1992 ; American Library Association; United States

State and Provincial Reading Lists:

South Carolina Young Adult Book Award, 1995 ; Nominee; South Carolina

Reading Measurement Programs:

Accelerated Reader
Interest Level Middle Grade
Book Level 5.4
Accelerated Reader Points 7


Sally Estes (Booklist, Oct. 15, 1991 (Vol. 88, No. 4))
Tanaquil is bored--and also annoyed at the side effects of her sorceress mother's magic, which turned Tanaquil's breakfast into a flower and her fountain water into sticky berry wine. At nearly 16, she has lived her entire life in her mother's fortress in the middle of the desert, generally ignored by Jaive, her mother, because of Tanaquil's apparent inability to do sorcery. However, she is able to mend virtually anything--broken dolls, clocks, music boxes, and, sometimes, even the soldiers' crossbows or bits of the cannon. Then a peeve (one of the little cat-size creatures able to speak because of more leakage from Jaive's spells) finds a cache of strange golden bones, with which Tanaquil reconstructs a unicorn that impels her to run out into the desert and eventually leads her to the city by the sea, where she learns her destiny. Tanaquil and her peeve, which is not anthropomorphized, are well developed, but their mission is less well defined. However, the story is fast paced and action packed, filled with the kind of detail that delights fantasy fans. It is sure to be a hit, and the sequel will be welcomed. Category: Older Readers. 1991, Atheneum, $14.95. Gr. 7-10.

Kirkus (Kirkus Reviews, 1991)
Although she's the daughter of sorceress Jaive, Tanaquil herself has no magic; but she does have the ability to mend anything. When the peeve (a furry desert animal that is able to speak as a result of Jaive's chronically unregulated magic) digs up the skeleton of a unicorn, Tanaquil even fixes that, with the aid of wires and gears--only to have her mother's uncontrollable magic bring the construction to life as the terrifying Black Unicorn, which draws Tanaquil to the city. There, she discovers her father, the cold prince Zorander; her sister, princess Lirza; and a broken gate to a perfect world, the unicorn's home. She repairs the gate but cannot stay in the perfect world; instead, she comes home to explore her own, leaving Lirza to tend their father, who is shattered by his brush with the Black Unicorn. This is typical Lee--an aura of mechanical madness and menace, made bittersweet here by the two lonely sisters who find each other only to be parted, and by the indomitable Tanaquil, who has the good sense to prefer her own world, warts and all. The alternately terrified and rambunctious peeve, soiling rugs and biting soldiers at random, creates comic relief. Lee's lively, imaginative style and pungent observations should recommend this to fans of Diana Wynne Jones. Illustrations not seen. 1991, Atheneum, $14.95. © 1991 Kirkus Reviews/VNU eMedia, Inc. All rights reserved.

Publishers Weekly (Publishers Weekly)
Tanaquil, whose only talent is the ability to fix things, lives in the isolated desert palace of her mother, the sorceress Jaive. When an inquisitive peeve--one of the palace pets--unearths a cache of strange, sparkling bones, Tanaquil uses them to piece together a unicorn's skeleton. A stray blast of Jaive's magic brings the creature to life, and it escapes to the desert, followed by Tanaquil and the peeve. Free at last from her mother's wizardry, Tanaquil embarks on a series of adventures that culminate in the fulfillment of an ancient prophecy. A magical journey that mirrors a teenager's coming-of-age is hardly a new plot device, but experienced SF writer Lee allows events to unfold at their own pace, revealing unexpected twists along the way. The combination of self-assured storytelling and the near-tangible evocation of a quirky world will have much appeal for fantasy devotees. As in the novels of Robin McKinley ( The Hero and the Crown ; The Blue Sword ), an understated current of feminism runs throughout. Illustrations not seen by PW. Ages 12-up. (Oct.)


Dragonflight books


LanguageCall NumberLCCNDewey DecimalISBN/ISSN
English (eng) PZ7.L5149 Bl 1991
91015646 [Fic]
0689315759 : $14.95
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