Young James, an earl s son, is a bit bothersome and always asking the oddest questions. In despair the last of James tutors having quit his mother sends him off to be educated at Cranford Abbey. She feels the strict regimen will do him a world of good. But Cranford Abbey has its own problems. It has been falling into disrepair. The newly appointed Abbot Aelian takes it upon himself to save the abbey with the use of his secret weapon: a recipe for golden apple cider passed down in his family for many generations. He believes that by making and selling the cider, the monks will raise necessary funds to restore the abbey to its former glory. Abbot Aelian has everything he needs almost. One obstacle stands in his way, unicorns that happen to feast specifically on the golden apples. Abbot Aelian and his men must fight off the unicorns to make the cider. He and the monks try to form a battalion to fight off the beasts; next they import heroes to fight for them. But the heroes run off, monks are injured, and a herd of ravenous unicorns continue munching. After no success, the abbot finally calls upon the most unlikely of heroes, one suggested by no other than young James. That hero is small and unprepossessing but possesses the skill to tame the beasts. Though wildly skeptical, Abbot Aelian must risk everything and believe in this recommended stranger or risk the fall of Cranford Abbey.
My eight year old son really enjoyed this novel, and would look forward to me reading a chapter or two every night (most of the chapters are super short). Maybe it's because kids have more imagination than I do, but I was really hoping there would be...more to the story. I loved the premise. I loved the relationship between James and his sister. I liked that my children (I read it to all of them, but my eight year old was the one that really loved it) learned a little about a different religion. Not really the religion, but more....things that we don't have in our religion. Like Abbots, and oblates, and Abbey's, and well....things like that. We had to look up quite a few things because I had no idea what they were either :) I wish the characters were developed more, and I wish that there was resolution to more of the things that happened in the book. Did the priests end up selling the cider and save the Abbey? What is the reunion like between James and his family? There were more things, but my son had no problem with any of it, so like I said, maybe I just lack imagination. I thought some of the titles of each chapter were entertaining. My younger children really enjoyed the illustrations in the book. There aren't a lot of them, but they would look at each for some time before I was allowed to keep reading.
So while I found it lacking for me, I can picture my eight year old rereading this at night when he is supposed to be sleeping :)
Title: A Plague of Unicorns
Author: Jane Yolen
Published: December 2014
Source: I received a copy from the publisher in exchange for a review.