Alert for SF cat lovers: Acorna, the telepathic teen with the unicorn’s horn, rescues a planet of felines and warring humans, both menaced by a plague. In the McCaffrey franchise fifth volume, Acorna busies herself with repairing Vhiliinyar, the planet of the unicorn people who are Acorna’s ancestors. Vhiliinyar was almost destroyed by the bug-like Kleevi, but after the discovery of a subterranean city and its time machine (Acorna’s Search, 2002, etc.), it will be easier to restore its fragile ecological balance. Some loose ends remain: While Aari, Acorna’s heart-throb, has yet to emerge from the time machine, two Wats—crude unicorn-hunters urped up from the distant past—must be taken somewhere they won’t cause harm. Acorna agrees to accompany the Wats, with Starship Condor’s Captain Jonas Becker; the android MacKenZ; the female security guard Nadhari Kando; and the fiesty tomcat Roadkill to the planet Nirii, where telepathic inhabitants might help them adjust to life in the galactic Federation. But the ship founders and is rescued by a passing vessel that tows it to Makahomia, the homeworld of Nadhari and RoadKill. Populated by worshipped cats and warring humans, Makahomia is protected by the Federation: no new technologies may be introduced that will give any clan an advantage. Roadkill reveals that he sabotaged the ship in order to bring Acorna to Makahomia so that the seemingly magical powers of her horn could stop the plague that’s been killing cats. As the cats inexplicably get better, Acorna finds herself a target of evil forces that want to kill off both cats and humans so as to rob one of the planet’s religiously venerated natural resources. To save the world, Acorna must find a way break the Federation’s rules.
Ho-hum dialogue and shoddy world-building will turn off all but series fans (who will thrill to former McCaffery collaborator Margaret Ball’s tedious appendix about the fake language the characters speak) and cat-fantasy readers, who will adore the cloyingly cute passages about heroic felines.