Unity in Arden died with the queen and the unicorns. As a new war threatens to fracture the land, a girl races to rescue her sister and return home.
Eleven-year-old white girl Claire Martinson doesn’t trust the mysterious ladder in the fireplace of Great-Aunt Diana’s mansion, but when her older sister, Sophie (also white), disappears, Claire chases after her into the magical land up the chimney. However, Claire isn’t the only one searching for her willful sister. Anvil Malchain, a dangerous treasure hunter, seeks Sophie too—and the unicorn artifact she might have stolen. The four guilds of Arden—Tillers, Forgers, Spinners, and Gemmers—all covet the unicorn artifacts that strengthen their magic. With the help of Nett, a Tiller with light brown skin, and Sena, a white Forger exile, Claire must rescue Sophie before a new war begins. In this debut, Benko constructs a world with a complex history and no clear divides between good and evil; Claire discovers that the legends of Arden’s last war don’t tell the whole truth. Despite Claire’s envy of Sophie’s bravery (and easy-to-ponytail straight hair), she rises to overcome her insecurities and unlock her own power to save the people she loves in a satisfying hero’s journey. Readers will be pleased to know more adventures in Arden are planned.
Rich worldbuilding and high stakes make this a quest worth taking with a protagonist who grows by facing her fears. (Fantasy. 8-12)