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Reviewed by Liz Konkel for Readers' Favorite
Lily and the Unicorn King by Kate Gordon is a horse lover's dream with adventure, magic, a wicked witch, and the power of friendship. Lily lives for every second she can get on her horse Rainbow and longs to compete in the Pony Club championship. Too bad her training keeps getting interrupted and cut short thanks to her Maori grandmother wanting to give her lessons in herbs. Then the most wondrous thing happens when unicorns appear before her and want her help. They have a mission for her. They need her to hide them from a witch that has been capturing them and has already enslaved pegasuses. She doesn't think she can outsmart a wicked witch, but she won't turn her back on a request for help, especially when the request comes straight from the unicorn king. She knows she needs help so she turns to her closest fellow horse lovers for help in protecting the unicorns and to find a way to stop the evil witch's plan. She soon learns that her grandmother's lessons may prove useful after all as she digs into her Maori heritage and comes up with a plan of her own.
The story has a breathtaking and stunning setting with New Zealand creating a backdrop to delve into the rich Maori culture. The love of horses is at the heart of the story and the action through events to help protect the unicorns. Kate Gordon weaves a sweet fantasy rooted in animal rights with a specific look at helping horses through the humanity and heart of the unicorn characters. The unicorns are talking animals with their own culture, magic, and families with everything they have threatened by an evil witch. The humanity within each of the characters creates connections to them that let you see the pain and fear the unicorns are experiencing. Friendship is a key element in the story with Lily and her two friends, Sasha and Chloe who have their own horse companions, and creates a fun horse club aspect. Gordon embodies the heart and soul of horses through the deep bond people can have with them which is seen in Lily and her friends. This is a great story for all ages that reflects the books parents grew up reading as kids, with the heart of horses captured in a well-rounded adventure. Lily and the Unicorn King is charming, fun, and breathes the love of horses into a fantasy adventure that finds Lily and her friends in a race to help save unicorns from a wicked witch.