ABOUT THE BOOK
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.
I confess I didn't enjoy this book as much as I was hoping I would. There just wasn't quite enough story for my taste. It may however work for the younger middle grade audience that isn't ready yet for the longer more detailed fantasy that's available. And there is definitely some humor involved here in reading about the monks futile efforts to stop the unicorns from eating the golden apples. I also enjoyed reading about James and his sister Alexandria and their close relationship. Many books these days portray the conflict side of sibling relationships so I found it refreshing to find siblings that got along and understood each other. Especially since James's incessant questions irritated pretty much everyone else. I felt bad for the way James was sometimes treated, even by his mother, and especially by his uncle. The plot felt a bit thin in that the story focuses on the unicorns rather than spending much time on James's adjustment to the monastery. In fact a third of the story is spent describing the monks and the unicorns before we even meet James. The story is cute but rather predictable, although younger readers may not mind that. A cute story, but I hoped for more.