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I’ve been kicking around the idea of venturing into reading middle grade books for some time now, especially with several of my favorite authors working on middle grade trilogies or series we’ll see out in the next few years. When Sourcebooks asked me if I wanted to read Wonder Light: Unicorns of the Mist, I quickly agreed after reading the synopsis. A haunted island? A baby unicorn? Yes please!
I found a lot of things to like about R.R. Russell’s novel, starting with the main character, Twig, and the spooky atmosphere of Lonehorn Island, and continuing throughout Wonder Light. Twig is a brave girl who comes from a troubled family. She’s dealing with her father’s absence (which is explained and partially resolved in a way that tugged at my heart,) and a keen feeling of not fitting in with her new family. I thought Russell really explored these themes with a subtle touch, and in a way that tweens reading Wonder Light will be able to identify with. The pacing is really smooth, too, which makes Twig’s character growth especially poignant and sweet.
Wonder Light is a quick read, but I still got quite attached to several of the characters: Twig, of course, and some of the other girls at the pony ranch. I also really liked the Murleys, the husband and wife team that ran the ranch and took in the troubled girls. I liked how Russell showed that there ARE good people who do things like this, and how in a loving environment, people can change. What a positive message to send to young girls and boys! I loved how Twig was such a strong, heroic girl, because I think we NEED more characters like her in literature.
The plot was every bit as adorable as I hoped it would be (BABY UNICORN!) with some moments of mystery and danger. There’s even a sword-fight! R.R. Russell kept things moving, so I wasn’t bored, and I really enjoyed the direction everything went in as we moved toward the climax and the end of Wonder Light, with an intriguing set-up for a sequel. Final Thoughts: Wonder Light is a great middle-grade debut from R. R. Russell, with intrigue and heart. I was really touched by the interactions between the girls, and the Murleys, and I look forward to reading more from this author.