Wednesday, July 6, 2016
Please Note: I received a copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review. This does not influence the opinions of my review in any way.
Synopsis (From GoodReads):
When a vicious assault compels sixteen-year-old Mnemba to leave her village, she joins her cousin Tumelo as a tracker in his booming safari business. It doesn’t take her long to become one of the best safari guides in Nazwimbe. Her work allows her to escape into a new world of wondrous creatures, and to avoid thinking about what happened at home.
When Mr. Harving arrives with his daughter Kara to research unicorns, Tumelo assigns Mnemba to them as a guide. The attraction between Mnemba and Kara is almost instant, but Kara is engaged to be married when she returns home. Venturing into the savanna alone, they uncover a plot by a gang of poachers to enslave the unicorns, harnessing their supernatural strength to build a railway. They must save the creatures Kara loves while struggling not to succumb to forbidden love themselves.
I have followed Julia Ember on Twitter for a while now. She has great things to say, and so I was delighted when she contacted me and asked if I would read her book, Unicorn Tracks. The story has many elements I haven't seen often in YA: The setting (Africa), culture clashes, a sweet lesbian romance, and...Unicorns!!!
Color me interested. I found this book to be a fun mix of all of these components and a thoroughly enjoyable book.
Although the setting is in Africa, it is definitely in an alternate universe where mythical creatures roam the Savannah. We find our main character, Mnemba, working as a safari guide where tourists are as likely to see a mermaid, a griffin, or a phoenix as they are to see a lion. One of the rarest creatures to observe is the unicorn. When a father and daughter team of researchers hire Mnemba to track the unicorns, it leads to a terrible discovery. I thought using the African setting and altering it to include fantasy creatures was a nice twist.
There is an abundance of situations where the clash between black Africans and white tourists are shown. Most of the customers project a smug superiority to their hosts. Although Mr. Harving and his daughter, Kara, show some cultural sensitivity, they still have many misconceptions to overcome. I think this is probably similar to the complicated relationships tourists have with locals in any developing country. I thought this was a very astute observation on the part of the author.
The romance between Mnemba and Kara was very sweet and showed how hard it must be to let down your guard and feel safe. These relationships are often condemned, particularly in Africa. Along with the expectations of their families, they faced a challenging future together. But the book had me rooting for these two to prevail.
You know when you watch a horror movie and one of the characters says, "I'll just go check out that noise outside", and you want to scream, "Stop!"
There were times in the story where I was doing just that. I think the Mnemba and Kara took some incredible risks that were a bit over the top. This is my only complaint about this book. Most of these were instigated by Kara. Perhaps in a sequel, we could see if Kara had some issues that might explain her reckless behavior.
Overall, this was such an enjoyable book. I hope many people will read this and go on their own fantasy safari.
Release Date: April 21st, 2016
Source: From the author (Thank You)
Recommendation: For it's unique setting and story with mythical creatures, this is a YA book that is sure to be a great read.