For Ages
8 to 12

A science-minded unicorn and a (literal) fiery horse team up in this fantasy adventure perfect for fans of Fablehaven and the Wizards of Once series.

Have you ever heard of a unicorn who is more interested in science experiments than magic?

Or a flaming horse who's a walking fire hazard?

When a pumpkin-headed menace called Jack o' the Hunt and monsters untold threaten their home, this unlikely pair must team up to save all of the Whisperwood--and themselves!

Award-winner Lou Anders delivers a fantasy adventure about friendship, fearlessness, and finding your true herd.

An Excerpt fromOnce Upon a Unicorn


Foolish Fire Fumbling

Something dark moved through the Whisperwood. It was Midnight.

No, I don’t mean it was midnight on the clock. It was actually a few hours before then. And, anyway, clocks weren’t really a thing in these parts.

No, I mean the something dark moving through the woods was Midnight.

Midnight, a young night mare. A yearling nearly two years old. (That’s nearly twelve for a human, just so you know.)

Watch how she walks. See how fearless and bold she moves? There’s no fear in her. Not a drip. Not a drop. Not a snizzle.

Hmmm . . . 

Do you think that she’s maybe being a little foolish as she struts so confidently through the twisted trees and deep shadows?

Well, she is.

And you’d be right if you guessed that she was very brash and stubborn and oh so very assertive for her age.

Too big for her bridle, you might say, if anyone ever bridled a night mare. But they didn’t. The bridle would just burn up.

In Midnight’s case, however, it would probably sizzle, spark, and explode.

Because Midnight’s fire was Wild.

Her fire shot out in all directions when she was excited. Or angry. Or giddy. Or hiccupy. Or just bored.

Like the time she belched and a burst of flame set Old Sooty’s tail on fire. It had been very funny for everyone. Well, not for Old Sooty. Actually, it had only been funny for Midnight. The rest of the herd weren’t exactly what you’d call amused.

Then there was the time she stamped her feet and fried a whole patch of mushrooms to a crisp. No one, not even Midnight, had thought that was very funny. The herd had gone hungry then, because mushrooms are what you eat in the Whisperwood, where no grass grows and no wheat sprouts. Naturally, burning up everyone’s dinner didn’t earn her any love.

In fact, Midnight’s uncontrollable fire was a bit of a problem for the herd, really. They weren’t sure what to do about her. They didn’t have any ideas at all. But that was okay, because Midnight had a Plan. A Plan to fix everything.

“That’s right,” said Midnight. “I have a Plan.”

She was cantering through the Whisperwood as if it wasn’t full of dangerous, ugly, evil Fairy Creatures. She was cantering with purpose and determination.

“I wish you’d tell me what the Plan was,” said her friend Vision. Vision was also a night mare, a little older than Midnight. But Vision wasn’t walking with purpose. Vision wasn’t so much cantering as she was slinking and slunking, as if the woods were full of dangerous, ugly, evil Fairy Creatures. Which they were.

“I can’t tell you the Plan,” said Midnight. “Not yet.”

“Why?” asked Vision.

“Because if I told you,” said Midnight, “you’d try to talk me out of it.”

“That means I wouldn’t like it,” said Vision. “Why won’t I like it? What am I doing out here, Midnight, if I won’t like it?”

“You’re out here,” said Midnight, “because you’re the only one crazy enough to go with me when I am being me.”

“Oh,” said Vision. She was about to say more, but it was true. When Midnight was being Midnight nobody was crazy enough to come along, except maybe Vision. Everyone else would just roll their eyes and maybe stand a little bit away in case anything exploded.

Vision was wondering why she had to always be the one to go with Midnight, when both horses heard something go scuttle, scuttle, scuttle in the darkness to their left.

“We should go back,” said Vision. “We should never have left the Silent Stones at night.”

“We will go back,” said Midnight. “Just after we’ve put my Plan into effect. And, anyway, the Silent Stones are why we’re out here.”

Now, Dear Reader, I’m betting you don’t know what the Silent Stones are. That’s okay. Don’t feel bad. No human has ever seen them. At least, not for a long, long time. Not since they were called the Singing Stones, and you weren’t around back then. You’ll learn more about them later. For now, just know that they are a big circle of stones, and that Wicked Fairies and Wicked Fairy Creatures don’t like coming close to them. So at night, when the Wicked Fairies and the Wicked Fairy Creatures are at their worst, the herd of night mares sleeps in the circle of the Silent Stones. And they never, never leave them until the dim light that passes for morning in the Whisperwood comes worming its way through the twisted branches overhead.

Which is why Vision was frightened and Midnight was very, very foolish.

But if she wasn’t being foolish, well, then nothing was ever going to change.

And things needed to change. So keep reading.

And stop interrupting.

Because in all the time we’ve been talking Midnight and Vision have wandered very far from the stones indeed. And something has wandered after them.

Scuttle, scuttle, scuttle, went the noise again. This time to their left.

“What’s that?” said Vision.

“It’s a noise,” said Midnight. And she wasn’t wrong. But she wasn’t exactly right.

“Yes, I know it’s a noise,” snapped Vision. “I mean what made the noise?”

“Something,” said Midnight. “Something made the noise. But we’re after something else.”

“But it could be dangerous,” said Vision. “Aren’t you even curious what it is?”

“I am not curious,” said Midnight. “I do not have time to be curious. I am on a mission because I have a Plan.

“Which you won’t tell me. Because I’ll talk you out of it.”

“Because it will spoil the—­”

“Surprise,” cried a voice from the trees.

Suddenly, a thick and sticky spiderweb, like the biggest spiderweb you never saw, fell from above and landed on Vision.

Vision cried out, but she was trapped like a fat fly. Like a horse fly, I suppose you could say.

You could say that, but please don’t. That’s a very bad pun. And it’s in poor taste to pun when someone is in ­danger.

Meanwhile, Vision was thrashing and bashing, but she was stuck fast.

Midnight looked up in the branches, and there she saw a nasty fairy. It was a sprider. A sort of sprite spider. About the size of a small dog. But nothing like a dog at all, unless of course the dog had eight hairy limbs, wicked teeth, too many eyes, and could shoot webbing from its bottom. Who’d want a dog like that?

“Help, help!” cried Vision.

Midnight snorted. Both because Vision wasn’t being brave and because a single sprider was just a nuisance. Not a serious danger.

And also because Midnight was summoning her fire.

A big gout of red flame belched from Midnight’s mouth. The fire struck the sprider web and burned it up. The flame raced up the webbing and burned the fairy monster on its bottom.

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