Book Review

Unicorn Farmhand – Book Review

Book Rating: ★★★☆☆ (3.5 / 5 stars)

Dok Saau always thought of himself as a normal horse…except that he knew how to write, and had the cognizant ability equal to, if not greater, than his owner Chang Gao. After a DNA scan reveals that Dok Saau is not just any old horse though, but an endangered unicorn, his life is turned upside-down. Suddenly, people from far and wide are coming to see Dok Saau – for his writing ability, and his ability to “talk” due to computer implanted horn on his head. But, as Dok Saau’s ability to reason and remember continues to improve, nightmares of those who removed his horn and tortured him as a foal wrap themselves around him. Will they destroy the progress he made? Or risk the life of his owner and family? 

Unicorn Farmhand is an endearing, slice-of-life type of story, mixing elements of fantasy and sci-fi into one book. Dok Saau is an interesting character…after all, he is the narrator but also a unicorn! His understanding of the world is limited by experiences; he doesn’t quite understand the cartoonish unicorns on TV, or why the neighborhood kids behave in certain ways. But that’s okay. He is just trying to take in the world and live his life without trouble. 

As a precursor, the book does have some mention of animal abuse. Dok Saau is a victim of mutilation early in his life, and throughout the book he deals with the fallout of these memories…ones that he had suppressed after joining Chang Gao’s family, until local authorities discovered his true origin. I think this was quite an interesting way to discuss trauma…because despite how much better Dok Saau’s life is with Chang Gao’s, he still cannot shake everything from his past.

While I overall enjoyed the story, there were some things that could have been executed better in my opinion. For me, I felt that the story meandered a little bit in the middle, detailing more about Dok Saau’s life as a tourist attraction, than about finding the men who harmed him. This might have just been personal taste, as I found my mind wandering in parts of those scenes, waiting for the next revelation to come along about Dok Saau’s past. But at the same time, I also wanted to know more about the world: the mix of sci-fi elements and fantasy elements were fascinating. So I can’t say if I think this book needed to be longer or shorter; I guess, as a reader, I wish it went on a slightly different path.

But that’s not to say that I didn’t enjoy it, because I did! I think the author did a phenomenal job blending sci-fi with fantasy, while also showing the naivety of a unicorn (or horse). Dok Saau doesn’t see the world like us, and having a story written from a lost unicorn’s point-of-view is so much different than what we read today. 

So why not take an adventure down to Dok Saau’s farm, learn about his past, and along the way…help him fight and defeat those who harmed him? It’s a fun adventure that I think many people will enjoy!

Note: I received a copy of this book at no cost in exchange for my honest review.

What’s it about?

Every horse has a talent or two. Some can sit, some can jump over obstacles, and some can select a button for a treat. For one particular draft horse, Dok Saau, his talent is in writing. He does not just scribble letters in the ground as a trick, but he also uses his talent to express his own thoughts to his bemused owners.

Surprised by his strange talent, his owner Chang Gao brings him to the Horse Fair, where he beats the other horses by writing proper answers to several questions. After a DNA scan, he is revealed to be a unicorn: even though he was supposed to be released into the wild, the authorities let Chang Gao keep him so that he might become a local attraction.

Yet even as he tries to adjust to his new life as an animal celebrity, every now and then he faces recurring nightmares from his troubled past. As he seeks Chang Gao’s help, will he be there to help him defeat his fears? Or would they instead attract something much worse: something that could threaten his comforts or even his own life?

Book Review

Mockingston Faire – Book Review

Book Rating: ★★★☆☆ (2.75 / 5 stars)

Every year, Mockingston Faire comes to town. A fan convention that wraps around the hearts of many, Victoria, Jack and Ludvig can’t wait to once again be immersed by their favorite fandoms. But, just because the faire whisks them away from the world, it does not mean they can escape the pressure from outside. Can they manage to enjoy the day without a care in the world? Or will the craziness of the convention overtake them?

A heartfelt story about fan conventions, we journey with a fun cast of characters to Mockingston Faire. But, it is not without warning: fandom can be toxic and all consuming. While for the most part, conventions are fun  – with contests, art, panels, and more – the toxicity in fandom remains, and in this case, it puts Mockingston Faire at risk of closing…permanently. This is evident in  the treatment of Ludvig as he performs improv, or Victoria as she dances, or the fighting factions in different sides of the fanbase that might just destroy the artist alleys and the panel rooms. 

The author clearly is writing this from experience, delving into the world of fan conventions through eager eyes. In fact, the concept itself is heartwarming, and will connect with many readers. 

Unfortunately the execution could have been better. In an effort to avoid copyright issues, the author writes about fandoms that exist in the world of Mockinston Faire, sometime in such details that it was hard to stay on top of what was actually happening, and other times without enough, so the plot gets muddled down with unfamiliar terms. In addition, the characters bounce from one event to the next, without giving us a chance to get to know them and their connections. Had we gotten a chance to have a larger bird’s eye view of the convention, or the chance to really get to know the characters and the fandom, then the story might have connected with me more.

I think though that anyone who has been to a fan connection will find a part of themselves in this story. You’ll suddenly be transported back to the crowds, through the vendor booths, and into the panels where people gawk at celebrities. In part, it’s a nostalgia ride, which makes it worth the read for anyone who misses fan conventions…especially during this pandemic.

Note: I received a copy of this book at no cost in exchange for my honest review.

What’s it about?

Three friends — Victoria Hughes, Jack Zhang, and Ludvig Gerald — attend Mockingston Faire, an annual convention where fans meet their friends and favourite characters, buy and sell art, play games, and have a good time. Victoria wants to see Gunfighter III, her anticipated game, and reconcile with Ludvig over what she did last year; Jack wants to get as many pictures of his dearest characters and personalities; and Ludvig just wants to keep away from annoying fans and events who constantly forced him to become an amateur actor.

But the Faire itself has its own challenges. Everywhere they go, they seem to be unable to evade the malcontents of pop culture. From violent brawls between bitter fandoms, to nuisances who hound their every step, the whole Faire seems to descend into chaos.

Can these three make it through this dysfunctional festival with their friends in one piece? Or will they succumb to the surrounding rage, losing their sanity and reputation in the process?