Unicorn Island: Beyond the Portal by Donna Galanti, illustrations by Bethany StancliffeFormat: E-ARC
Publisher: Andrews McMeel Publishing
Number of pages: 240
Publishing: April 4th, 2023
Source: author in exchange for an honest review
Opening Line: "Sam slid the perfectly browned pieces of banana French toast onto two plates as her dad, Mitch leaned over to add a few slices of crisp bacon."
Beyond the Portal is the final book in the Unicorn Island series, while the author gives a nice recap of the previous book in the series, I would still recommend reading these in order.
A lot has changed since the last book. Revelations were made about Sam's dad and she and Tuck became unicorn protectors. But lingering in the back of all of their minds was that Sylvie, Sam's biological mom might still be alive despite having disappeared through a portal. Sam would love more than anything to reopen a portal, but this would be too risky. The unicorns are still too weak from the disease that infected the herd and drained their magic, and Sam doesn't want to risk them becoming mortal. So, the search for Sylvie was placed on hold. Meanwhile, Sam and Tuck busied themselves by studying The Unicorn Protector's Creed, when they happen upon a coded message on how to open a cave portal in "dire and unforeseen circumstances". Could this be the answer that Sam's been looking for?
As always, the full color illustrations by Bethany Stancliffe, are wonderful. I love the vibrant colors and the way they exude a light, cheerful tone that really complements the story and engages the reader well. Being the final book in the series, I was expecting a few more secrets to be revealed and was pleasantly surprised by what awaited Sam, Tuck and Barloc on the other side of the portal. No spoilers from me, only to say that I enjoyed how Galanti explored the grays of the world and that sometimes not everything is as it first seems. Also, sometimes we just need to take a chance.
Overall, I've really enjoyed The Unicorn Island series. I've enjoyed following Sam and Tuck on their many adventures. Experiencing the various obstacles that they've faced, including Grendell, the sand creature in book two. It's been a sort of atmospheric read for me, with the whole island shrouded by mist and our two unicorn protectors. It has strong kid appeal, the artwork is lovely, there are unicorns and a positive friendship between a boy and girl. This last book showed a lot of character growth and emphasized standing up for your principles. Lastly, I enjoy that each book features tidbits of information at the back of the book that tie back into the story. Things like explaining the history of coded messages, the importance of water, colic, horseback riding, and the healing prosperities of unicorn horns, explaining some of the mythology of unicorns while highlighting important historical and scientific facts. I'd happily gift this to fans of unicorns and kids who enjoyed Adam Gidwitz's The Unicorn Rescue Society or the Unicorn Academy Series by Julie Sykes.
**A huge thank you to Donna Galanti for the E-ARC via BookFunnel in exchange for an honest review. **