Title: Acorna (The Unicorn Girl)
Author: Anne McCaffrey and Margaret Ball
Author's (memorial) web site: http://www.pernhome.com/aim/
Length: 400 pages
Quote: “‘Let’s call her Una,’ Gill suggested…‘I don’t like it,’ Rafik said…‘Acorna?’ Calum. ‘Sure beats “baby”…’”
The spaceship crew have rescued an orphaned infant of a mostly humanoid species whose alien features remind them of unicorn lore. Acorna grows up fast, and her horn turns out to have healing properties. During the time span of this story she’s barely half grown and can pass for a large human, although her species are bigger than humans.
Passing becomes important because Acorna feels love, loyalty, and a desire to help humans, and on some planets her friends visit, a lot of humans need a lot of help. The writers, clearly moved by news reports about “human trafficking,” focus on a planet whose culture relies on enslaved child labor.
“Everywhere on Kezdet, where there was a mine or factory keeping children…there was also some legend of a rescuing goddess…But never before had one of the legendary goddesses taken mortal form and given sold, practical healing to a sick child.”
Acorna wants to rescue all the child slaves on Kezdet. Some of the adults on Kezdet want to kill her. Can Acorna be poisoned? Can she neutralize poison?
No points for guessing; there are sequels. However, there are also reasons why Anne McCaffrey is remembered as one of the best writers in the whole world of science fiction. She had a genius for inventing names (most of the names of characters in her fictional remote futures weren’t used as human names before the 1980s; many are used as human names now). She had an equally memorable gift for characterization. Acorna’s friends, especially Delazaki Li, linger in readers’ minds. Acorna is a predictable story, bordering on preachy, but McCaffrey’s talent makes it an entertaining read.
To buy it here, send $5 per book + $5 per package to either address at the very bottom of the screen. (You could fit the whole trilogy into one package and have room for a few of the Pern novels.) I'm sorry to note that Anne McCaffrey no longer needs $1 per book; feel free to scroll down and add books by living authors (e.g. Todd McCaffrey, the living brain behind the Pern Home web site) to the package.