Unicorns of Balinor

A Princess coming into her magic, colorful unicorn companions, magical gems and other items, and a race to save a kingdom from an evil being.

Sounds a bit like Jewel Riders, doesn’t it?
But actually what we’ve just described is Mary Stanton’s 1999 book series “The Unicorns of Balinor.”
Mary Stanton was one of the scriptwriters for Princess Gwenevere and the Jewel Riders. She is credited (along with Robin Young), as the writer for the classic, beloved episode “Song of the Rainbow.” Her official author website, however, lists her as being involved with three scripts. (Perhaps unproduced episodes?) Per her website, Mary had a long history of working with horses, which made her a natural choice to write unicorn-themed fiction.

The Road to Balinor

“Unicorns of Balinor” begins with a young girl named Ari Langley, who lives with her foster parents on Glacier River Farm, along with her horse Chase, and the cantankerous veterinarian Dr. Bohnes. Ari was recently in an accident that broke both of her legs and caused severe amnesia. In order to help pay Ari’s medical bills, her foster parents agree to rent out Chase to the daughter of a wealthy family for riding. Lori Carmichael and Ari do not get along at all, and when Ari runs away with Chase, Lori follows them into a cave and out of The Gap (the tunnel between worlds) into the magical world of Balinor.
Balinor is a world where all animals can speak, and unicorns and humans live in harmony. However, recently Entia, the Evil Shifter, has overthrown the royal family and claimed the land for himself. It is here that Ari learns she is really Arianna, the eldest princess of Balinor, and her horse Chase is actually the Sunchaser, her bonded and the Lord of the Animals of Balinor. Sunchaser’s horn was broken off during the battle that cost Ari her memories and broken legs. Without his horn, he is unable to speak, and because he is Lord of the Animals, if the horn is not restored, the animals of Balinor will all eventually lose the ability to speak and think as well.

Sunchaser’s Quest

In order to restore Arianna to the throne of Balinor, first she and Chase must repair his horn. Chase is not like the other, normal unicorns in Balinor, however. He is part of a herd that lives in the Celestial Valley, a place between the lands of Balinor and what is basically Heaven (the land of  the One Who Rules All). This herd is led by Atalanta, the violet and silver unicorn known as the Dreamspeaker, and Numinor the Golden One. Atalanta uses her amethyst-lined gazing pool to watch over events in Balinor and check on Arianna’s progress. She also makes a few visits to Balinor to help guide Ari on her quest.
The unicorns of the Celestial Valley herd are denoted by jewels at the bottoms of their horn. Once Ari and Chase collect the broken pieces of his horn and the ruby, they are able to repair his horn and restore his position as Lord of the Animals.

Valley of Fear

The next part of their quest takes Arianna, Sunchaser, and a small band into the heart of the Evil Shifter’s domain – The Valley of Fear – where they must recover the Scepter of Balinor. Using this scepter, Arianna is able to regain her lost memories and begin tapping into her magic. However, once this quest is finished, the group accidentally falls back through the Gap, and return to Earth…

By Fire, By Moonlight

With the balance of Magic upset by the Scepter of Balinor leaving the magical realms, Arianna and Sunchaser must undergo two Trials of the Shifter’s design – one by Fire, and one by Moonlight. However, once these are overcome with the help of new friends Finn and Rednal the Red Unicorn, Arianna is able to return to Balinor once again.

Overall Thoughts

First off, can I just squee a bit over the original cover designs for this series? For chapter books, these have seriously gorgeous designs, with rich and evocative paintings surrounded by a border of leaves, flowers, and fruits. They were painted by illustrator Dan Craig, a veteran of the publishing and design industry. Sadly, the Kindle re-releases do not feature this artwork, but still feature nice illustrations of unicorns. But they are very inexpensive at only $3.49 per book at the time of writing!
For Jewel Riders fans, there are a few things to look out for. The most obvious being the bonding of a princess with a unicorn companion. And the fact that that unicorn has a jewel (at the base of the horn, but still). Ari also has a bonded Collie named Lincoln that she communicates with, much like the talking animals in Jewel Riders. Atalanta, the Dreamspeaker, with her wisdom and violet/silver palette is very reminiscent to me of Queen Sierra. The unicorns can make sounds through their horns, which is how they communicated in Jewel Riders (I specifically remember a unicorn making a trumpeting sound with their horn in the books, which is exactly what Cleo does during song practice in “Song of the Rainbow.”) Like a checkbox almost, there are also mermaids featured in the fourth book, though they are of an unfriendly variety. And the way that Arianna uses her Scepter is very Enchanted Jewel-like, using it to cast and activate magic. The Scepter can also speak, which reminded me a bit of the speaking Rainbow Jewel.
The first four books of this series are really fun, and I was surprised how invested I got with the story and quests despite the series being written for an elementary-school-age audience. I’m definitely looking forward to finishing the last four books, and hope to bring you all a look at those in the next month or two.
Until then, you can check out Mary Stanton’s Author Website, including some great interviews, and check out the books on Amazon.com.
Her author bio from the back of the Unicorns of Balinor series:
Mary Stanton loves adventure. She has lived in Japan, Hawaii, and all over the United States. She has held many different jobs, including singing in a nightclub, working for an advertising agency, and writing for a TV cartoon series. Mary lives on a farm in upstate New York with some of the horses who inspire her to write adventure stories like the Unicorns of Balinor.
Ride on Jewel Riders!
Chris

2 Responses to “Unicorns of Balinor

  • These books hit a certain sweet spot for me: they’re good, but also flawed. Main flaw: Ms. Stanton never finished the story. Secondary flaw: the plot wanders all over the place. I wonder if Jaquesworth would like to read them and have lots of nice thought-out opinions… anyway, I have been meaning to write the last two books for at least ten years and never managed to sit down and do it. Maybe someday.

    Also, as retired queen of this fandom… *sits on throne, adjusts crown* I hereby order you to read and review the Secret of the Unicorn Queen series next. Some of them are quite expensive in solid form but you can read them on this person’s site: http://www.angelfire.com/ut/Xellena/SUQ.html They’re really fun, and have some history on the Amazon page since I actually got my hands on the rarest unicorn queen book because a fellow fan K-chan loaned me hers so I could scan it. At the time the books were becoming very expensive on amazon so I wanted to scan them to allow people to, you know, still be able to read them. Kindle releases weren’t a thing yet. But that page I directed you to isn’t my page so at least one other person had the exact same idea, a fact that continues to delight me.

    If there’s still time in the Year of the Unicorn after that you can start on Vicki Blum’s unicorn series, the My secret Unicorn series, or the Unicorns of the Mist series.

    • jewelridersarchive
      7 months ago

      The plot is a little loose for my taste sometimes, but I am know to always want more worldbuilding and lore haha. I’d love to read your continuation!

      I actually have the copy of the first two books of Secret of the Unicorn Queen in one volume! I just looked and sadly no more were ever released in bind-up form, so I’ll definitely have to use the link when it comes time to get to those books.

      Cheers,
      Chris

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