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The author of this book was at a late-night party with colleagues of his wife – a veterinary student – when an emergency call came in. A bear cub had been hit by a car and needed immediate surgery. O’Donohoe tagged along as the vets, unable to look up the proper anaethesia for bear cubs because the library was closed, improvised on the principle “Let’s pretend it’s a big, fat, mean dog.” Out of nowhere the idea struck O’Donohoe: If they can do that with bear cubs, vets could treat unicorns!
And so came the inspiration for this exciting, unusual, and…well, inspirational book. In it four last-year veterinary students accept a mysterious fieldwork assignment in a place that can only be reached with the aid of a very special map, called The Book of Strangeways. And for medical reference they have little to guide them except Lao’sGuide to Nonbiological Species. So when BJ Vaughan’s first-day presentation has to do with grafting the horn back onto a unicorn, she says: “Let’s pretend it’s either a small horse or a large goat.”
No Dorothy, they aren’t in Kansas, and nor are they in western Virginia, though it’s only a short drive from there. They are in a magical world called Crossroads, which welcomes creatures and beings from all other worlds, so long as they help each other as needed. A lot of the creatures in Crossroads are too magical to thrive anywhere else: harmless creatures such as unicorns, satyrs, brownies, and fauns, as well as dangerous creatures like griffins, rocs, centaurs, and (gulp) werewolves.
Unfortunately Crossroads is at a bit of a crossroads these days. One reason so much veterinary help is needed is that a force of evil is encroaching on the land, manipulated by a charimatic psychopath named Morgan. She is building and training an army that could bring back the worst days of Crossroads’ history, when Roman invaders emptied the world of its inhabitants. She has a strange power over creatures that no one has been able to tame before. And, of special concern, she has a traitor from BJ’s world on her side.
While BJ and her friends only slowly grow aware of the dangers and mysteries of Crossroads, BJ herself is coming to terms with a terrible decision forced on her by a genetic disease that promises nothing short of a long, horrible death. At the risk of spoiling the book, this will probably be the first fantasy adventure you read in which the main character goes through it all in the certain knowledge that, in the end, she is going to commit suicide. The question is now: Can you handle that? Or perhaps, can BJ handle the surprises Crossroads has in store for her at a point in her life when any new experience must seem like a gift?
After reading this book, I found out that it was the beginning of a trilogy. The other two books are Under the Healing Sign and The Healing of Crossroads. I found used copies of both books and am enjoying them now. If “care of magical creatures” is your favorite subject, or if you are interested in fantasy and medicine, you must get hold of this trilogy!