Random House: Bringing You the Best in Fiction, Nonfiction, and Children's Books
Newletters and Alerts

Buy now from Random House

  • The Princess and the Unicorn
  • Written by Carol Hughes
  • Format: Trade Paperback | ISBN: 9780375855634
  • Our Price: $7.99
  • Quantity:
See more online stores - The Princess and the Unicorn

Buy now from Random House

  • The Princess and the Unicorn
  • Written by Carol Hughes
  • Format: eBook | ISBN: 9780375892356
  • Our Price: $7.99
  • Quantity:
See more online stores - The Princess and the Unicorn

The Princess and the Unicorn

    Select a Format:
  • Book
  • eBook

Written by Carol HughesAuthor Alerts:  Random House will alert you to new works by Carol Hughes


List Price: $7.99


On Sale: February 24, 2009
Pages: 288 | ISBN: 978-0-375-89235-6
Published by : Random House Books for Young Readers RH Childrens Books
The Princess and the Unicorn Cover

Share & Shelve:

  • Add This - The Princess and the Unicorn
  • Email this page - The Princess and the Unicorn
  • Print this page - The Princess and the Unicorn


Noble, with hooves and horn of gold, the unicorn is the embodiment of magic. When Princess Eleanor of England catches sight of him in Swinley Forest, she can’t resist taking him back with her to Buckingham Palace. Unfortunately, once the unicorn leaves the forest, both he and the forest begin to sicken. As the only witness to the unicorn’s departure, Joyce, an intrepid and curious young fairy, sets out for London on a grand adventure to rescue the unicorn—and maybe help the princess while she’s at it.

From the Hardcover edition.


Swinley Castle, that world-famous ancient monument and official Royal residence, stands atop a high hill some thirty miles west of London. It is one of the most splendid castles in the world, and on a clear day the magnificent honey-colored turrets and towers can be seen from miles away.  

Like many Royal buildings nowadays, Swinley Castle is open to tourists for a small entrance fee. A visitor may view the great staterooms, the chapel, and the Royal kitchens. They may even see a Royal bedchamber or two, but no more. The remainder of the castle is strictly out of bounds. This is because it is still used frequently by the Royal Family. The king, the queen, and their only child, H.R.H. the Princess Eleanor, often occupy a wing of private rooms.  

When the Royal Family is in residence, the union flag flies from the castle's flagpole. But don't think that if you are visiting the castle and the flag is flying, you will catch sight of any of Their Highnesses. They tend to keep to their own quarters when the castle is open to the public, and who could blame them? They may be Royal, but they are still people.  

Like the castle itself, the extensive grounds of Swinley are beautiful. Within the castle wall there are the Royal gardens--kitchen, herb, and formal--and a few velvety green lawns where the princess occasionally plays croquet with her governess. Beyond the castle wall a large meadow rolls away to the south. It dips down into a valley and then rises in a long sweep to the edge of the Great Forest of Swinley, one of the last truly ancient forests in Europe.  

Swinley Forest is fiercely protected. No human, neither gardener nor tree surgeon nor member of the Royal Family, has set foot in those woods for a century. The forest is an ecological miracle and a national treasure. It is also a little bit spooky.  

One summer morning when Their Majesties were still slumbering in their Royal beds, much was happening in a part of their kingdom that none of them knew existed.       The ancient fairy town of Swinley Hope is situated in the exact center of the ancient forest of Swinley, and it is here, in this long-forgotten outpost of the fairy world, that our story begins.  

It was market day in Swinley Hope, and although the sun was only just up, carts laden with all sorts of summer goodies were rolling into the market square. Merchants and farmers were setting up their stalls. Wild strawberries as big as a fairy's head, bushels of tiny truffles, and mounds of early cranberries were being carefully arranged on the wooden tables.  

It promised to be a pleasant day. Nearly all the fairies, elves, and pixies who lived in the vast expanse of Swinley Forest came to town on market day. They came to sell, to buy, to gossip, or to just enjoy themselves.  

High above the square a young fairy by the name of Joyce lay on her belly along a twig at the top of her home tree. Although she'd been up for hours, she was still in her pajamas and her hair was mussed from sleep.  

"Ah, summer," she said, sitting up and stretching out her wings behind her. "Summer is absolutely my favorite season." And she really meant it. Then she remembered that every season was her favorite season, and she laughed, causing the twig to bounce beneath her weight.  

Joyce and her family lived, like the other fairies in Swinley Hope, in a house that was built into the trunk of one of the trees. Joyce's house was the last house at the top of a horse chestnut tree that stood along the southern edge of the square.  

Being so high up on the tree meant that theirs was not a large house. In fact, Joyce could stand in the kitchen/living/dining room and, by stretching out her arms, easily touch both walls at once. When she and her two sisters and her parents were all in that room together there was barely space to stand, and if her sisters decided to preen their wings at the same time, there was no room whatsoever. Joyce loved their small house, though. Living in the last house on the trunk meant she could climb out and sit in the branches and no one would wander past her on their way home. It was, in her opinion, a delightful place to live.
Carol Hughes

About Carol Hughes

Carol Hughes - The Princess and the Unicorn

Photo © Marcy Malloy

Carol Hughes was born in Yorkshire, England, and grew up in a seaside town in Lancashire. She now lives in San Francisco with her husband and daughter.


My world upside down . . .

I have been a writer my whole life, but oddly enough I didn’t realize it until I was grown up. Looking back I can see that I was always writing and making up stories. I always loved writing essays at school and, when I went to art college, I filled my sketchbooks with stories instead of drawings.

In my late twenties, I met my husband. He turned my world upside down by pointing out to me that, as I was forever writing, perhaps I ought to try my hand at writing a book. Amazed by this revelation, I wrote Toots and the Upside-Down House and Jack Black & the Ship of Thieves.

All I had to do was go for it . . .

I have been incredibly lucky in my life. For starters, my parents always told me that I could be whatever I wanted to be—all I had to do was go for it. They always encouraged and supported me in all the mad, often nutty, schemes I dreamed up.

The only real difficulty I ever faced was when, for some reason, I lost all my confidence. It was terrible. For almost a year I couldn’t write anything and everything I tried to write was awful. Then a friend, another writer, gave me an incredibly useful piece of advice. She said “Just give yourself permission to write really badly and then get on with it.” So that was what I did. Everyday I wrote. Most of it was dreadful, but the more I wrote the less I worried about whether it was any good or not. And after a while I began to enjoy writing again. That episode showed me that you have to find the fun in what you are doing—otherwise, what’s the point?

I do all my acting on the page instead of in the spotlight . . .

In school I always wanted to be an actor, but I was very shy so, instead of getting up and acting characters out on a stage, I started inventing them in my notebooks and diaries. Even now I sometimes think I am really an actor, but I do all my acting on the page instead of in the spotlight.

When I’m writing new characters, the actor in me emerges. I suppose all the characters must, in some way, be part of me (even the horrid, mean, and conniving ones like Gadfly or Sabrina) and, when I write about them, I get to see what it would be like to be that way for a while. The really horrible characters are the most fun to write. The Maggo sisters in Toots Underground are my favorites. I didn’t have to do any work to find out who they were—one day they started talking and I just copied down what they said.

I love strong, capable characters . . .

I’m probably most similar to Toots. Like her, I tend to take the long way round to learning life’s important lessons and, like Toots, I often get in my own way. I wish I were more like Olive Brown. She’s so kind and positive and good-tempered. Of course, if I could be anyone, I’d like to be the kind of self-sufficient lady who could support herself on a desert isle like Dorothy Dobson in Jack Black or, if I were very daring, I’d be an adventurous aviatrix like Beryl. I love strong, capable characters.

I spent a lot of time searching for secret passageways and hidden worlds . . .

When I was little, my parents kept a small hotel that had 20 bedrooms. It was a fantastic place to grow up. All summer it was full of guests, but in the winter it was closed and I had the run of the whole place. I remember I spent a lot of time searching for secret passageways and hidden worlds. My favorite book back then was The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe and you’d think, wouldn’t you, that in a hotel with 20 huge, old-fashioned wardrobes at least one of them would lead to Narnia.

Most often the starting point for my stories is my desire to go somewhere I can’t physically go. I began Toots and the Upside-Down House because I wanted to visit the ceiling and see what it would feel like if my world was turned upside down. Once I started writing it, I got to go inside the walls of the house and discover the bits of buildings we don’t normally see. With Jack Black & the Ship of Thieves, all I knew was that I wanted to fly on an airship and the whole story grew from that one desire.


“Sailing through the skies or sailing through the seas, the action never stops.”—The Horn Book Magazine

“With a swashbuckling style and an imagination in overdrive, Hughes grabs readers on page one and never lets go.”—Publishers Weekly

“Successfully [combines] humor, adventure, and serious issues such as loyalty and honesty.”—Booklist


Praise for Dirty Magic:
“Intriguing Neil Gaiman–like fantasy that will have readers on the edge of their seats.”—School Library Journal

From the Hardcover edition.

Your E-Mail Address
send me a copy

Recipient's E-Mail Address
(multiple addresses may be separated by commas)

A personal message: