I’ve had my copy of The Last Unicorn by Peter S. Beagle since 2007 and when I noticed that the edges are starting to turn yellow, I decided that it’s high time I read it. This is a fantasy classic that’s a popular favorite. I can’t even remember where I got the original recommendation for it. And no, I haven’t watched the movie. I didn’t even know there was a movie until I started reading the book.
Here’s the summary from Goodreads:
The unicorn lived in a lilac wood, and she lived all alone. She was very old, though she did not know it, and she was no longer the careless color of sea-foam but rather the color of snow falling on a moonlit night. But her eyes were still clear and unwearied, and she still moved like a shadow on the sea.
The unicorn discovers that she is the last unicorn in the world, and sets off to find the others. She meets Schmendrick the Magician – whose magic seldom works, and never as he intended – when he rescues her from Mommy Fortuna’s Midnight Carnival, where only some of the mythical beasts displayed are illusions. They are joined by Molly Grue, who believes in legends despite her experiences with a Robin Hood wannabe and his unmerry men. Ahead wait King Haggard and his Red Bull, who banished unicorns from the land.
The unicorn doesn’t usually care for humans but one day, she overhears two men talking and realizes that she might be the last unicorn in the world. She decides to leave her lilac wood to find out what happened with the rest of her kind. She’s aided in her quest by friends she meets along the way – Schmendrick the Magician and Molly Grue. This book made me realize that I should read more novels with unicorns in them. I don’t think I’ve read any other novel that has a unicorn as a main character? I’m kind of sad that I didn’t read this book sooner because I feel like this is the kind of book that I would have fallen in love with when I was in my early teens. The story started out a bit slow for me but quickly picked up once the unicorn faced the Red Bull, sorry for being vague, I don’t want to give away spoilers. I was also able to appreciate Peter S. Beagle’s writing, it’s lyrical without being too heavy. Does that makes sense? I feel like his writing is perfect for this kind of story – one that has elements of magic and a fairy tale-feel to it. And it’s not the usual kind of fairy tale either. Here’s a sample of the writing:
“The true secret in being a hero lies in knowing the order of things. The swineherd cannot already be wed to the princess when he embarks on his adventures, nor can the boy knock on the witch’s door when she is already away on vacation. The wicked uncle cannot be found out and foiled before he does something wicked. Things must happen when it is time for them to happen. Quests may not simply be abandoned; prophecies may not be left to rot like unpicked fruit; unicorns may go unrescued for a very long time, but not forever. The happy ending cannot come in the middle of the story.”
Doesn’t that make you curious about this book? I can see why The Last Unicorn is a favorite of so many readers. I’m surprised by how much I liked it considering that I normally go for epic fantasy with strong female protagonists although the unicorn IS female and she can be considered a strong character in her own quiet way. I also liked the secondary characters in this book – Schmendrick, Molly and Prince Lir. Each had his or her own quest and I was rooting for them to find the things that they’re searching for. If you haven’t heard of this book and you enjoy reading fantasy, you should definitely grab a copy as soon as you can. It’s a story filled with magic, warmth and truths about what it means to be an immortal magical being as opposed to being human. For a book that’s been out for a while, it doesn’t have that many reviews in the blogosphere. I should read Peter S. Beagle’s other books. I’ve noticed that I mostly read novels by female authors and while I don’t think that’s a bad thing, it would be a good idea to add more males into the mix. So let me know what are your favorites out of Peter S. Beagle’s backlist and I’ll try to check them out.