April 19, 2007

Review:The Last Unicorn

The Last Unicorn
by Peter Beagle


I've just finished reading this to the kiddos. What a delightful story! I started out reading one chapter a day but began reading 2 a day near the end. And yesterday I finished the last 4 chapters in a marathon read-aloud because you just can't stop reading with 2 chapters left to go. That's where the action is at it's most dramatic point.


The Last Unicorn is about a unicorn who realizes that she is the only one left. She wanders the world to find out what happened to all the rest and comes to hear of the evil King Haggard and the Red Bull, who have been rounding up all the unicorns. She seeks them, the King and his monster, out with the help of an incompetent magician and old hag of a lady. Once they find King Haggard the real excitement begins.


As I said, I read this to the kiddos but I now know that this was not the best choice of a read-aloud for smaller children. I think I enjoyed the story more than the kids did, though Dragon Slayer and Goldilocks were begging for more in the end.


From the very beginning the language is quite poetic and full of images that you feel rather than see. This was great most of the time but sometimes it became a bit confusing. Here are my favorite excerpts:

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.


"But the true secret of being a hero lies in knowing the order of things. The swineherd cannot already be wed to the princess when he embarks on his adventure, nor can the boy knock at the witch's door when she is 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 long time, but not forever. The happy ending cannot come in the middle of the story."


My copy comes with a second book by Beagle, A Fine and Private Place. It looks interesting. Anyway, I highly recommend the Last Unicorn to fantasy lovers over the age of 10. It is a pleasant way to spend an evening or two.
And, this was the first title I've completed for the Once Upon a Time Challenge. High fives to me! I'll be finishing the Iliad in a day or two and starting Stardust as a read-aloud and Grimms' Fairy Tales to myself.

16 comments:

Quixotic said...

Last Unicorn really is lovely. High five on your first OUaT challenge book!

Stardust may not be an ideal choice for reading to the children either. It is very much an adult fairytale. That said, it depends on your kids and you, obviously. Hope you enjoy it!

jenclair said...

I have this on my list. In fact, there are several Beagle books that I'd like to read.

Thanks for visiting my blog, and I've just finished a YA book that I will review soon. Much better than Amulet of Samarkand.

Robin said...

My daughter read this book a long time ago and loved it, but I've never read it. We still have the old animated movie on video. Now that I've read your review, I think I'll dig them both out, read the book, and watch the movie again!

Petunia said...

Quixotic-Thanks for the heads-up. I thought I'd read a bit of Stardust to myself first to see if it would be good for the kids. If not, I just bought Inkheart. Would that be a better choice?

JenClaire-I'll keep you on my blog roll so I can read your reviews of YAs. I'm a YA fan myself. I look forward to your new review.

Robin-I saw a commercial for The Last Unicorn movie today. I need to see if my library has a copy of it. But I enjoyed the book enough that I might not want to watch the cartoon. But then again, I may not be able to resist.

Chris said...

I read this book for the challenge as well and I loved it! I've been meaning to read this one for so long.

I second Quix's thoughts on Stardust. It's an amazing book, but it has a few graphic sex scenes in the beginning. Great book though.

Petunia said...

Well thanks for letting me know about THAT. Then I'll just enjoy it for myself. =)

Stephanie said...

Wow. Sounds like one I need to add to my list. Congrats on getting a book finished for the challenge. I've been so sick lately I haven't even felt like reading!!

booklogged said...

The title on the second book has me entranced - A Fine and Private Place. I would like a spot that fits that description.

Melanie said...

I have this book on my list, now I want to get to it right away. Great quotes! I really love A Fine and Private Place. It is so melancholy and yet so lovely. But don't go wishing for such a place too soon; it does refer to the grave...

Court said...

Ooooh, I have this book, and I read it such a long time ago... now I'm debating rereading it at some point soon... I had forgotten how lovely the language was. :)

Kailana said...

Until this challenge I had never really heard anything about this book before, but now it is making appearances. I am going to have to check it out. :)

Carl V. said...

This is one of those books that I cannot believe I haven't read. I simply must get to this one.

Petunia said...

Thanks for stopping in everyone. I did enjoy The Last Unicorn and I hope to get into A Fine and Private Place soon. It sounds interesting. And I am almost done with Stardust, another wonderful fantasy novel.

chittavrtti said...

I read the Last Unicorn when I was 8. It was either that or the Hobbit as they were the only books my dad had as we were driving back from a week in the mountains. Unicorns or short hairy footed men? Like there was a choice :)***CV

Petunia said...

Sounds like an easy choice to me.

Rhinoa said...

I'm glad you enjoyed it. I loved the book and the film remains my ultimate favourite film of all time :)