In The Last Unicorn we are pulled into a magical world with talking birds, cats, and (of course) unicorns. It all starts when a beautiful unicorn overhears some hunters saying that there are no unicorns left in the world, making her the last one. The unicorn decides very bravely to leave her peaceful forest in the hope of finding others. But what she doesn’t know is that this quest will bring great, great fear to her heart.
Let me start by saying that I LOVED this book. I can’t believe it has taken me this long to read it!
I was going into this story with a sort of ‘I know what most fantasy books are like’ attitude and it just completely blew me away – that taught me right. What I knew about magical worlds, what is possible and how to write about them, didn’t come close to Peter Beagle’s The Last Unicorn.
The first thing that I’ve to comment on is his writing. His descriptive, flowing writing style just captured me until the very end (and some time after). And the book is also really, really funny. Especially the other magical beings surprised me. There is a cheating blue jay, who gets pecked by his wife, and this tree:
“the tree fell in love with him and began to murmur fondly of the joy to be found in the eternal embrace of a red oak. ‘Always, always,’ it sighed, ‘faithfulness beyond any man’s deserving, I will keep the color of your eyes when no other in the world remembers your name. There is no immortality but a tree’s love.'”
Wonderfully bizarre, isn’t it?
And there are many more funny, satirical moments like this. At a certain point in the book, the myth ‘Robin Hood’ comes walking by and the bandit leader explains how these heroic stories are created: just keep making up enough songs about yourself. (I also read the novella Two Hearts that follows this book and in it they actually sing a song about this bandit, showing his theory works! So let’s start composing on our lutes).
The characters are also very aware of playing a particular role in a fairytale. The prince, for example, becomes a hero and ‘does what every hero must do,’ slaying dragons and helping princesses in distress.
As you probably have noticed, I cannot write a very clear and convincing review because there is too much I loved. I think it’s best just to quote Patrick Rothfuss:
“The Last Unicorn is the best book I’ve ever read. You need to read it. If you’ve already read it, you need to read it again.”
And I will Patrick. I will.