Sunday, March 29, 2009

Review: The Last Unicorn by Peter S. Beagle

book 5 of 5 for the Jewish Literature Challenge
book 1 of the Once Upon a Time III Challenge
genre: fantasy
rating: 5/5

I am ashamed that I haven't read this before. I was a great devotee of the movie when I was young and it wasn't until I was a teen that I even realized there WAS a book. But even then, I remember checking it out once and trying it, but just preferring the movie. Silly girl. The book is just as good and definitely more profound. Or, maybe, I have just lived enough now to see that it IS profound.

The last unicorn doesn't know she is the last until she hears a hunter speak the words. Her journey to find out the truth about unicorns in the world leads her on a journey into the depths of the human condition. She gathers with her those who can see her for what she truly is: the kind and bumbling Schmedrick, the Magician, and Molly Grue, the crabby scullery girl. With these two by her side she travels towards the realm of King Haggard and his terrifying Red Bull. What she learns along the way about herself and the ways of humans will change the land forever.

What makes this book such a classic? Is it the complex characters? The unicorn is at once both naive and wise, teaching us what is human by putting words to what we have and what we lack. Is it the magic itself, fleeting and powerful - at the ready for some but tantalizingly fickle with others? Or perhaps it's because it is a tale of finding what is beautiful, old, and good and restoring it to its rightful place - but first having to learn what is worth living and dying for.

The writing is witty, lyrical and powerful. If you have seen the movie, you'll hear voices in your head as you read text that was lifted word for word and put into the movie. But even if you haven't - if you love tales of magic and love, unicorns and heroes - you should open the pages of this one and take the journey. You won't forget it.

16 comments:

Penny (aka Yooperchick) said...

I loved the movie, too...and I didn't know it was based on a book, either. Now I'm going to have to check this one out!

Sarah said...

This has been a favorite of mine also, I am surprised you haven't read it before now. This could possibly be the ONLY book I have ever read before you, because I usually just read your suggestions. =) Love!

DesLily said...

I vaguely remember the movie.. i will have to get the book, it's been way too long since I heard the story

libritouches said...

Like you, I was a devotee of the movie (it was standard morning tv fare for a long time in this house!) and didn't realise there was a book until my teens. I really should reread it sometime. I love the story so much. Have you read the sequel novella Two Hearts? I found it was just as beautiful and magical.

*soft sigh* Thanks for reminding me of all the beautiful moments this story's given me!

Nicole said...

Thanks for your review. I as unaware of the movie and the book.

Masha said...

Its been so long since I read this... I had completely forgotten about it. Thanks for reminding me! Must go look for it in the library

Estella said...

Obviously, I'm as derelict as you are, having loved the movie as a kid and never even realizing it was a book! Off to rectify that...

Lorien said...

Hey, Corinne. I so enjoy all of your reviews, and this is no exception. I've always loved Beagle's writing and your review reminded me that I need to introduce him to my kiddos. I would recommend A Fine and Private Place as well. Thanks!

Booknut said...

Wow, you have written a beautiful review. This has long been one of my favorites. I'm so glad you enjoyed it.

Okie said...

I have vague but very tender and nostalgic memories of the movie. I had no idea that it was based on a book.

I now have to go watch the movie again (and hopefully get my kids hooked) and track down the book as well.

Cami said...

What? A book?? Adding to wishlist . . .

Shelley said...

I didn't know it was a book until I read this post! I never saw the movie, but I remember when it came out.

Jena said...

We were fans of the movie, too--still am. I read the book a few years ago, and thought it was good, but the movie in my head really interfered with my reading. And one of Schmendrick's last lines in the movie is nowhere in the book, which (for some reason) really threw me for a loop.

marineko said...

This was one of my favourites! I like your review; now I'm adding this to my "books to re-read" list, which is getting almost as long as my TBR list.

Miss D. said...

I used to *love* unicorns when I was a youngster, and have always been afraid to read this since the unicorn always seems to get killed and I can't stand it!! I can't tell if this has a happy ending or not... I don't usually care about happy endings but I can't take any more unicorn killings! :)

(PS: lovely review...)

Jonathan Langford said...

Just a few years ago, Peter Beagle wrote a story in the same universe which I think he called a "coda" rather than a sequel: a novelette titled Two Hearts. It won the Nebula Award for its category and deserved it. A truly marvelous story, well worth tracking down in my opinion.

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