October 01, 2012

The Last Unicorn by Peter Beagle

I grew up with the Last Unicorn movie.  Obsessively watched it in fact and loved every moment of it.  And then just recently I came across the book.  Well of course I had to read it.  And I truly did enjoy it; there were a few things that I would have liked to see done better, but really, this is a great piece of fiction and I can see where the wonderful movie got its inspiration.

A unicorn, who's lived in the woods for a very long time, has just gotten word that she's the last.  Which is strange to her, unicorns are solitary creatures and maybe the others are just hiding.  But it's enough to pique her curiosity and get her moving to see what happened to the rest.  But danger follows her on her journey in the form of men, witches, and dark King's.  And even though she gains some helpful companions, she starts to lose herself and forget her journey, even though the future of the Unicorns can only be rescued by her.

The unicorn is a very unique character in this book.  Beagle presents her as having different emotions from humans and I think he does it very well.  She's somewhat foreign but still has some base instincts that we can relate to.  Her companions, the Magician and the Molly, are also quite wonderful.  The Magician Schmendrick is a complex character that it's hard to tell sometimes whether he is quite wise or just has dumb luck and even while he can be infuriating at times, you can't help but want him around.  Molly is just solid and steady and comforting, both for the other characters, and the reader.  Even Haggard, the evil King is a great character and while he is somewhat evil, you actually can feel pity for him.  Overall the characters just do a great job of expressing emotion and wisdom and there's a lot of lessons fit into this book.

Having seen the movie first I was surprised by all the extra parts of the novel that weren't in the movie.  It doesn't detract from either media, but it made me consider things about the characters that I had never thought before and explained quite a few things about their motivations as well.  I do think the pace was a bit rushed with all that extra added in though.  This book could have easily benefited from an extra hundred pages to keep it flowing smoother.  But it was still magical and one of the better fantasy books that I've come across.  Add in the reminiscence of my childhood and I was hooked.

This is definitely going on my "keep" shelf.  As I've been paring down my books only a special few make it there too, so that just proves how special the book is.  Definitely a fantastic read.

The Last Unicorn
Copyright 1968
248 pages


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