ROC, Penguin, New York, 2008
The Last Unicorn is a marvel. If you love fantasy, if you love magic, read this book. Written 40 years ago, it is a classic that has stood the test of time.
A unicorn lives in a wood all alone. Hearing a conversation between two hunters she becomes curious and decides to search for others of her kind. This quest leads to meetings with villains, monsters and an unlikely magician named Schmendrick. There are battles and losses, witches and kings. The only way to give you a taste of this morsal is to let you read.
Sometimes she thought if men no longer know what they are looking at, there may well be unicorns in the world yet, unknown and glad of it. But she knew beyond both hope and vanity that men had changed, and the world with them, because the unicorns were gone. Yet she went on along the hard road, although each day she wished a little more that she had not left her forest. From page 11.
So they fled across the night together, step by step, the tall man in black and the horned white beast. The magician crept as close to the unicorn’s light as he dared, for beyond it moved hungry shadows, the shadows of the sounds the harpy made as she destroyed the little there was to destroy of the Midnight Carnival…From page 54.
And far away on the other side of the unicorn, Schmendrick the magician stalked in silence. His black cloak was sprouting holes, coming undone, and so was he. The rain that renewed Molly did not fall on him, and he seemed every more parched and deserted, like the land itself. The unicorn could not heal him. A touch of her horn could have brought him back from death, but over despair she had no power, nor magic that had come and gone. from page 106.
Beagle is an accomplished story-teller. Using clear crystal-like language he brings this classic tale to life. The Last Unicorn is filled with scenes of ethereal beauty, terror and very human foibles. It is often laugh out loud funny. It is a book I would recommend to anyone interested in the genre, fans and new comers alike.
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