I’m a very picky reader of fantasy. Fantasy has the potential to do everything fairy tales can do, but most fantasy fails dismally.
Peter Beagle’s Last Unicorn, however, is exactly what fantasy should be. A compelling story set in a haunting world both strange and familiar. Engaging characters with real flaws and dreams facing an impossible challenge. And all told in beautiful prose that itself weaves a spell on the reader and awakens forgotten desires.
The Last Unicorn tells the story of (what else?) the last unicorn’s quest to discover the fate of all the other unicorns. The unicorn is accompanied by Schmendrick—a magician whose ambition is far greater than his skill—and by Molly Grue, a peasant woman with hidden wells of wisdom and grief.
Their quest leads the three companions to face the terrifying power of the monstrous Red Bull and the world-weary King Haggard, whose greed has smothered his ability to feel joy—or compassion. As their adventure builds to a climax, all three companions learn both the joy and sorrow that comes with love. They all learn firsthand (even the unicorn) both the glory and the tragedy of being human.
‘Then what is magic for?’ Prince Lír demanded wildly. ‘What use is wizardry if it cannot save a unicorn?’ He gripped the magician’s shoulder hard, to keep from falling.
Schmendrick did not turn his head. With a touch of sad mockery in his voice, he said, ‘That’s what heroes are for.'”
The Last Unicorn is one of the finest pieces of fantasy I’ve read. It would make great Fall reading, as the promises and longings of summer come to an end.
The Last Unicorn Giveaway
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