Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Book Review: The Last Unicorn

Originally I was going to just watch The Last Unicorn movie since I had found it at the local college library but when I looked up the call number I discovered they had the original book as well and decided to read it first. I’ve wanted to read the book for years, just because I’ve heard so much about it over the years but my public library didn’t have a copy (I believe I read something else by Beagle back in middle school though). I was surprised at how old the book is, I knew the movie was old but I still expected the book to be a decade or two younger (it was published in 1968) so I was surprised by how the book had more of an older fantasy flavor instead of a new fantasy feel.

The Last Unicorn by Peter S. Beagle
My copy of the book didn't actually have a cover, just a plain blue binding but, since people like images, here's what the 40th anniversity edition should look like. 
Summary: After the unicorn hears that she is the last of her kind she leaves her forest for the first time in centuries to find out if this is really true. Along the way she will see what has become of the world, meet some interesting people and learn what it means to be mortal.

The Good: The book feels more mature than fantasy does so readers who want a deeper, less light-hearted fantasy would enjoy this tale. The book is also written in an older style* so people who simply aren't as fond of how modern day fantasy is told or how characterization is done will probably like this as well, it does appeal to a good-sized audience in that respect. The characters are all well-developed (with the Unicorn and Prince Lir getting the most) and the story wraps up without any loose ends, it's a well thought out and planned story.

The Bad: At times it feels like this story isn’t sure just when or where it’s setting is which is a bit annoying. It’s entirely possible that the setting is meant to be an anarchism stew of sorts but otherwise it just feels sloppy for parts of a kingdom being stuck in the middle ages when other parts have more modern features (such as talking about wandering poets recording songs while eating tacos). The pacing in the book is a bit odd, the whole book is a quest but, while the first half of the book is spent rapidly traveling from place to place, the second half is set in one place and the story really slows down which I'll admit I disliked. 

I'm still not entirely sure what I thought about this story, and it's been a good week since I read it, since it was just so different from what I normally read but I don't think I liked it. I had a hard time sympathizing/empathizing/understanding the characters (although I did like Molly a lot by the end), the setting bothered me (I'm always picky about settings though) and I didn't understand the romance (and again, romance, not my favorite thing in a book). It was a well-written book and again, it might just be because I'm used to young adult fantasy instead of adult fantasy, but I just didn't enjoy reading this book in the end.  

Also, I'll post the first part of my summer anime overview tomorrow (not waiting any longer for Funi's simulcast for Baka to Test 2) but it's going up a bit late since I'm helping out a photographer all day tomorrow. The whole thing is already written, don't worry about that, it's more a matter of when I'll be at my computer to actually post the silly thing, my best guess is at 7pm EST. 

*it's a little hard to explain but, there is definitely a difference between the fantasy written now and the fantasy written even 20 years ago, I really need to write a whole post on it to explain what I mean.  



    I am epic fail. I should read this soon (we have the same edition, cool xD)

  2. Heh, I'm going to try and watch the movie in the next few days, there aren't that many unicorns in anime are there. o.O SHOJO, FIX THIS!