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The Last Unicorn

Originally published in August 2004, in 2 parts.
Book 28 in my first 52 books challenge. Edited out some information that had nothing to do with the book.

Author: Peter S. Beagle
Illustrator: Mel Grant
Year published: 1968
Pages: 212
Genre: Fantasy
Where got: Public library

I first read this book a long time ago, before I became really proficient in English, and when I came across this special illustrated anniversary edition, I decided it was about time I read it again.

Being older, having read a lot in the interim and understanding the language better, all effect how re-reading books affects a person. When I first read The Last Unicorn I was about 20, was just about to start university and although I could keep up a fairly fluid conversation in English, I didn’t have the feeling for the nuances of the language I do now. Back then, I found the book beautifully written but felt something was missing, namely the spark that separates a good book from a great book. It will be interesting to see what I think of it now.

One day a solitary unicorn discovers she is the last of her kind and sets out to find out what happened to the others. On the way she picks up two companions: the inept magician Schmendrick who can not age until he fulfils his potential for great magic, and Molly Grue, former outlaw’s companion who prefers to join the unicorn rather than stay any longer with the outlaws in the woods. They discover that the Red Bull, some kind of mythical creature, herded all the unicorns away to the land of King Haggard. The travellers head towards that bleak and inhospitable land and its cruel king, towards a reckoning that will change their lives forever.

The writing is lyrical and flowing and the language simple, straightforward and charming. The story is solid and touches upon several myths and legends from different sources, and the characters are beautifully created and rounded. There is an underlying sadness that permeates the story, for things past and wonders that have gone the way of our belief in unicorns.

A beautiful story about a unicorn who briefly finds out what it is like to be mortal. 4+ stars.


Dorte H said…
What an interesting post about your development as a reader of English and what difference it makes.

The first time I read an English novel voluntarily was when I found a Dorothy L. Sayers novel in the library, in English! And they didn´t have the Danish translation. I was twenty, I think, and I struggled through it because it was so exciting, and since then I have never stopped reading novels in English. I stopped thinking about which language I was reading in several years ago, though, unless the language is especially fine.

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