You Should Read This: The Last Unicorn by Peter S. Beagle

The Last Unicorn, by Peter S. Beagle, reviewed by speculative fiction writer Cat Rambo.

"As for you and your heart and the things you said and didn't say, she will remember them all when men are fairy tales in books written by rabbits.” ― Peter S. Beagle, The Last Unicorn

Not the movie. No, that was an okay movie, but this book? It’s pure gold. It’s beautiful. It’s enchanting. You should read it.

What: The Last Unicorn is, as you would expect, the story of the last unicorn. She must find out what has happened to the other unicorns, aided by a fraudulent magician, a fierce butterfly, and a would-be Maid Marian. You’ve formed a story in your head from reading that last sentence. The book is nothing like that. It’s better.

Who: I do not think anyone should call themselves a fantasy writer that has not read this. I’m sure there are reasonable exceptions. But I’m not seeing any of them.

Why: Read this for characters that will tangle themselves up in your heart and never let go. Read it for Beagle’s skill with prose, the sly humor, the sheer beauty.

When: Don’t read this when you are feeling insecure about your own writing, because it will only make it more so. Read it for inspiration as well as entertainment.

Where and how: Copy passages out and try to figure out how Beagle DID that. How the butterfly enchants us in only a few sentences. How the Bull menaces in even less space. (Be aware that Beagle did write about some of these characters again; they appear in novelette “Two Hearts,” which I only see available in The Nebula Award Showcase 2008 and The Year’s Best Science Fiction, Volume 24.


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About Cat

Cat Rambo lives, writes, and teaches by the shores of an eagle-haunted lake in the Pacific Northwest. Her 200+ fiction publications include stories in Asimov's, Clarkesworld Magazine, and the magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction. Her story, "Five Ways to Fall in Love on Planet Porcelain," from her collection Near + Far (Hydra House Books), was a 2012 Nebula nominee. Her editorship of Fantasy Magazine earned her a World Fantasy Award nomination in 2012. She is the current President of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA). She is currently working on Exiles of Tabat, the third book of the Tabat Quartet. A new story collection, Neither Here Nor There, appears from Hydra House this fall.
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