[openbook booknumber=”9780061490002″][rating:3/5]

Forget everything you ever knew about unicorns.

Real unicorns are venomous, man-eating monsters with huge fangs and razor-sharp horns. Fortunately, they’ve been extinct for a hundred and fifty years.


Astrid has always scoffed at her eccentric mother’s stories about killer unicorns. But when one of the monsters attacks her boyfriend – thereby ruining any chance of him taking her to the prom – Astrid finds herself headed to Rome to train as a unicorn hunter at the ancient cloisters the hunters have used for centuries.

However, at the cloisters all is not what it seems. Outside, the unicorns wait to attack. And within, Astrid faces other, unexpected threats: from the crumbling, bone-covered walls that vibrate with a terrible power to the hidden agendas of her fellow hunters to – perhaps most dangerously of all – her growing attraction to a handsome art student… an attraction that could jeopardize everything.

I think this book and story line could have a lot of potential as a young adult novel and future fantasy series but I think it ended up being too big and ambitious for one book. It also ended up losing a lot by going for the easy way out in characterization and in trying too hard to cater to a teen audience.

In this story poor Astrid has to switch gears pretty hard to go from a typical teenage girl seriously considering letting a guy sleep with her to get asked to the prom to having him be almost murdered by a renegade unicorn (a being that, until that moment, Astrid had firmly believed was a myth). As a result Astrid, a virgin from a bloodline of unicorn hunters, gets sent abroad to a special cloister for training in becoming a fearsome hunter of these bloodthirsty, semi-intelligent beasts. Unfortunately Astrid does not want to become a unicorn hunter and finds out that the cloisters contain more secrets than answers and that perhaps the world of unicorn hunting is not all that it seems.

And put myself in the hands of total strangers?”
       She snapped the lid shut, “What do you take me for? Of course I checked out their stories. I am a researcher, you know. They are who they say they are, and their stories are verifiable. You have nothing to fear. I wouldn’t put my daughter in any danger.”
       “Any danger!” I cried. “what do you call hunting unicorns? Big, sharp horns; fangs…” And those were just the goat-sized ones.
       “I call it your birthright.” Lilith stood tall. “Honey, I know you’ve been down ever since that stupid boy broke up with you but this is about more than a prom date. Don’t you realize that? You have a destiny. Most people would kill for something like that.”
       If Lilith and this Cornelius guy had their way with me at this boot camp, I was going to kill.

It was great to read this fantasy story about unicorns painted in a light I had never thought to see them in and to read about this whole mythology surrounding unicorns that I had never heard of before. Unfortunately, there needed to be so much set up for the world and the mythology and all of the characters (there were so many other unicorn hunters introduced that I had a hard time keeping track of them all) that I had a hard time absorbing all of it.

One good thing about the book was reading about this realistic, and frank, portrayal and discussion about women’s sexuality and the peril and power of it. Astrid does get into three pretty hot and heavy sexual situations and each time has a completely different, but very realistic, reaction to each of them. It’s portrayed in all of its lights: positive, negative, ambivalent, hopeful, frightening, resigned. It opens a full and safe dialogue on the subject for teens, discussing several different aspects to consider and think about.

Aside from sex, the book also discusses conservation, modern ideas of warfare and sacrifice, and the ethics and science involved in each. Highly ambitious and a lot for just one book to have to hold, not to mention introduce an entire series on top of it.

As to the negative points I pointed out before, the characterization ended up having to be oversimplified to make the story work. In the book the mother was portrayed as completely mental and yet someone that Astrid had to listen to because “she was the adult”. Stuff like this came across as a bit of a cop out to me. Then there was Astrid’s voice which I thought sometimes went just a little bit over the top trying to blend in as a normal teenager’s voice. Someone gets stabbed and is bleeding to death in front of you and you have time to be concerned over whether or not the dying boy can take you to the prom?

So while a promising new series and a very unique take on a fantasy world of killer unicorns I thought that the book ended up being too ambitious and tried to do too much for one novel. There were too many characters, too much back story all at once, a little too much with the acting like a dumb teenager when clearly Astrid is anything but. Perhaps future books in the series will not be so jam packed and we will have more room to breathe and appreciate this story teller and the variety of messages, adventures and myths she has to share.

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