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Black Unicorn (Unicorn #1)

3.86  ·  Rating Details  ·  3,171 Ratings  ·  117 Reviews
It was big and beautiful and so black that it was like a hole in space, and it was completely impossible. Everybody knew there were no unicorns. Unicorns didn't belong in this world except in legends. But there it stood, radiating magical power, in the shattered wreck of the party.

Nobody knew where it had come from, or what it wanted. Not even Jaive, the sorceress, could f
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Published by Ipicturebooks (first published 1991)
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Ana The Eight by Katherine Neville has fantastic descriptions of the desert of Algeria that made me swoon! Also loving Black Unicorn by Tanith Lee.
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Nikki
Sep 07, 2014 Nikki rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy
This is my first book by Tanith Lee, I'm pretty sure, which surprised me. I've always known the name, always known that people thought I'd be interested, and I'm sure I have actually bought some Tanith Lee books before, but I'm pretty sure that this is the first I've read. I was interested, but not really absorbed -- Tanaquil is okay, but the relationship with her mother, even the stranding in the desert, felt fairly average. There's not much explanation of the world -- which in some ways, I pre ...more
N.T. Embe [Moved to Leafmarks]
Jun 05, 2011 N.T. Embe [Moved to Leafmarks] rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Fantasy and Magic lovers! Good for adding variety to typical magical scenarios!
Recommended to N.T. Embe by: Library in Middle School
Shelves: fantasy, unicorns
Some might question why I would rate this book Four out of Five Stars, and I will back up my reasoning for this by stating that at first read, it may not seem like it's worth such a rating. The beginning all the way through until nearly the very end is full of chaotic, annoying, even frustrating situations. There are so many things that are all over the place, and that go wrong or annoy the heck out of you in this book, or that make no sense in any logical way possible. Plus the people, with the ...more
Beth
Aug 06, 2012 Beth rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: everyone, young girls
Shelves: books-i-own
My all time favorite book. An intelligent YA novel by Tanith Lee that never talks down to its audience. A creative take on this mythical beast, Lee's unicorn is hardly the gentle creature the reader expects. Tanaquil, the heroine, is a spirited and likable young girl, probably the most lovable of all Lee's characters. This fantasy novel takes place in a jewel of a fictional world and is ultimately about family relationships, learning that one's world and one's family may be far from perfect, but ...more
Dixie
Aug 20, 2009 Dixie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I remember reading this book over and over as kid. It was one of the first fantasy books I remember reading. I love Tanaquil in this book.This is a book about coming of age, discovering yourself, and realizing you are exactly who you are suppose to be. One of my favorite books of all time!
Stephanie A.
I got this from a book fair at age 7, and I have treasured my yellow-paged trade paperback copy ever since. I read it numerous times, and now every time I open it, the familiar lines wash over me like old friends. The best part is the concept of "peeves" as actual creatures, which I've always pictured as basically furry hedgehogs with fox tails, especially the hilarious chattering voice of the one who becomes her pet. ("Want a bone.")

There are some beautifully rich descriptions, including how t
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Jensine LW
Jan 26, 2016 Jensine LW rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a book I read many years ago in childhood, and I wanted to revisit it as an adult. A few things to say about this one:

Great pace, descriptions, & novelty—Tanith Lee has a strength for pace which keeps you going through the novel like a steamroller. She writes simply enough you don't miss important details, yet strongly enough her sentences aren't boring. She has a knack for thrusting the unknown and the magical in your face and making you accept it. At the same time, the magic isn't
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deilann
Nov 30, 2015 deilann rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Originally posted on SpecFic Junkie.

When I reviewed The Black Unicorn, by Terry Brooks, I said there was a good Black Unicorn already. This is it. This is also a book that I like to point to when someone's looking for a strong female character who doesn't have to be overly masculine in order to show she's strong (cough Alanna). Also, peeve. Yes.

I may sometimes follow around my puppy and peeve-narrate him.

Black Unicorn is a pretty simple coming-of-age story: a girl who doesn't feel like her mothe
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Netanella
First line: The first thing Tanaquil saw almost every morning on waking was her mother's face.

4 1/2 stars rounded up.

Tanith Lee almost always writes amazing fantasy, and "Black Unicorn" is very, very good. Her writing style is lush, evocative, beautiful. Her settings are poetic. In "Black Unicorn", Tanaquil is the ignored young daughter of a sorceress, skilled as a tinker/mechanic, but seemingly without any magical ability. Her loneliness leads her to discover, with the help of a pet peeve, the
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Erin
Jun 07, 2012 Erin rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I'd read this back in high school, but really didn't remember anything about it, so I decided to reread the series to see if it was as good as I remember it being. Well, yes and no.

The plot revolves around Tanaquil, the young daughter of a powerful (if erratic) desert-living sorceress. When a semi-tame peeve (think a catlike creature)discovers a sparkling, moonlight-colored bone, she is intrigued and follows it to find the rest of the bones. She uses her unmagical talent for mending things to p
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Brian
Jul 20, 2013 Brian rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
First book I've ever read by Lee, and ultimately I have to say it made me curious about her other works. Black unicorn starts out in an interesting setting with a likable protagonist, a girl who's actually capable. Though the first chapters are a bit slow, the story really starts to pick up after part two. Most of the time Lee's writing flows very smoothly but she does tend to ramble on about unimportant events or descriptions. I had high hopes (started out with none) for this story as you get a ...more
Paige
Aug 20, 2012 Paige rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
What an interesting writing style. At times, Tanith Lee does carry on a bit, with her detailed, incredibly dramatic, poetic descriptions of things. Still, several times I was amazed at her poetic prose. She can do amazing things with the turn of a phrase. Clever, intelligent, and highly feeling all at once.

The story itself, the adventure, was pretty entertaining and original, (especially the first half), but honestly, my favorite character was this little desert animal called a "peeve." It was s
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Kyle
I remember this fantasy vividly from my childhood, or at least the first "book," with Tanaquil, the fortress, the peeve and the bones of the unicorn. Re-reading it now I seem to have completely forgotten about the rest of the story so that's probably why it doesn't quite live up to the first part for me. But overall this was definitely worth a re-read as an adult. Tanith Lee has a unique voice in fantasy, one that I appreciate very much. Her prose is vivid, fresh and alluring. I look forward to ...more
Jeremiah Bookworm
The strong, independent female character is reminiscent of Robin McKinley, only Lee has a much cleaner writing style, uncluttered with all the unnecessary detail of McKinley's works. In places the writing style is strikingly elegant and beautiful, and though the story gets off to a slow start, it builds to a breathtaking conclusion which whets the reader's desire and sense of wonder, a requirement for all good fantasy fiction.
Stephanie Hardin-speciale
I really enjoyed this series and will definitely be re-reading them sometimes. The world Tanith Lee creates in this series is stunning and captivating and interesting. Everything is exaggerated, expanded out of proportion and it makes for a lovely background to our protagonist's story.

Tanaquil is the daughter of the powerful sorceress, Jaive. Tanaquil does not think she has any powers like her mother and is bored with her life in her mother's desert fortress. She meets a cute animal called a Pe
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Cloud
May 26, 2011 Cloud rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: own
Ahh, I enjoyed this book the first time I picked it up many years ago. It has a wonderful world and Tanith Lee does an amazing job describing things as well as bring you along on this journey. I'm glad to have read it again with a fresh set of eyes. Some parts of this story have really lasted with me over the years. I'm glad to have it part of my collection.
Lindsey Duncan
Jul 03, 2015 Lindsey Duncan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: just-fantasy
"Found it. Found a *bone.*"

This book was an often-reread part of my childhood, a cherished favorite. When I heard the sad news that Tanith Lee had died, I knew I had to return to it and read it again.

The Black Unicorn is a delight, swift reading despite its poetic turns. (Look back at most of the descriptions, and you'll find that there is little concrete detail: instead, Lee uses words to create an emotion that compels the reader to fill in the blanks. It's gifted wordsmithing.) The book has a
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Juniper Shore
Tanith Lee is very erratic. At her best she's absolutely brilliant, and at her worst she's almost unreadable.

Balck Unicorn is one of her best. It has amazing worldbuilding, with vivid details that set the scene without overwhelming the story. Here and there a scene makes me laugh. If the book has a weakness, it's in the plot: it isn't always clear why things happen or why characters do what they do. It's a great book for fans of Alice in Wonderland: The Complete Collection.

I have read both the s
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Alyssa Oppelt
This one took forever to finally get me interested enough to consider reading the second and maybe third books in the series. It's not bad at all, but it is soooo sllloooowwwllyyyy moving for me, even though she is constantly going from one thing to the next, it was still pretty boring. Despite the concept being different, it reminded me of the book I was forced to read in high school. I barely actually read it. I didn't want to, just scanned the pages, and my thoughts drifted everywhere else. T ...more
Jennifer
Oct 06, 2013 Jennifer rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mine
The book is short in size and content. It could have easily had another hundred pages. I love Tanith Lee, but she should have spent more time on the characters and their relationships than on describing the environment. Her work is lyrical, and the places are magical, but this book was lacking some meat.
Meri
Aug 19, 2010 Meri rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: ya-and-childrens
I found this while browsing the library shelves and suddenly remembered how much I loved it! There are scenes from the book that I can still see in my imagination today, probably 17 years after I read it. I can't believe I forgot about it for so long! I'm so glad my library has it.
Elizabeth
Mar 26, 2014 Elizabeth rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: YA readers who enjoy Anne McCaffrey & Peter S. Beagle
A quick, enjoyable tale. Tanaquil is the sensible, insightful yet completely non-magical daughter of the sorceress Jaive. Ignored & lonely for company or purpose, mechanical-minded Tanaquil finds a skeleton in the desert surrounding her mother's fortress and reassembles it. By doing so, she inadvertently resurrects a bold, untameable unicorn. Tied to the beast's fate, Tanaquil follows it to an exotic city that holds the key to secrets in her own past.

Published in the early 90s, this story is
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Jared
Feb 10, 2012 Jared rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A powerful and disturbing take on unicorns--shades of Le Guin. Starts off charming and light, buy slowly morphs into a nightmare of a children's novel. Still fit for children, but pregnant with a dread that will spook adults.
Suchada Juntarakawe
Sweet, colorful fairy tale.

Tabitha Lee has such a facility of creating rich, vibrant, lyrical worlds that operate not only in the mechanics of dreams but also breathe in emotions and sacred distillation of nameless instances of magic every human recognizes and craves. This story is a swift read akin to being a child and being swallowed by a story for a few hours again. Suitable for all ages this narrative can be as simple as a princess fable or can be a multi-layered as a coming-of-age allegory
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Emily
Fairly interesting, but sparse in details in some places. I had trouble connecting to the character. I do like the plot, though.
Sydney More
Jul 09, 2015 Sydney More rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy, fiction
Beautifully written and full of action. Loved the Peeve and Tanaquil's resolution.
Vicki Fortin
Jul 11, 2014 Vicki Fortin rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
cute piece, not a difficult read but I enjoyed it so much I almost wish there was more. More depth, more storyline, just more. A princess who doesn't know she is one, a sorceress so involved in magic she ignores her daughter, and of course the unicorn, as well as a not so happy ending that leaves room for another story. I do wish we had more of the prince and his official daughter's story though, and more about the city they rule and the legends that were created. This is my first read from this ...more
Ана Хелс
Mar 29, 2015 Ана Хелс rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Танит не е просто кралицата на готическото фентъзи и поетичната фентъзийност, тя е и абсолютната майсторка на междужанровите композиции, уиърд текстовете и красивите приказки, които докосват не просто детето, душата или някоя позаспала струна в нас, но сякаш открехват вратите към измеренията на сънищата, на паралелните реалности, на отвъдните възможности. Затова няма как да не я обожавам напълно лично и искрено, и не че искам да натрапвам чувствата си на света, но просто така се получава, че Ли ...more
Sarah
Dec 20, 2014 Sarah rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy
This book has been on my TBR list for years, mainly because I've had a devil of a job tracking down a copy. Finally I found one at an amazing bookstore I've recently discovered here in Toronto that specializes in SF/F (Bakka-Phoenix Books for any locals who may be interested). Let me tell you, it was well worth the effort!

Black Unicorn by Tanith Lee is one of the most beautifully written books I've ever encountered. It's short (only 138 pages), but not a single word is wasted. I finished it yest
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Nerija
Excerpts from my Postcards review:

You guys. A unicorn skeleton. I.e. a dead unicorn. That comes to life. I.e. an undead unicorn.

IT’S A FREAKIN’ ZOMBICORN!!

Or as close to one as I’ve seen in literature. [...]

Tanith Lee’s Black Unicorn is [...] a mystical steampunk hero’s journey. The setting makes me think of The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess; mostly the Gerudo Desert, physically speaking (or the Haunted Wasteland from Ocarina of Time/Lanayru Desert from Skyward Sword…minus the robot mines
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KJ
Feb 21, 2014 KJ rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
My full review is over at Book Grumps, but here's the short version!

Black Unicorn is beautifully written, with elegant and vivid prose that stays just shy of "purple." It's hard to categorize, since younger readers may not grasp the elevated language, but the shortness of the book may turn older readers away. Tanith Lee develops rich and sympathetic characters, though they aren't terribly proactive. I really enjoy this dark steampunk fantasy--I just wish it were longer.
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What's The Name o...: YA (probably?) fantasy w/ female MC and pet peeve? [s] 9 54 Oct 27, 2012 08:48AM  
  • Birth of the Firebringer (Firebringer, #1)
  • The Last Hunt (Unicorn Chronicles, #4)
  • The Changeling Sea
  • The Road to Balinor (Unicorns of Balinor, #1)
  • Immortal Unicorn
  • Sister Light, Sister Dark (Great Alta, #1)
  • Flight of the Dragon Kyn (Dragon Chronicles, #2)
  • The Unlikely Ones (Pigs Don't Fly, #1)
  • Dragon Cauldron
  • A Wizard's Dozen: Stories Of The Fantastic
  • Wise Child (Doran, #1)
  • Swept Away (The Secret of the Unicorn Queen, #1)
  • The King of Elfland's Daughter
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Tanith Lee was a British writer of science fiction, horror, and fantasy. She was the author of 77 novels, 14 collections, and almost 300 short stories. She also wrote four radio plays broadcast by the BBC and two scripts for the UK, science fiction, cult television series "Blake's 7."
Before becoming a full time writer, Lee worked as a file clerk, an assistant librarian, a shop assistant, and a wai
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More about Tanith Lee...

Other Books in the Series

Unicorn (3 books)
  • Gold Unicorn (Unicorn, #2)
  • Red Unicorn (Unicorn, #3)

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“I haven't changed. Something's happened to me, that's all.” 5 likes
“She braced herself for the pain of the perfect horn breaking her heart.” 2 likes
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