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Black Unicorn (Unicorn #1)

3.87  ·  Rating Details ·  3,494 Ratings  ·  145 Reviews
Nobody knew where it had come from, or what it wanted. Not even Jaive, the sorceress, could fathom the mystery of the fabled beast. But Tanaquil, Jaive's completely unmagical daughter, understood it at once. She knew why the unicorn was there: It had come for her. It needed her. Tanaquil was amazed because she was the girl with no talent for magic. She could only fiddle wi ...more
Paperback, 138 pages
Published December 1st 2005 by iBooks (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.

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
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N.T. Embe
Jun 03, 2011 N.T. Embe 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. 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
Sep 07, 2014 Nikki rated it really liked it
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
Mar 23, 2008 Beth rated it it was amazing
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
Aug 20, 2009 Dixie rated it it was amazing
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!
Feb 14, 2017 Jaci rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-in-2017
A satisfying young adult story in the classic fantasy vein. Nothing edgy, grimdark, or pretentious. This is something you probably wouldn't feel bad reading to a child, or giving to a family member or friend. Good female protagonist, an engaging tale of family, of mothers and daughters, of sisters and fathers, coming-of-age, new adventures awaiting us on the horizon, and those who ask for our help.

Would definitely read more from this author.
Oct 10, 2016 Jacob rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy
With elegantly placed brushstrokes Tanith Lee quickly paints a complex portrait of a realistic character and lets her Unicorn breath life into her and into the entire story. I love complex characters that are easy to identify with and Tanaquil is such a character! Frustrated by a life empty of adventure Tanaquil is quickly drawn Of into a vast and dangerous world with only her not quite tamed and quite magical animal friend, the peeve, by her side.
This story quickly touches you, draws you in, c
This took a lot longer for me to read than its 140 pages would imply. The type is small and the writing dense (in a good way!), so I wasn't able to zip through it the way I can other, fluffier fare.

The story is packed full of great descriptions and wonderful little moments (basically everything the Peeve does is The Best). Tanaquil is a great heroine, and it was good to watch her become self-sufficient. I really enjoyed rereading this.
Jensine LW
Jan 16, 2016 Jensine LW rated it really liked it
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
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
Jul 05, 2013 Sarah rated it it was amazing
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
Sep 04, 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
Sep 05, 2016 Barb rated it really liked it
A young girl, ignored by her sorceress mother and with no distractions in the desert fortress they live in, discovers a unicorn skeleton. Employing her only talent, Tanaquil rebuilds the skeleton with added parts to make it a movable work of art. She doesn't realize that she does indeed have magical ability and the unicorn bones will transform into a living beast. Tanaquil is thrust into a fantastic journey as the unicorn leads her to the City by the Sea where she discovers who she really is.

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
Feb 06, 2011 Erin rated it really liked it
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
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
Sep 08, 2016 Jacek rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a very good fantasy novel with interesting characters and rich atmosphere. The story is interesting and has a very fairy tale feel to it, however, i feel like half of the main character's adventure was filler and would be better suited to be a long fairy-tale or, my preference, a longer, more in depth and meaningful epic.

The whole book i asked myself what the point was but it's not discovered until the very end. All of the struggles were wrapped up either as they went or at the end, whi
Mar 02, 2017 Ike rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fantasy
Tannith Lee has created a world that is at once magical and mystical--an imperfect world where Tanaquil dwells as a young fixer or mender or tinkerer, but she surely knows that she is no witch, as is her mother. After all, her mother has tested her and tried to train her in the ways of witchcraft all to no avail. But, after she finds a set of magical bones and puts the skeleton back together it turns into a big, blacker than night unicorn with red eyes. At once she knew that it came for her and ...more
Aug 20, 2012 Paige rated it liked it
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
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
Jun 06, 2011 Jeremiah Bookworm rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction, fantasy
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.
Nov 05, 2009 Cloud rated it really liked it
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.
Sep 20, 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.
Feb 10, 2012 Jared rated it it was amazing
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.
Aug 19, 2010 Meri rated it it was amazing
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.
Sydney More
Mar 19, 2014 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.
Rain Misoa
Jul 25, 2016 Rain Misoa rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Rain by: N.T. Embe
A beautifully told tale in old fantasy!

To read my full review, click here.
Nov 28, 2008 Jess rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This might be one of my favourite books - can't even count the number of times I've read it.
Fairly interesting, but sparse in details in some places. I had trouble connecting to the character. I do like the plot, though.
Michelle Brumley
May 16, 2017 Michelle Brumley rated it really liked it
I read this book many years ago in middle school and it stuck with me over the years. The lingering memory of a black unicorn on the golden sands. And re-reading it was a real delight, a short read (the book is ~50,000 words, ~180 pages), and a true adventure. Tanaquil is relatable, smart and the Peeve kept me laughing. It's a wonderful coming-of-age story that has demons, humor, struggle and a bit of magic. It stumbles at parts (the 4 out of 5 rating) but the imagery is never completely broken. ...more
Mar 21, 2011 Kit★ rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I decided to read this one because of its small size, and that fact that it'd been sitting on my TBR pile for awhile. So, since I'd just read a few romances in a row, I was wanting a change, and decided on this one. From the first couple of pages, I was hooked. Already, there was a talking portrait of a sorceress, wine coming from the bath spout, a meandering, oddly-built castle/fortress, and a furry little talking animal. The main character, Tanaquil, is the sorceress' daughter. She's a young g ...more
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What's The Name o...: YA (probably?) fantasy w/ female MC and pet peeve? [s] 9 56 Oct 27, 2012 08:48AM  
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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
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.” 3 likes
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