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Black Unicorn (Unicorn #1)

3.86 of 5 stars 3.86  ·  rating details  ·  3,023 ratings  ·  112 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, 144 pages
Published November 30th 2001 by IBOOKS, INC. (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.…moreThe Eight by Katherine Neville has fantastic descriptions of the desert of Algeria that made me swoon! Also loving Black Unicorn by Tanith Lee.(less)

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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 4 of 5 stars  ·  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
Aug 06, 2012 Beth rated it 5 of 5 stars
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
May 26, 2011 Cloud rated it 4 of 5 stars
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
"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
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
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
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.
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.
Mar 26, 2014 Elizabeth rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  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
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
Fairly interesting, but sparse in details in some places. I had trouble connecting to the character. I do like the plot, though.
Vicki Fortin
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
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
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
Excerpts from my Postcards review:

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


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
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.
There is something to Tanith Lee's prose that draws me back. I first discovered her through the Terri Windling anthologies and eventually made my way to her longer works. In these volumes, I found myself looking for her name because her stories much like Patricia McKillip's and Robin McKinley's were rich in imagery.

Black Unicorn also contains that lovely rich imagery that invigorates the imagination. "Somewhere between the city and the desert, sunset began. The sky was apple-red in the west, an
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
Melissa Prange
Tanaquil is bored. Living in an isolated palace with her sorceress mother, she finds little to do. She spends as much of her idle time as possible fixing things for the servants and guards. She is excellent at tinkering--which is just as well since she has absolutely no proficiency for magic (much to her mother's dismay). Things, however, aren't breaking quick enough for her liking, and she's tiring of her clothing disappearing and her oranges changing into birds. She's ready for a change, but h ...more
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What's The Name o...: YA (probably?) fantasy w/ female MC and pet peeve? [s] 9 53 Oct 27, 2012 08:48AM  
  • Birth of the Firebringer (Firebringer, #1)
  • The Last Hunt (Unicorn Chronicles, #4)
  • The Changeling Sea
  • Immortal Unicorn
  • Swept Away (The Secret of the Unicorn Queen, #1)
  • The Road to Balinor (Unicorns of Balinor, #1)
  • Flight of the Dragon Kyn (Dragon Chronicles, #2)
  • White Jenna (Great Alta, #2)
  • Juniper (Doran, #2)
  • The Unlikely Ones (Pigs Don't Fly, #1)
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)
Wolf Tower (Claidi Journals, #1) Wolf Star (Claidi Journals #2) Wolf Queen (Claidi Journals, #3) White as Snow The Silver Metal Lover (Silver Metal Lover, #1)

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“I haven't changed. Something's happened to me, that's all.” 4 likes
“She braced herself for the pain of the perfect horn breaking her heart.” 1 likes
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