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The Dragon and the Unicorn (Arthor, #1)
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The Dragon and the Unicorn (Arthor #1)

3.84  ·  Rating Details ·  1,069 Ratings  ·  77 Reviews
In the tradition of Marion Zimmer Bradley's "Mists of Avalon, " this is the tale of an ancient king and queen whose romance sets the stage for the coming of King Arthur. Before the beginning of time, as light first cools to matter, the electron glow of Heaven holds the seeds for an epic qest for immortality. The quest unfolds with a creature of Fire, a Unicorn of Light, a ...more
Mass Market Paperback, 539 pages
Published June 1st 1997 by HarperPrism (first published December 1st 1994)
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Angela Sasser
Jun 09, 2009 Angela Sasser rated it really liked it
Whatever I was expecting when I first read this book was completely blown out of the water by one of the most unique and well-crafted epics I have read in quite awhile, and since!

While this is a retelling of Arthurian legends, do not be fooled by such well-recognized themes. This novel reads more like an ancient tale told around the fire than it does the dulcet and expected lines of most predictable retellings of Arthurian legend, and yet at the same time, Attanasio adds a strange mix of scienti
Oct 22, 2008 Janet rated it it was amazing
The Dragon and the Unicorn, The Eagle and the Sword, The Wolf and the Crown, and The Serpent and the Grail are the four books in the series that weave a beautiful and highly imaginative story of the Arthurian legend. The cascading of language and images is amazing, as is the breadth of knowledge written into this book. It has sent me to the dictionary many times.
"At the base of the overhanding cliff, they hop from a precarious ledge to cinderous gravel and find themselves finally before the bla
Lasairfiona Smith
I am certain I bought this at a used book store at least three or four years ago. Turns out a friend just finished reading it and he mentioned I had it and was confused that I hadn't read it. Turns out it was on top of my still packed boxes of books so lets give it a shot.

For the second time I can't quite get through it. The writing just seems to drag for me even though the concepts are interesting (calling on a god in a rather inovative fashion and the gods themselves being... well, you'll find
Salam Tims
Aug 20, 2012 Salam Tims rated it it was amazing
Perhaps the greatest ever Arthurian novel, this first book in a series recounts the fall to earth of the demon Lailoken, who becomes the wizard Merlin and sets out on a quest to find the man who will father Arthur and set in motion the events of legend. This novel transcends genre with elements of cosmology and fantasy as well as gripping historical fiction. I've read it many times and will return to it again.
Oct 26, 2010 Jeff rated it it was amazing
The best telling of the beginning of the Arthurian legend. A most unusual world view that brings fresh insights on why & how of the epic.
Mar 28, 2007 Tara rated it liked it
Favorite Quotes

No story sits by itself, Sometimes stories meet at corners and sometimes they cover one another completely, like stones beneath a river.

People often belittle the place where they were born.

Heaven can be found in the most unlikely corners.

Scenery without solace is meaningless.

This is the greatest gift God can give you: to understand what happened in your life. To have it explained. It is the peace you have been searching for.

...the human spirit knows, deep down that all lives inter
Oct 28, 2013 Arthurianmaiden rated it really liked it
I have to say that at the beginnings I was extremely confused. I couldn't exactly understand who was whom and what the characters were doing and how it all worked, but after a while I was able to blend into the setting of the novel and into the story and I was utterly amazed by the complexity of it.
I especially liked the use of gods, Christian mythology and Asgardian mythology, how everything was explained (the sword, Igraine's role etc.) by these interactions between gods and magical creatures.
Jan 12, 2010 Thalia rated it it was ok
Shelves: arthurian was okay. I liked some of the originality in the story. A little mix up of cultures and folklore. The characters were portrayed in a different light than I'm used to seeing. These were all good. The bad was the excrutiatingly painful prelude that was a chore to read (and understand) and the constant diversions from the action that really was the story. By the end of it I was cursing both the bloody dragon AND the unicorn. I guess cosmic fantasy isn't my bag afterall.
Mar 27, 2008 Katie rated it it was amazing
It was a good telling of what King Arthur's parents might have been like. I really liked the version of Merlin that Attanasio gave. It took me a while to read since it tended to be kind of wordy in places. A wonderful read with alittle of everything for everyone: treason, magic, love, battle, and religion.
May 14, 2009 Ria rated it did not like it
Shelves: entertainment
The book sounded very good, but I couldn't get into it. It's simply way too scifi for me. I do hope that if you like Scifi you give it a read. The prose was well written and intriguing, but I'm not someone who enjoys reading about electron clouds and circutry in my spare time. Sorry!
Apr 26, 2007 Patrick rated it it was ok
Arthur legend!
Abigail Wildes
Nov 13, 2016 Abigail Wildes rated it it was amazing
This is by far my very favorite Arthurian legend and probably my favorite book, if I ever had to do such a difficult thing as pick a favorite book.
Simon Mcleish
Feb 28, 2012 Simon Mcleish rated it liked it
Originally published on my blog here in April 1998.

This is an Arthurian tale, the first of a series, telling the story of Merlin up until the birth of Arthur. It is apparent from the first page of the very long prologue that it is not a simple story, as it becomes when told by Mary Stewart, for example. Her approach was to minimise the supernatural as much as possible; Attanasio seeks to maximise it, while having some sort of pseudo-scientific justification for it. (For example, "demons" are ali
Apr 28, 2012 Jon rated it really liked it
This book is effectively high fantasy placed, for better or not, within the bounds of real history. I got a big kick out of it. The author did his best to include all of the major preceding legends that eventually formed Le Morte D'Arthur, which is better than most do when tackling an easy target like the Arthurian legend. He even went so far as to incorporate the gods, magic and 5th century england into a combined system congruent with the Big Bang theory.

For that alone, I would have read this
Ruby Madden
Jan 07, 2015 Ruby Madden rated it it was amazing
This title starts with mind-bendingly beautiful prose. A dragon sleeps, with sing-songs resonating throughout the known cosmos. He is part of a planet. Our planet. Our home. The initial pages read like lyrical poetry, entrancing the reader into a crucial part of the Arthurian story that rarely gets told. The one that centralizes and surrounds his parents, Queen Ygrane of the Celts and Uther Pendragon.

Ironically, the King Arthur stories never held much fascination for me in terms of fantasy fict
Kenneth McIntosh
Jan 05, 2015 Kenneth McIntosh rated it it was amazing
There are piles of contemporary retellings of Arthurian myth; this is my favorite. As other reviewers have noted, this is a complex and epic work of fantasy--I appreciate reading that engages the mind as well as the emotions, and this is it. Al Attanasio sticks with the mythic script, insofar as the necessary characters are all here (Ygrane, Uther, Merlinus/Lailoken) needed to set the stage for Arthur (Arthor). Around the requisite ancient plot, the author has woven an entire complex cosmology-- ...more
Oct 15, 2011 Blue rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy
The writing was impressively rich. I was shocked that someone can write in the present tense, mostly, and still sound good (if you have ever written and have tried the idea of writing in the present tense, you'll know what I mean. It's not an easy feat.) The vocabulary is very rich. The stories of different beings (demons, gods, the dragon, the unicorn, the humans...) are all woven together slowly and carefully. I was worried I would feel overwhelmed with so many characters, but somehow the auth ...more
Nov 27, 2011 Angie rated it really liked it
I would give it 3.5 stars but I rounded up. I read this book a long time ago and I was barely a teenager doing it. I remember liking it but it was a bit long at times. The story was interesting as it is the only Arthur book I have read besides the ones you read in school like Gawain and the Green Knight - poor Gawain, gets no modern loving! Lancelot usurped his role. The characters of Arthurian legend were presented much differently than I was used to in a good way. I guess several Arthur tales ...more
Oct 25, 2014 Mitch rated it liked it
Shelves: fantasy
This artful retelling covers the early years of the Arthurian legend, with elements of science fiction, history and myth added. It isn't the story of Arthur; it's the story of Merlin, Ygrane and Uther.

I did not enjoy the graphic language describing the violence and gore which accompanied such poetic renderings as "From the skein of afternoon shadows, the cedars knit the scarves of mist that they will wear at dusk."

His use of language fluctuates between such poetry...and mud.

There is more to thi
Apr 24, 2016 Sarah rated it really liked it
I loved it. Attanasio has such a way with words (25% of which I had to look up the definition for). Some parts of it were hard to follow - the bits about the gods and the warring clans and how all matter is really just streams of energy and electricity and light (more sci-fi there than fantasy) - but I feel that I could probably follow better the second time around (and it's certainly worth a second read). I'm new to Arthurian legend, so I don't know how accurate it is to the original story and ...more
Jun 06, 2015 Kivrin rated it liked it
A different take on the Arthur legend. This one has something from Norse mythology, Celtic legend, Christianity, and I think there was some other stuff thrown in there at the end. Crazy! But it worked to a certain extent. The focus of the story is on Merlin (a demon in a man's body), Uther Pendragon (a Christian with a physical/psychic connection to his dead grandfather), and Ygrane (Queen of the Celts). I loved the language (although it got a little long-winded at times), the discussions of the ...more
Jul 30, 2012 Candy rated it really liked it
Shelves: owned
I found myself quite enjoying this book. I was a bit tentative after reading the prologue - which basically covers the history of the universe starting from before the big bang up to the roman empire, incorporating dragons, unicorns, angels, the nordic pantheon, christianity and the magnetosphere. Busy! But once it got past the crash course in the history of the universe I thought it settled down into a great story. It was very unique and I enjoyed the language, which was dense but beautiful.
Jan 02, 2008 Matthew rated it liked it
A highly complex and thoroughly thoughtful story of King Arthur's parents. More than that, this book contains a whole cosmology that is both original and somehow familiar. Everything is perfectly researched and authentic, and Attanasio cannot contain his own creativity. However, there is far too much description for my taste, many long scenes have little to do with the overall narrative (though I'll assume everything is important if one continues to read on in the series), and I really may not b ...more
Sep 07, 2013 Jana rated it it was amazing
Shelves: tales-retold
The Dragon and the Unicorn by A. A. Attanasio is an amazingly intricate, intense, thought-provoking telling of the beginning of Arthur. It is both ancient and modern, both the mist of legends and crackling electricity of science fiction. It is not a tale to read lightly. I wish I could give it more stars. I will definitely read the rest of this series, but not until after I've read this book again, which, at my age, is something I RARELY do. There's just too much here to absorb in one read. I go ...more
This was certainly an epic. It's a different spin on the legend of Arthur, or more specifically, the legend before Arthur. I say it's certainly an epic because it spans a lifetime. The "Prelude" took awhile to get through because it is pretty much all description with little to no dialogue. That's not to say that it wasn't beautiful, but it was just a bit too lengthy for me. That said, when it got to action and dialogue, I was easily pulled in and many times found myself completely ignorant of e ...more
Pamela Scharaga
Sep 30, 2014 Pamela Scharaga rated it liked it
I read the trilogy (Based on the Arthurian Legend ) so it obviously kept my interest but it wasn't satisfying . The beginning the writing seems very pretentious. I had to keep a log of words to look up . Many were archaic. The word problem didn't exist throuh the trilogy. The book asks you to suspend belief and thats O.K. in a fantasy but it seems as if the author decided to add in some trendy creatures .That's when I said what the _________?
Really ? Totally unnecessary. The end of the trilogy
Jan 19, 2013 Tristan rated it did not like it
Shelves: dnf
So, here's the deal: I can make a very long story about what I didn't like about the book and why I didn't like it, but it's not worth my time.
I can tell you what I did like though!
the cover art.

the story made no sense to me whatsoever, maybe I was too young when I read it, who knows. I might pick it up again sometime when I'm old and wise.., or just old.

I could not get into it. Bloody shame because I do like stories that are a little deep, but to me the story was written in a very annoying way
Jul 13, 2012 Kathy rated it really liked it
I really enjoyed this read. It's written in an older epic-style, very descriptive and imaginative. Set during the pre-Arthurian period when Uther becomes King, and Ygraine, Queen of the Celts, becomes his Queen to bring the Roman Christians and the Celts together as one people. It's a mix of La Morte d'Artur, Celtic mythology and an interesting twist on gods, religions, and modern cosmology. The first in a series, I will be getting the rest of the series.
Mar 13, 2015 Angie rated it it was amazing
Shelves: loved
This is by far one of my favorite book. The whole series is good but the first book is the best. Uther pendragon and his queen set about on their world changing romance. Villains are created, Merlin overseas all for better or for worse. The amount of lore that makes it into this book is astounding. Everything from the beginning of time to modern day gets a place in the story. If you love king arthur pieces this is a must read.
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I’m a novelist and student of the imagination living in Honolulu. Fantasies, visions, hallucinations or whatever we call those irrational powers that illuminate our inner life fascinate me. I’m particularly intrigued by the creative intelligence that scripts our dreams. And I love carrying this soulful energy outside my mind, into the one form that most precisely defines who we are: story.
More about A.A. Attanasio...

Other Books in the Series

Arthor (4 books)
  • The Eagle and the Sword (Arthor, #2)
  • The Wolf and the Crown (Arthor, #3)
  • The Serpent and the Grail (Arthor, #4)

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