junia's Reviews > The Last Unicorn

The Last Unicorn by Peter S. Beagle
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's review
Dec 15, 2009

liked it
bookshelves: ya
Recommended for: 3rd-7th graders and the young at heart
Read in December, 2009 , read count: 1

** spoiler alert ** Heehee.
So the result of teaching at a middle school and having access to a crazily (un)organized library is you get attracted to random fun reads (you know, like flipping to the Disney channel).

This book had a good story, was humorous and written in that enchanting fantasy language... you know so yummy and reminiscent of the OG fantasy books.

Unfortunately, it is modern, and some of the imagery doesn't make sense and the metaphors, similes, personification is a little over the top.

Opening line:
"The unicorn lived in a lilac wood, and she lived all alone. She was very old, though she did not know it, and she was no longer the careless color of sea foam, but rather the color of snow falling on a moonlit night."

It's pretty and full of wow-factor at first.. but then what's the color of snow (white) falling on a moonlight night? ... white? gray?


yeah.. and that's a lot of the writing.

I think it's definitely a good building block for young kids to read, and i LOVED how Peter S. Beagle straight up stated purpose for fairy tales, for heroes, for princes etc.. and how he fiddled with accepted conventions and.. yeah it would be a fun movie (in cartoon form).

Definitely book candy.

Also, there's certain images etc and I wonder if Beagle was the founder of such images or if he saw those images and wrote a book about them.


The story is pretty straightforward, with twists and there's one part that I loved in the end....

"The Lady Amalthea lay where she had fallen, though now she was trying to rise, and Prince Lir still guarded her, raising his naked hands against the enormous shape that loomed over him. The tip of the prince's tongue stuck out of one corner of his mouth, making him look as serious as a child taking something apart. Long years later, when Schmendrick's name had become a greater name than Niko's and worse than afreets surrendered at the sound of it, he was never able to work the smallest magic without seeing Prince Lir before him, his eyes squinted up because of the brightness and his tongue sticking out." (258-259)

This is a GREAT example of why Beagle's writing is good (and bad). The bad: Amalthea, Prince Lir, and Schmendrick. Yes. real good ole fantastical names.

good: beautiful imagery

beautiful: how during this moment of tension and climax, the narrator assures us that the ending will be all right because we know that Schmendrick will survive and become a great wizard... and so EVEN though right now everything seems hopeless, the reader can read on safely. *whew*.

IT's just cool.. how things tie up - I loved the narrative technique.(although there's holes in the middle and certain ellipses and pauses that are confusssing)

Now some passages i liked

"No," he repeated, and this time the word tolled in another voice, a king's voice: not Haggard, but a king whose grief was not for what he did not have, but for what he could not give.
"My lady," he said, "I am a hero. It is a trade, no more, like weaving or brewing, and like them it has its own tricks and knacks and small arts. There are ways of perceiving witches, and of knowing poison streams; there are certain weak spots that all dragons have, and certain riddles that hooded strangers tend to set you. But the true secret of being a hero lies in knowing the order of things. The swineherd cannot already be wed to the princess when he embarks on his adventures, nor can the boy knock at the witch's door when she is away on vacation. The wicked uncle cannot be found out and foiled before he does something wicked. Things must happen when it is time for them to happen. Quests may not simply be abandoned; prophecies may not be left to rot like unpicked fruit; unicorns may go unrescued for a long time, but not forever. The happy ending cannot come in the middle of the story.
The Lady Almathea did not answer him. Schmendrick asked, "Why not? Who says so?"
"Heroes," Prince Lir replied sadly. "Heroes know about order, about happy endings-- heroes know that some things are better than others. Carpenters know grains and shingles, and straight lines." (251-252)

"Then what is magic for?" Prince Lir demanded wildly. "What use is wizardry if it cannot save a unicorn?" ... Schmendrick did not turn his head. With a touch of sad mockery in his voice, he said, "That's what heroes are for." (263).

Lastly I loved the little poems and songs .. :-)

*Sigh* I loved that.
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