Caught between her family's expectations and her own conscience, reluctant unicorn hunter Caoilinn "Cal" Valderan questions the morals of slaying these mystical creatures, and finds herself in a position where she must choose between them and humanity... In this coming of age story, Cal must not only defend her principles and values, but also figure out her crush on the girl next door, as she finds herself caught in a battle between light and darkness, but she must find answers to what others dare not even to question...
While starting a degree in German language and literature, A.R. Hellbender began writing her first book (in English). She currently lives in Washington with her husband, three dogs, two cats and a leopard gecko.
This is a story about a girl who has to become a Unicorn Hunter to help support her family, even though she doesn't understand why unicorn hunting is a thing that needs to be done. In this story we get to follow her as she discovers those reasons, and finds herself in a situation where she has to ask questions and make decisions that she never imagined she would have to. I thought this book was really great! I enjoyed the fact that it was so female driven, basically every important character is a woman, and it has amazing female friendship and even female romance, and I just think that is so good and so needed, especially in fantasy. The characters were interesting and I loved watching them change and develop along with their circumstances. Delphina was my favorite! And I also really appreciated the pacing of the story because it didn't move too slow or too fast, the important events/action were pretty evenly spaced, and the subplots in between were still interesting and fun to read about. Overall I thought this was a really cool fantasy story and I would definitely recommend it! *video review to come
I have a long-standing love affair with unicorns that I imagine I share with others. They're magical. The unicorns in this story are even more incredible to me, although there is a mystery and sadness about these creatures that is quirky. Point of fact however, it is the corps of unicorn hunters that are introduced first. They are by necessity and tradition all young women and virgins. A few nonvirgins sneak into the current year's freshman collection but they come with an unusual backstory and there is an importance as to why these women have been integrated. Startlingly enigmatic!
Cal, Caoileen Valeran, is one astounding gal. She has been secretly in love with a friend and neighbor who is also enrolled in the freshman class of the unicorn hunting training program. Additionally, Cal has more diverse experiences and encounters than anyone else and that finds her eyes and heart opening up. There are a host of peculiar levels at work, particularly including Cal, that simply blow me away. So as Cal walks a delicate tightrope to protect and maintain her exceptional involvements, I am privy to the kaleidoscopic enrichment of this alien world and environment. Startlingly unbalancing!
Delphina Vane is one crackerjack counterpoint, a unicorn hunting trainee, and eventually a solid friend to Cal. It is through Delphina's eyes that I got a small inkling into what life is like in another province different from where this story takes place. I really related, liked Delphina, and was truly pleased as her rough edges naturally soften. Although she is an outsider who is not closely attached to anyone, she provides some very important balance and a distinctly alternative viewpoint. Classically intriguing!
This entire story occurs on some sort of planet that is not Earth and has diverse sections divided along the concepts of Fire/Water/Air/Earth with the bulk of the story taking place in the Fire section. Even with some loose ends, the story still works. The book on its own is extraordinarily enthralling!
When the author first offered me this book for review, I heard "unicorns" and "sapphic romance" and I was in. However, some fairly large problems became apparent right out of the gate.
The descriptions in the book are fairly lackluster in some places and non-existent in others. There's a town square that you can assume is close to a forest (because the MC seems to always be running into a forest) but there's never a real description of the place. There's also a palace, never given a description. Few characters are described more than their hair color. One character ends up in a brand new place unexpectedly and doesn't take in her surroundings beyond "She was in an unfamiliar hall."
The worldbuilding itself is also fairly light. The nation worships the four elements as religions and has them split up, but it's never really explained or shown what that looks like for each of the differing regions. In one case, there's a literal hate crime when members from a different region's house is burned down, but the narrative never showed even slight animosity between people groups. Said hate crime was also never investigated. I understand that some things just need to happen to move the plot from point A to point B, but something as racially/ethnically/emotionally/politically charged as the concept of a hate crime should never be used to do it.
As for the characters, it almost feels like they know they're in a story. There's very little in the way of reluctance, disbelief, hesitation, or refusal when world-changing realizations are brought forward or giant changes are proposed. When presented with something that turns their entire worldview on it's head or functionally changes their identity, they're remarkably onboard right off the bat. What moments of reluctance there are last only for a couple sentences and are moved past relatively quickly. It's as if the characters know they're supposed to do X because it will move things forward.
When it comes to the sapphic romance, I was all for it. And the woman in love with her straight best friend is one of my favorite queer tropes. It was fairly easy to tell who the MC was going to end up with, but that's not an inherently bad thing. However, the naivete of the society was a bit shocking in it's ignorance. More than the usual "queer love bad" rhetoric, people were actually shocked that feelings of sapphic love could exist at all. Like whole swaths of society were THAT sheltered. And in a society where hundreds of young girls share dormitories together on a regular basis, it really stretched verisimilitude.
All that being said, the plot as a concept (hate crime excluded) is solid. The twists and turns, if given time to breathe, would make for delightfully tense moments and shocking revelations. The family drama, the romance, the battle scenes, the outline is there. But as it is right now, it feels like everyone is too busy racing to the end to really enjoy the ride.
Unicorn Hunting isn't a bad read, but admittedly, I personally just didn't find it as enjoyable as I would have liked. Don't get me wrong, I thought it was an interesting premise--I just feel there are certain things it's lacking. Character development and world-building are two things in particular that come to mind. I found Cal to be extremely petulant regarding the treatment of her family and friends, and for the most part, I felt distanced from her--but not just her. Characterization in general fell flat for me. Most of the characters didn't have distinct voices, the dialogue was often rigid/awkward, and aside from knowing about the unicorns, the purpose behind hunting them, and the elemental aspects of this world's peoples, not a whole lot else is known. Even as the first in a series, I feel there ought to have been at least a little more detail to go on.
I also felt like I was supposed to sympathize with Cal, supposed to see her as tragically misunderstood and like maybe everyone else in her life (that she acted petulantly towards, anyway) were somehow jerks...but I didn't. To me, she just felt entitled. I could accept it being a character flaw, but given that the narrative never gave any indication that Cal was in any way at fault for things and always made it out to be that everyone else had done her a great wrong, I found myself disliking her.
Overall, I think the fact that I couldn't connect with the character is probably what impacted my enjoyment of the story. Like I said, it's not a bad read, it did have some pretty cool aspects (especially where powers were concerned), but unfortunately, it just wasn't for me. Still, because it was fairly well-written and had a good premise, I give it 3 stars.
I have never read a book about unicorns before, so I was very intrigued to read this one! In this world, unicorns are real. The are mistical creatures that live in the woods and can only be seen by virgins. Unknown to most, their blood has magical healing properties, but there is a darker side to its properties as well. With the right dosage, a person can become exremely addicted to unicorn blood. All of this is unknown to Cal when she starts her training as a unicorn hunter. She doesn’t want to hunt unicorns, but she knows she needs to make money for her family. But it turns out that when Cal signed up to be a hunter, she was thrust into a world of secrets, intrigue, and danger.
This book was super interesting. Like I said I have never read a book about unicorns before, and I definitely think I want to read more in the future. This book was so much more than a simple story about girls hunting unicorns.
I absolutely loved Cal right from the start. She is firey and fiesty and never afraid to speak her mind. She is also in love with her childhood best friend Adryan. I really loved the casual f/f representation and romance. It was really well woven into the story even though the romance was not the central plot.
Overall, I really liked this book! There were some times where I found myself getting bored, but almost immediately after it started to pick up again. If you are looking for a super cool story about unicorns featuring strong women and a f/f romance, this is absolutely the book for you!
I would love to write a HUGE review for this book, but why it is so GREAT is very simple.
1. Female driven. It’s a book full of female characters and a main protagonist that is the strongest female of them all. It’s women with seemingly trivial issues, but then it goes far beyond them all with the giant plot and subplots.
2. Sexuality. There’s a female/female relationship explored, and it never gets too typical. I’ve read so many LGBTQ themed books and some really tend to stereotype how being gay is often perceived. This book delved into sexuality very well.
3. Very creative world. I loved the fantastical world that was created. It was so pure. It was so unique. I’ve yet to read anything like it, which is a breathe of fresh air.
4. It was FUN. The ideas were very complex and could have went somewhere really not good. It didn’t though. Even though the world was so unbelievable, it somehow felt believable. I think that was the way the characters became so relatable and endearing.
SO, my opinion is you should pick this book up ASAP. It’s fun, exciting, new, fantastical, and refreshing.
The premise of this novel is incredibly fascinating to me and what immediately drew me to this book. It’s about a world where unicorn hunting is part of their culture and main source of income, and a girl who signs up to be a hunter but is struggling with the idea and why all of this is happening.
It has the potential to be a fast read and it definitely has some great ideas woven in it. I gave it 3,5 stars because it is a fine book to read and I enjoyed myself but there were points where I was missing some world building and general character development. I’ve said multiple times before that I will basically forgive a book anything if the character development is on point, and I wasn’t always convinced and completely there with our characters.
I love how more books in our present day have casual f/f representation. It’s so important to me that we have more books where it’s not a big deal, and where not the entire book is a big LGBTQ+ plotpoint. I live for casual representation, and this book does it well. The romance is not the main focus, and it doesn’t need to be.
I loved being whisked into the imaginative mind of hellbender as she truly tells a unique story. Her main character is easy to get behind as we learn about her world and the challenges she must face. The monsters she has in the book are particularity my favorite part for being terrifying and disgusting while in contrast to the beauty she describes the unicorns in. I highly recommend reading this book if you love unicorns and fantasy.