Friday, November 19, 2010

100 Days of Fantasy: Day 96

This is an ongoing series looking at books that have influenced me as a fantasy author.

The Last Unicorn
by Peter S. Beagle

The Last UnicornSometimes we all feel alone. And that is where the novel The Last Unicorn begins, with the protagonist alone.

The tale is about a unicorn who believes she is the last of her kind in the world. Feeling lonely and wondering what has happened to all her kin, she sets out on a journey to discover what has happened to all the other unicorns. Along the way she has myriad adventurers, makes new friends and a few enemies, and discovers much about her world and herself. Eventually, yes, she finds out what happened to the other unicorns, and it is not something nice.

Is this a tale of woe? No, not really. There definitely are some sad elements to this tale, but there is also some glory to be found in the end. Still, this is a tale of regrets, once it's all said and done.

The writing here is superb, without being overly difficult nor overly literary, though still not quite simple.

The characters are beautifully drawn by the author's words, giving the reader not only excellent visual ideas of these creations, but also an emotional enforcement that settles the characters in one's mind for a long time after reading the story.

I first came to this tale in 1982 when Rankin/Bass released an animated film of The Last Unicorn. I was enthralled by the tale, and being a young fantasy writer wannabe, I set out to find and read the book.

I'm more than glad I did, because it is one of the best single, stand-alone fantasy novels I've ever read. I've picked up a couple of Beagle's other books over the years, and while I found nothing truly wrong with them, I also did not find them extraordinary. Too bad, because I love The Last Unicorn. Maybe I should check out some of the author's other writings.

Up next: The Two Towers

1 comment:

qxface said...

I remember watching The Last Unicorn when I was a kid and my three year old loves now.

It's a rare example of a movie that is just about as good as the book. Better in a few places even. Beagle wrote the screenplay himself, so that probably explains why.

The movie feels like a "post-novel" edit. Parts of the book were left out be necessity, but there are a few great lines in the movie that I bet Beagle was kicking himself for thinking up only after the book was already finished.

The Last Unicorn does a wonderful and sneaky job of turning established archetypes on their heads. By the end, you feel a little embarrassed for having underestimated the characters for so long.