The Last Unicorn by Peter S. Beagle

The Last UnicornInformation

Goodreads: The Last Unicorn
Series: The Last Unicorn #1
Source: Purchased
Published: 1968


A unicorn discovers that she is the last of her kind and so sets forth on a quest to find the others.  Along the way she is joined by Schmendrick, an inept magician, and Molly Grue, a woman who still believes in beauty despite her hard life.  Their journey leads them to the cursed castle of King Haggard, where dwells the fearsome Red Bull who once drove all the other unicorns away.  But more than monsters lurk in Haggard’s halls.  Once the unicorn enters, she, unchanging and immortal, will never be the same again.


The Last Unicorn is one of those rare, beautiful books equally full of wonder and sadness.  From the first sentence, where the unicorn lives all alone in a lilac wood, you know this book is going to break your heart.  The beauty of the language and the story, however, are enough to make you want to read on anyway, no matter the emotional cost.

I always find it more difficult to review a book I loved than one I disliked or merely liked.  Finding the words to describe the rare, exquisite beauty of some stories can seem forced or cheap, or simply overused.  After all, can simply repeating “beautiful” really convey the specialness of some stories?  I suspect that those who read those stories and agreed will understand, and perhaps that is the best one can hope for sometimes.

I could go on about the way The Last Unicorn uses and plays with fairy tale tropes, the way it somehow still seems to believe in goodness and beauty even when it seems somewhat despairing.  The characters alone no doubt could provide material for a lengthy analysis.  And yet, I think this time, I would rather not.  Some stories strike too deeply for me to want to talk about them or analyze them, at least at first.  They just want to be held for awhile, and cherished.

So, if you are a lover of fantasy and you have not yet read The Last Unicorn, I simply urge you to give it a try.  There’s a reason it’s considered a classic in its genre.  A reason, perhaps, that borders on the ineffable.

12 thoughts on “The Last Unicorn by Peter S. Beagle

  1. revgeorge says:

    I am also only familiar with the movie, which by itself was also both hopeful and heartbreaking.

    Perhaps the best way to destroy one’s love of a book or series is to analyze and dissect it too closely. There’s a place for literary criticism but so often it starts overwhelming the work instead of being a guide into the work.


    • Krysta says:

      I’m going to have to find this movie now, aren’t I?

      How very true. I know that sometimes in school I would notice that the criticism had taken on a life of its own and that I had lost sight of the actual story in trying to talk about it. It’s a difficult line to walk.


  2. Small Review says:

    YES! I completely agree with everything you’ve said. This is a book I cherish and it’s hard to find the right words to encompass why in any way that would do justice.

    You must find the movie! I first fell in love with the movie as a child and didn’t read the book until years later. Both hold up and are special in their own ways.


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