The Last Unicorn by Peter S. Beagle


“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. But her eyes were still clear and unwearied, and she still moved like a shadow on the sea.”

So begins Peter Beagle’s, The Last Unicorn. What a fantastic book! This one has been on my to be read list for a long while and thanks to the Once Upon a Time challenge, I finally got around to it.

The Last Unicorn is everything that a fantasy should be. It has unicorns to begin with, magicians, gypsies, old kingdoms, kings, princes, magic, an old castle on top of a hill, and a giant red bull.

It is the story of a unicorn who is on a quest to find others like herself. Along the way, she meets a magician and a gypsy sort of woman. They are on a quest to find The Red Bull who must be defeated in order for her to find the other unicorns. Plenty of magic, fighting, wizardry, love and loss occur along the way, all in breathtaking fashion.

The unicorn is a wonderful, powerful character. Unicorns are one of the first things that pop into my mind when I think of fantasy. Even white horses look magical in real life because of the idea of a unicorn. Peter Beagle’s unicorn is the definition of what a unicorn should be. She’s mysterious, powerful, beautiful, glowing, and magical. She reminded me a lot of Yvaine from Stardust even though Yvaine wasn’t a unicorn. Read the book and you’ll understand why. I thought of Stardust a lot while reading this book. It has the same magical theme, and is a classic fantastic fairy tale like Stardust is. In fact, I’m hoping that there’s one scene involving a unicorn in Stardust that does not make it to the film because it was very upsetting just reading it.

The red bull was a wonderful character in The Last Unicorn. He is described as an enormous red bull who’s size is more than one can imagine with horns like lightning and a sort of electricity coming off of him. He is also blind. He herds unicorns into the sea. Wonderful fantasy character and even though he’s somewhat of a villain I still loved him.

The illustrations are done by Mel Grant and I loved them. They were exactly what they should be and I can’t describe them much better than that. Black and white illustrations with a very “sketched” look that fit perfectly with the story.

This was my first book of Peter Beagle’s. The man is an extraordinary writer. His descriptions are so detailed and beautiful and so different from any other authors I’ve read. He has a wonderful way with words and creates a beautiful story here. The next issue of Orson Scott Card’s online magazine Intergalactic Medicine Show is supposed to have an interview with him and a new short story by him. Can’t wait for that.

There’s also an animated version of The Last Unicorn out there that I’d like to check out. It’s always good to see a book translated into a movie and I believe that Peter Beagle wrote the screenplay for the movie.

Book one of the fantasy challenge down, and what a wonderful book it was!

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16 Responses

  1. Glad you liked THE LAST UNICORN. I will share your review with Peter immediately.

    If you don’t mind, I also hope you could spread the word about a serious problem. In the last eight years, the English company that owns the film version of THE LAST UNICORN has sold more than a million DVDs and videotapes of it around the world, and owe Peter hundreds of thousands of dollars according to his contract, yet they have so far refused to pay him anything. To deal with this and other nasty situations we are trying to use the power of the web to help connect Peter directly with his fans, raise awareness of the issues, and get him what he is legally and ethically due.

    Here are some URLs offering more information about the situation:

    General help page: http://www.conlanpress.com/youcanhelp/index.html

    Peter’s fans post messages of support: http://www.conlanpress.com/html/fans_speak.html

    And here is a link to a press release about our latest effort to help Peter — ironically enough, through sales of the very DVD that he is being cheated out of his proper earnings on!

    http://www.peterbeagle.com/film/lastunicorn/TheLastUnicorn_DVDPressRelease.pdf

    …you see, if people buy a DVD from the Conlan Press site we set up, either personally autographed or not, then Peter makes more than half the purchase price. If someone buys a copy anywhere else, Peter gets nothing.

    — Connor Cochran
    Business Manager for Peter S. Beagle

  2. I’d be more than happy to help out! I’ll post all of this on a blog this afternoon. Thanks for stopping by and wish Peter all the best for me!

  3. So pleased you enjoyed it, Chris. The Last Unicorn is one of my favourites. So very charming. Loved your review! Hooray on finishing your first book of the challenge!

    Once I’m done with moving/renovating and all the expense that entails, I’ll be picking up a copy of the DVD from Conlan Press. It really is depressing to know that the author of such a classic fantasy tale is having such a hard time.

  4. Can’t wait to read this one. It isn’t on my fantasy list per se but is on my unwritten list of alternates and one I’m really wanting to get to soon. I feel bad that I haven’t read it already.

  5. It was a wonderful book, Elaine! Thanks for the kind words. I plan on buying the DVD from Conlan as well.

    You’ve got to read this one Carl!!! You’ll love it. It’s right up your alley.

  6. I love your enthusiasm, Chris! You make books I wouldn’t normally even look at sound interesting. 🙂

  7. Thanks bookfool! Now that’s one for my warm and fuzzy drawer 🙂 Books seem to just bring out happiness in me, what can I say?

  8. Another book to add to my list. Thanks for bringing it to my attention!

  9. The Last Unicorn was one of the first fanasty books I read as a child. I had forgotten how much I loved it. Your review brought it rushing back to me. I’ll have to reread it when I’m done with the rest of the books on my challenge list.

  10. Kailana, I’d definitely add this one to your list. It’s such a classic fantasy. I loved it.

    Carrie, I wish I would’ve read this one as a child! I can see that it will be one I come back to quite a few times.

  11. Thank you for sharing your marvelous review! Definitely going to be buying this one for my daughter…and then borrowing it from her bookshelf!

  12. Hi Chris, I loved the animated movie when I was a child. It was one of those beautiful memories that carried over into my adulthood.

    I just read “The Last Unicorn” novel a few weeks ago, and the sweet memory of revisiting it was wonderful. I’m glad someone else loves it too.

    Happy reading.

  13. Debi, This would be a great book for your daughter I’m sure! And you’ll enjoy it as well no doubt 😉 Thanks for the kind words!

    Dark Orpheus, Cool name! I’m very much looking forward to the animated version of this. I’ll be picking it up as soon as I get a little extra cash!

  14. It sounds really good, Chris! I’m definitely going to have to read it now, especially since you mentioned that you thought of Stardust as you read it. I enjoyed Stardust so much, I’m sure I’d like this one, too.

  15. I’m sure you’d like it Robin. Very similar classic fairytale theme to it. Lovely book!

  16. I’m glad you liked this book. I loved the film when I was a child and me and my sister used to rent it every week for ages. I now have a copy of the DVD which I highly recommend (I bought it before I heard about Peter’s problems sorry) and have read the book.

    If you like the animated version check out the animated LOTR which Peter also helped out on

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