I LOVED Rampant, so very, very much. It had kick ass girls, awesome killer unicorns, and didn't stray away from hard subjects. The main characters would talk both about the right time to have sex and the morality of killing an endangered species. Even if said species was eating a couple of humans.
So, needless to say, I was very excited for this book. And, while I was in no way disappointed with it, the book as a whole was a little melancholy. I guess the first book was too, but as it ended with a big triumph for the girls, it didn't feel that sad at the end. The best that can be said for the ending of Ascendant is that it ended with hope.
Also, not a cliffhanger. There are too many cliffhangers out there, and as I've mentioned before, I'm not that big a fan.
Ascendant deals more with the reality of the day-to-day lives for our band of merry, unicorn slaying, nuns. Constantly having their lives in danger, being unable to live their lives without scrutiny, not knowing all that much about what they are or where their powers come from. All while trying to figure out normal adolescent things like their sexual identity and what their true passions are.
Astrid starts the story off in much the same place that we left her. In a tree, waiting to kill unicorns. It isn't long before the guilt of killing the unicorns is upsetting enough for Astrid to leave the cloisters in Italy. Thus she ends up in the French country side working for the company that betrayed her, taking care of a pack of captive unicorns, and trying to find out more about the Remedy people are supposedly able to make from Unicorns.
First of all, I'm just going to say that what the secret ingredient in the Remedy turned out to be was awesome and fit perfectly with the theme....I can't say anymore about it.
One of my favourite things about Rampant was the times the girls would all sit around and discuss why they had decided to not have sex yet. I thought the frank discussions about sex and adolescence, and the whole set up of the current society's courting (or whatever) system was the glue that held the whole, virgins-hunting-killer-unicorns, plot together. It was always honest and showcased possibly the only place where all the girls were on the same foot. They were all virgins. For one reason or another.
I was afraid, since we'd already had these great discussions, that we wouldn't have any of this in Ascendant. But we do. In so many more and different ways that it kept the "glue" part without sounding at all repetitive. It was wonderfully done.
In this book we get a look at more traditionally western Unicorns. And though they are still man-eating beasts Astrid struggles with seeing them as pets, or even friends and yet being at the ready to slaughter them whenever it is warranted.
The one thing I didn't like was the lack of good male characters. The two males who seem respectable are barely in this book, and the one male we do get a lot of is sleezy and...well...I just don't like the guy. And the other males we get brief glimpses of aren't much better. As I mentioned in my review of Wildthorn, I always enjoy books that have an awesome cast of female characters, but I like strong male characters as well.
Ascendant was an action-packed, emotionally-draining tale of morality and family and discovering the truth of one's self....and man-eating unicorns. I loved it. But I'm also eager for the next one, with the hope that it delivers a happy ending...if everything ends badly, then by all means, Diana, take your time. I like the characters too much to see more bad things happen to them.
Team Unicorn All the Way!