10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on 21 August 2005
"The unicorn lived in a lilac wood and she lived all alone."
Thus begins the story (told with great simplicity and magnificent poetry) of the quest of the last unicorn for her vanished kin and our quest for what is important in life as we follow the progress of the unicorn and her human companions - the failed magician Schmendrick, hurt and wronged Molly Grue, the dreaming King Lir and blighting King Haggard. After finishing the book, the world is sadder, but for that sadness a richer place.
Since my childhood this book has been my constant companion and special present to people who mean a lot to me. Although I read it first as a child, it is not only a children's book, but very much an adult book. There are so many layers to it, so much wit and wisdom in it that a child can never understand. It is also beautifully written, the language is poetry with startling, but apt images.
A book to be cherished for a whole lifetime.
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on 12 June 2000
I've been searching for this book since I was seven years old, after seeing the wonderful animated movie, and when I finally found it, it did not disappoint. This is a wonderful tale of magic, fantasy, love and the last unicorn on earth, searching for the rest of her kind who have been kidnapped by the Red Bull.
Throughout this story, the author reveals much about his characters: all, from the Unicorn to Mommy Fortuna to Schmendrick the Magician all have a vital role, no matter how big or small, in the adventure and discovery this novel takes us on.
If you love unicorns, or fantasy, or a tale that will make you smile, cry, and entrap you with it's magic, The Last Unicorn by Peter Beagle is the tale for you.
45 of 47 people found the following review helpful
on 11 September 2001
As a child I was enchanted by the animated film "The Last Unicorn." While reliving some of my childhood delights recently I was reminded of my adoration for the stirring cartoon that had lodged itself so firmly in my memory.
So at eighteen years of age I set about tracking down "The Last Unicorn" but, regrettably, was unable to find the video anywhere. However, while perusing Amazon I lit upon the novel that had spawned the animated film and was compelled to purchase it.
I can honestly say it was one of the best purchases of my life. Beagle's style was so crisp and descriptive, so utterly compelling that I found myself visualising every scene and unable to put the book down. I would recommend this book to anyone, it is an absolute masterpiece, essential reading for anyone who even casually browses the fantasy genre be they young or old.
"The Last Unicorn" has found its way into my heart and mind as my favourite book of all time. I felt each emotion laid before me in the text with complete empathy.
I can only say read this book. You haven't lived until you have experienced this tale of hope, pain, tribulation, and its bitter-sweet ending.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on 14 September 2008
Peter Beagle's THE LAST UNICORN is always a discovery for me, however often I encounter it. Only with reluctance would I name the book one of my favourites, for it employs throughout devices I routinely find annoying in modern fantasy writing. Chief among these is an awareness on the part of the characters that they ARE in a kind of faerie tale and, as such, have generally defined roles they are expected to play. I prefer to lose myself in a story rather than be reminded continually that it IS a story. The 1982 animated film adaptation, though following the plot and dialogue of the book with unusual faithfulness, had problems of its own. Too often it tended toward the melodramatic, and some of the line-delivery could only be described as 'shrill'.
Yet it was the animated version I discovered first and, whatever the imperfections, I have re-watched it many times over the years. Clearly, something in it touched me as few films ever do. And I must concede that Beagle's novel is even more affecting.
Set in a world of vaguely mediaeval elements laced with what has been called 'intentional anachronism' and populated with towns and kingdoms that never were, this is the story of a solitary unicorn who learns that all others of her kind have disappeared from the world. She therefore leaves the security of her enchanted forest in order to discover what became of them. Not unexpectedly, on this quest she encounters various individuals whose destinies will be realized by how they help or hinder her. Yet there is more melancholy than magic in this, for few are pleased with what they gain. A bitter old man is what he is precisely because he has spent his life in a relentless and uncompromising search FOR lasting happiness. A younger man becomes a hero to win the woman he loves, but instead he gains a kingdom for which he had no desire. And then there is Molly, who chased a dream in her youth, only to wind up in used and disillusioned drudgery. The most heart-breaking moment of the entire work may be when she first sees the unicorn and cries out, 'Where have you been? ... What good is it to me that you're here now? Where were you twenty years ago, ten years ago? ... How dare you come to me now, when I am this?'
There is humour in the tale as well, albeit most often wry, sardonic, or simply playful. And there is a happy ending overall, if somewhat ambivalent for the individuals themselves.
Ultimately, however, UNICORN evades the foreshadowed cynicism and achieves poignance. For me, what makes it work most is the unique 'poetry' of its prose. Beagle's metaphors and similes are particularly compelling, fashioned on unexpected images that really do work. 'One owl-less autumn evening, they ... saw the castle ... thin and twisted, bristling with thorny turrets, dark and jagged as a giant's grin.' A vast monster 'was the color of blood, not the springing blood of the heart but the blood that stirs under an old wound that never really healed.' A young girl's 'skin was the color of snow by moonlight.' Later she 'fell as irrevocably as a flower breaks ....' 'Things happened both swiftly and slowly as they do in dreams, where it is really the same thing.' The genius of such descriptions is that they often evoke a sense, rather than an image. We may not actually KNOW what colour is blood under an old wound, but we FEEL its darkness and grim persistence.
THE LAST UNICORN is a story of the bittersweet, of melancholy joy, of wonder mingled with resignation, of oppressive gloom and extraordinary beauty, of wit and of wisdom and of poetry. It does not LOOK like 'great literature', but it teaches throughout that appearances are deceiving -- and goes on to prove the point.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on 1 November 2012
I received this book as a present, expecting the standard edition with the white cover which can also be found on Amazon, so the Deluxe edition was a wonderful surprise! It is beautifully printed onto luxurious black paper and the hardback black cover has a shiny, textured finish with silver embossed writing and a gorgeous smooth matte finish on the cover illustration. I was admiring just the cover for the first 5 minutes! The book has a short introduction by Peter S. Beagle and goes straight into the chapter one cover. The artwork inside is of an incredibly high standard for the relatively small fandom that surrounds The Last Unicorn book and animated film. Every page is sketched, inked and digitally coloured by comic artist couple Renae De Liz (initial drawing) and Ray Dillon (inks and colour), turning each page of narrative into a piece of art as well. It is drawn with sensitivity and respect for the original material, so you're getting quality from each gorgeously rendered full colour page.
The adaptation by Peter B. Gillis stays loyal and true to the original story and expands on The Last Unicorn world for those who have just seen the animated feature.
After the graphic novel, it also includes artwork from fans of the story, who have submitted their fanart of the characters which is a nice touch. It also shows double page spreads of the original pencil sketches of the graphic novel artwork before and after they are inked to show the process for each page before it is coloured.
The end of the book finishes with "The Good Parts" by comic adapter Peter B. Gillis who writes about his process of converting the original novel to comic form and "Olfert Dapper's Day" by Peter S. Beagle which is several pages about Olfert Dapper who was referenced in the beginning of The Last Unicorn.
Although this particular edition being sold by Amazon is NOT the signed and numbered copy pictured or described above, it IS a particularly beautiful hardcover Deluxe edition of The Last Unicorn graphic novel. For £32 you are definitely getting your money's worth and I couldn't recommend it more for fans of the book and film!
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Peter Beagle's "The Last Unicorn" is one of the ultimate modern fairy tales: the magical, bittersweet story of a little unicorn's search for others of her kind. And the graphic novel adaptation does justice to Beagle's story -- the story is only enhanced by the exquisitely lovely art, full of soft colors and elusive magic.
A unicorn has lived happily in her idyllic little forest, until the day she hears a man say that "unicorns are long gone -- if indeed they ever were." To find if she is indeed the last unicorn, she sets out on a journey across the land, and soon discovers that the people have forgotten what a unicorn even looks like.
But she hears a butterfly speak of the Red Bull, and how he has captured all the unicorns of the world except her.
Along her journey, she is captured by a traveling circus, and rescued by a bumbling young wizard with illusion powers. Along with the wizard and a bandit's girlfriend, she makes her way to the malignant castle of King Haggard -- and is transformed into a mortal girl, who experiences love, uncertainty, and finally sorrow.
"The Last Unicorn" is honestly one of my favorite fantasy novels of all time, especially since Peter Beagle managed to write such a simple, haunting little fairy tale. There's romance, tragedy, fantastical creatures, and a mythical creature setting out on a seemingly hopeless quest.
And the graphic novel adaptation of "The Last Unicorn" is an absolutely exquisite in every way. It's obvious that the team behind it had great love for Beagle's novel, and they preserve the beauty of his prose ("Your eyes are full of green leaves, crowded with trees and streams and small animals") whenever possible.
And Renae de Liz's artwork translates Beagle's writing into ethereal, magical visuals; her work reminds me of Charles de Lint. She presents us with the soft, luminous forest the unicorn comes from, glowing light, twilit skies, tangled trees and quaint little villages. And she handles the ugly as well as the lovely -- she conveys the grey deadness of Haggard's castle and hellish fire of the Red Bull as easily as Amalthea's ethereal loveliness.
The graphic novel adaptation of "The Last Unicorn" is a haunting, shimmering experience that translates Peter Beagle's classic novel into exquisite art.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 6 April 2008
Having A Fine And Private Place by Peter Beagle as a must keep forever book, I decided to try this fable by the same author.
I must say that this isn't my type of book at all, but the rave reviews on Amazon tilted me towards giving it a try.
The last unicorn searching for others of its kind sounded like a decent adventure, but about 60 pages into it I was fairly bored with some of the characters, and frankly it wasn't holding me.
For some reason I kept going, but felt tentative about it all. I thought that any minute I was going to call it quits. Yes, the words were poetic, but the unreality of it all was totally unreal, if you can make any sense of what I'm saying.
But it was then that the magic of this book suddenly kicked in - as much as I'd geared myself up to abandoning the project at any moment, I simply found that I COULDN'T!!
The second half of the book suddenly became significant somehow and I just had to find out what happened to the unicorn in the end. I found myself flying through pages which previously was in dire pedestrian mode.
I can't explain the two different phases of this book - it's pretty unique in my reading experience.
It must be me - it couldn't be magic, could it?
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 29 February 2012
I have seen the "The Last Unicorn" animated film many times over my life, mainly due to my younger sister having a slight obsession with it. However, when I joined up to a reading challenge regarding classic fantasy novels I decided that maybe now was the time for me to read the book that inspired the movie. I had hoped to unearth some deeper information on the characters and other things. What I discovered however was that the film is actually a very good adaptation of the book and there was very little extra I really gained from reading it.
For those of you that don't know the story, it follows a unicorn that embarks on a quest to try and find out what has happened to the rest of her species. During this quest she joins up with two companions; the wizard Schmendrick and a woman named Molly Grue. Together they continue onwards so that they can face the Red Bull who is supposedly the very reason that the unicorn's kinfolk have disappeared.
I have to admit that I didn't really find the plot itself to be anything remarkable and I did find myself struggling to keep on reading at times. Perhaps the problem was that I already knew most of the plot from watching the film but whatever the reason, I just felt like something was missing. However, what Beagle has done is inject some emotion and humour into the telling of the story which managed keep me reading even with the weak plot. The way in which he would switch the narrative from being one of comic parody to one of profound thought was actually quite interesting to behold.
The characters themselves were a little bit flat at times with very little development which was probably due to the short length of the novel. In regards to the Unicorn herself, I actually found her to be quite unlikeable, due to the fact that Beagle has done quite a good job in making her come across as being unhuman. However, despite all of this I did find that the various supporting characters were still reasonably interesting and in particular the relationship between Schmendrick and Molly Grue was quite enjoyable to follow as it developed from jealousy to friendship.
One other comment I really need to make is that if like me you don't really have time for flowery language, poetic paragraphs and surreal descriptions then you may have some issues with this book. Beagle has captured an almost whimsical and dreamy fairy tale feel to the novel due to his use of the English language which will probably delight those who enjoy literary exposition, but I just found it all rather distracting.
In summary, I have to admit that I don't really understand why so many people seem to make a big fuss about this book. It was enjoyable enough but I honestly don't see how someone could say it ranks alongside the works of Tolkien etc. Maybe I am some sort of heathen when it comes to understanding "good" books but this novel just didn't really grab me. Perhaps if I was someone who enjoyed understanding and delving into the use of language in a book, I would have a different option. However, I prefer to let the plot be the tool that engages me with a book and I think the plot itself is probably the weakest part of this novel.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 7 October 2008
The Last Unicorn is a fantasy novel, which reminds me of the 'Princess Bride' more than anything else. The narrative exists on several levels. The characters have a self-awareness that they live in a reality of fairy stories. Prince Lir slays dragons and presents their heads to his lady love, because that's what heros do. Cully, the outlaw, desperately hopes that his visitor is Professor Child, the (historically real) collector of ballads, as he wants all the songs that he has written about himself to be recorded for posterity. The songs, are, of course, largely cobbled together from existing folk songs about famous outlaws and bandits - Cully has no skill as a songwriter any more than he has as an outlaw.
However, the reason the novel works is because there is a second layer of awareness underlying the first. There is magic that is flummery (even though it is still what we would call magic) and magic that is real. The magic that doesn't count is simple conjuring. It may achieve things that we would regard as impossible to be done by sleight of hand, but it achieves nothing that really matters. It can create the seeming of a manticore from a lion, but it cannot make the lion actually BE a manticore. Sometimes, it verges on the edge of reality. When the spider weaving the web believes that she really is Archne, then her belief adds to the illusion cast upon her.
The second kind of magic is deeper and more real and harder to define. It isn't just tricks and appearances. It is the unicorn. She is more real than anything around her. She does not consciously set out to influence the world around her; her intererst in mortals is pretty much non-existant. She is incapable of love. Love is transient, fleeting, mortal. She is immortal and unchanging.
In a world where unicorns can exist, there is always the possibility of real magic. The outlaws play at being Robin Hood and try and adapt his legends to themselves, but the real Robin is the ultimate dream for them. To see or touch the real Robin Hood is to bring reality to their dreams and hopes for themselves. Not the cold reality that destroys dreams, but the kind of reality that says dreams have meaning and are but the shadow of an eternal verity.
The unicorn is an abstract. She is pure beauty, moonlight in darkness. She is springtime. To once see a unicorn is to carry something of beauty with you for the rest of your life. She is hope. She is pure and untouchable. She is the sure knowledge that there is something unsullied in the world.
She is the last of her kind.
When she sets forth from her eternal springtime forest to seek other unicorns, then she sets the story in motion. (I'm not going to talk about the people she meets, as I don't believe in giving away plots in advance.)
The novel has both strengths and weaknesses. The greatest strength is the sense of beauty and magic behind the veil of myth and fairy tale.
The weakness (for me at least) is when the parody is slightly over-done. The anachronisms are probably deliberate to make the contrasts sharper, but I still find medieval outlaws eating tacos to be a little disconcerting.
The other great strength lies in Beagle's descriptive writing. He has a real gift for phrases that come to life: "following the fleeing darkness into a wind that tasted like nails". I can feel and taste the entire rainstorm in that single phrase.
12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
on 25 October 2004
This book is pure magic. Half fairy tale and half myth, it's strange and fun and captivateing.
I recomend it to read to any child - because you'll enjoy reading ti as much as a child hearing it.
I recomend it to GIVE to any child. It's writing is simple enough for a child to read, it's story magical and fun enough to give any a lifelong love of fantasy and reading.
I bought this for myself for those very qualities - just as vallied for an adult to read before bed.