November is National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). In the spirit of the month, instead of writing 50,000 words in 30 days, I’m going to write a short review every day, up to a maximum of 300 words. Think of it is NaNoReMo (National Novel Review Month). This month I’ll do short reviews of books, varieties of tea, and even individual short stories as the mood strikes. So read on!

last_unicorn_coverTitle: The Last Unicorn
Author: Peter S. Beagle
Publisher: Roc
Format: Paperback
Rating: 5 out of 5

My husband likes to joke sometimes that I’ve led a deprived childhood because I there are many classic children’s books and movies I haven’t been exposed to. But you know what? There are a lot of stories I’ve missed out on so far. That’s life. The best part about today’s review is that I can say that through reading The Last Unicorn by Peter S. Beagle, I’ve filled in a hole in my literary education that I didn’t even know existed.

I’m not sure if I even need to provide a plot summary, but here: A unicorn living in an enchanted wood learns by accident that she may be the last one in existence. Stunned that her happy solitude has transformed into loneliness, she embarks on a quest to find out what happened to the rest of her kind. Along the way she meets Schmendrick, a bumbling magician, and Molly Grue, the put-upon wife of a bandit leader. All hope appears lost, however, when they encounter King Haggard, who has imprisoned the remaining unicorns for his own enjoyment, as well as his ultimate weapon, the Red Bull.

You don’t need me to go on, do you? About the stunning transformation of the unicorn, a pure creature, into a human, who can feel love and regret? About the sheer density of thought, beauty and longing within such a slim volume?

Looking at today’s established and up-and-coming speculative fiction writers, I can see the impact of The Last Unicorn. I hear echoes of the sinuous, crystalline quality of Beagle’s prose across the field of science fiction and fantasy. I may not know a lot, but I think it’s easy to see that The Last Unicorn is an urtext for how genre has unfolded over the last 40-odd years.