In a Word: Clever
Publication Date: Aug 2009
Short Synopsis (Goodreads): Forget everything you ever knew about unicorns...Real unicorns are venomous, man-eating monsters with huge fangs and razor-sharp horns. Fortunately, they've been extinct for a hundred and fifty years.
Astrid had always scoffed at her eccentric mother's stories about killer unicorns. But when one of the monsters attacks her boyfriend—thereby ruining any chance of him taking her to the prom—Astrid finds herself headed to Rome to train as a unicorn hunter at the ancient cloisters the hunters have used for centuries.
However, at the cloisters all is not what it seems. Outside, the unicorns wait to attack. And within, Astrid faces other, unexpected threats: from the crumbling, bone-covered walls that vibrate with a terrible power to the hidden agendas of her fellow hunters to—perhaps most dangerously of all—her growing attraction to a handsome art student ... an attraction that could jeopardize everything.
My Review: A few years ago when I first heard about this book I swore to never read it, much less touch it with a 10 ft. pole. Not that I'm such a fan of Unicorns or anything! It's just that having killer unicorns goes against every story that we have ever been told, and plus, I do have some favorites (ok, just one, and it's Bracken from Brandon Mull's Fabelhaven series, but we won't get into that here).
HOWEVER, I have been eagerly awaiting For Darkness Shows the Stars and have been hearing very very good things about. So, when I looked up the author to see if she had written anything else...and saw this series...I said a very small 'oh', sucked up my prejudice against killer unicorns, reserved it at the library and began reading.
As you can already tell from the 4 mustache rating, I liked this book. I liked it a lot. Astrid was a really great protagonist to follow along with. I most appreciated her at the beginning and towards the end. She kind of wasn't as strong for me in the middle of the story, but she pulls it together by the end...and by pulling it together, I mean kicking some serious unicorn butt!
Another plus to this surprise favorite of mine was how believable Ms. Peterfreund made killer unicorns! She has several different varieties and brought in numerous historical instances where they played parts in history. I will be the first to say that I am not a history buff, by any means, but it didn't feel like the author was stretching the truth with how she presented the data and I really was pulled into the story!
My only complaint would be the middle but only because of slightly forgetful characterizations. Yes, the middle was ok, and good things happened in it, but Astrid didn't seem as strong of a character and part of that is due to the fact that so many new hunters are being brought into the mix and none of them were particularly distinctive for me. It would usually take me a sentence or two after reading something to realize what had happened to whom, exactly, but since I was able to figure things out it didn't throw the story off of it's stride too much.
My other comment would be the frequency with which sex is mentioned. It is not a focus, by any means, and it is not discussed in depth or crudely, just made reference to, but not in terms that are quite direct. I was surprised at first, but upon thinking on it, how we know unicorns in mythology still applied to this story in that only virgins can approach (or kill, as the circumstance may warrant) them, so it was bound to be a topic that was a concern of the characters.
I will for certain be continuing with this series and am now even MORE excited to see how Ms. Peterfeund brings the classic Persuasion into a future setting. She did such a fantastic job convincing me that unicorns could be menacing that I have not doubts she will do a great job with this as well.
Yay for finding another great writer!