^z 19th December 2023 at 3:49pm

Peter S. Beagle's The Last Unicorn (1968) is a striking fantasy novel, noteworthy most for its delightful use of poetic language. The plot could be summarized in a few words, and it's scarcely important — what matters is the journey Beagle takes the reader along. Some representative imagery:

  • "Creeks were running down his jowls to join the brooks of his neck and the river of his shirt front, ..."
  • "Outside, the night lay coiled in the street, cobra-cold and scaled with stars."
  • "The waves were coming in under the thick, swirling sky, growing as slowly as trees as they bulged across the sea. They crouched as they neared the shore, arching their backs higher and higher, and then sprang up the beach as furiously as trapped animals bounding at a wall and falling back with a sobbing snarl to leap again and again, claws caked and breaking, while the ugly birds yelled mournfully."

The Last Unicorn echoes, or foreshadows, elements of Cervantes's Don Quixote, Peake's Gormenghast, Tolkien's Lord of the Rings, Goldman's Princess Bride, Vinge's Fire Upon the Deep, and a host of other fine books. Part of its strength is that it can't be bottled and summarized. I read Unicorn many years ago, and by good fortune picked it up again recently. Perhaps that's the kind of novel it is: one that must be forgotten and then re-read every decade.

TopicLiterature - 2007-05-18

(correlates: OneThingAfterAnother, Nine Layers of Sky, HolyMatwimony, ...)