Rampant by Diana Peterfreund

Posted by Cobalt | Posted in , , | Posted on 4:31 PM


Rating: 4/5 stars.

Think you know about unicorns? Those adorable, dewey-eyed mythological beings with the shiny rainbow hooves and fluffy tails?

Think again.

Astrid Llewelyn knows the truth: unicorns are not cute. They are not cuddly. They are vicious killing machines with slavering fangs and razor-sharp horns, and they'd like nothing more than to impale you and rip your flesh from your bones. Or so Astrid's mother has always taught her; along with her family lineage, of course -- as a descendant of Alexander the Great, Astrid is part of a long line of female unicorn hunters. However, she only retains this birthright (and the immunity to unicorn venom that it includes) so long as she remains a virgin.

So of course we must begin with some Macking in the Backyard with a Boy, And The Consequences. Astrid has long cultivated a tolerant dismissal of her mother's unique brand of crazy (researching Killer Unicorns is hardly a sane career choice), so she's a bit dismayed when a unicorn charges out of the woods and gores her boyfriend.

I promise not to reveal more. But it appears that the unicorns are back, and Astrid is shipped to Italy to join the ancient order of unicorn hunters, who are re-establishing themselves in their ancient abbey with news of the Resurgence.

A smart, fun twist on the typical mythology with a great cast of teen girls-turned-warriors (who each deal with their Chosen-ness in different ways). The book moved along nicely, with bloody battles relieved by Astrid's developing relationship with Giovanni (The New Boy Interest, but with Actual Depth), along with some really pertinent questions about feminism and morality -- in the modern world, how do you justify cloistering a bunch of young girls and training them to kill? What rights does one have as a huntress? And how do ideals of 'purity' and other constraints interact with sexual independence?

I love that Peterfreud's characters debate these points in the story, in very intelligent ways -- these young women are both personally and socially self-aware in a refreshing way (instead of the more typical 'self-absorbed teen' model). Astrid is an aspiring doctor; the ancient order of unicorn hunters developed a Remedy that could cure all disease, one that has murky links with the unicorns themselves. How far should she go to unlock this secret? Does her work as hunter make her into a kind of poacher, or even murderer?

Astrid's voice is fresh and compelling, and the cloisters are an intriguing backdrop for her adventures, as she bonds with and/or alienates the other girls in the huntress group. An engaging read along the lines of Graceling, with a heroine you can cheer for as you see her battle for her own definition and mission in the world -- girlpower without the preaching, this is really best summed up in the following equation:

Killer Unicorns + Kickass Girls = Total Awesome.

Comments (2)

Thanks for reading. Also, thanks for using the word "macking" because I included it in a recent story and my editor is like, "What is this word? I do not know this word." Do you think it is a regional slang?

First: Thanks for giving me a lovely morning heart-attack of joy. I had firmly believed that this blog was stranded in the Internet's Seas of Oblivion -- I hope you enjoyed the review as much as I enjoyed your book!

Second: I am happy to use semi-obscure slang anytime for you. ;) I had no idea "macking" was not well known; it has been reasonably well-used in my part of upstate NY. Then again, we are an odd little community, what with calling soft drinks "pop" and other nonsense.

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