Thursday, August 13, 2009

Review: Rampant by Diana Peterfreund

Publication date: Aug. 25, 2009 (HarperTeen)

Tags: YA, fantasy, unicorns, virginity, hunters, conspiracy

Rating: 3.5 out of 5


Unicorns have been extinct for 150 years, but 16-year-old Astrid’s lineage-obsessed mother doesn’t seem to know that. She keeps on insisting that their family is descended from Alexander the Great, and that only his virgin female descendants have the ability to slay the man-eating unicorns. Astrid doesn’t want to believe her mother, but a resurgence in the existence of unicorns forces her to a convent in Italy, where, along with other girls, she is to be trained in the art of unicorn hunting and killing.

Reluctantly learning a whole new set of skills is just the beginning of Astrid’s troubles, however. Her “classmates” vary in their attitudes towards their history, destiny, and each other, and someone seems to be planning something sinister to do with the unicorns. Like it or not, Astrid must embrace her natural hunting abilities and work towards a new future in which humans and unicorns both exist.


Never have I read such an interesting story about unicorns as Diana Peterfreund’s RAMPANT. This book is jam-packed with lore and fighting without taking away from Peterfreund’s signature writing style.

Diana’s greatest ability is in making each and every character stand out without resorting to clichés. There are easily a dozen characters to keep track of, and yet no real effort is required to do so. Each character has a distinctive voice and his or her own motivations and vulnerabilities, and no one falls into character stereotypes. I admired this most about Diana’s writing from her Ivy League series, and am happy that her characters continue to be just as complex and interesting in her YA novel.

RAMPANT begins with a running start, which may be disorienting as Astrid discovers the reappearance of unicorns and gets sent off to Italy very quickly after the story begins. However, once within the cloister walls, details are fleshed out, characters introduced and shaped into whole beings, and the multifaceted story emerges. In RAMPANT, old clashes with new, both literally, as modern-day teenagers get dumped within the aging convent’s walls, and figuratively: it’s not just about killing unicorns, but rather the ethical implications of using ancient techniques in modern times.

While I found myself unable to connect with the characters as well as I did with those in the Ivy League series, Diana Peterfreund has still written a tale that is a force to be reckoned with. The allure of unicorns (an as-yet-unmined idea) and expert characterization will make RAMPANT an easy winner in the YA fantasy genre.

Similar Authors
Cassandra Clare
Libba Bray

Writing: 4/5
Characters: 3/5
Plot: 3/5

Overall Rating: 3.5 out of 5

Cover discussion: 2.5 out of 5 - Am I alone in liking the old cover better than the one they switched to? There's just something more virgin hunter-y about the old one, a "spark" that I feel the new one lacks. Both of them are attractive in their own rights, though.

A million thanks to Brooke, who was kind enough to send me her copy when she saw how much I wanted to read this one!


  1. Just you Steph ;P I happen to like the new cover more. While the old cover does speak "hunter" more it fails at the "teen" aspect. There's something old to the cover within the deep groves of shadows. Based off the older cover, I couldn't imagine her being 17 or so. More likely late twenties or early thirties despite the fact that the 40s are the new 20s.

  2. Glad you liked it :)

    I'm one of the few who like the new cover. I think the old cover girl looks older than 17. Plus I like the reflection of the unicorn in the sword on the new one :)

  3. I also prefer the new cover. I got the ARC with the old cover on and I let it lie around for a while because I had no idea it was about killer unicorns. The old cover was kind of boring -- she looked like a medieval fairy princess or something, not a hunter at all.

  4. Great review! I've been very curious about this book what with the whole unicorn angle. I will definitely check it out.

    I have to say I much prefer the new cover. To me, the old one looks like something from the 80s, and the girl looks really old. You barely even notice she has a sword. I was so turned off by the original cover that I never read the synopsis. The new one I think isn't great, but it's much better. I like that you can see the sword and the unicorn, which gives a better sense of what the book is about.

  5. Well, I'm glad I'm not the only one who thinks the girl on the first cover looks a lot older than 16. I prefer the newer one; it also looks more secretive ...

    Thanks for the review, I was waiting to see what you said about this one before buying :)

  6. I can't wait to read this! Unicorns aren't a subject I've come across before.

    I think I prefer the new cover too - although neither are particluarly amazing, IMO.

  7. I think you are alone. The girl on the old cover reminds me of one of Hugh Hefner's girlfriends.

  8. Totally like the new cover better! I agree with Valerie about the eighties-ness of the old cover.

    I was really interested by your review. I haven't read anything by Diana Peterfreund yet, so I'm not sure what to expect of her writing, but the story sounds great.

  9. I'm actually kind of leaning towards the old cover as well.

    Nice review! :)

  10. Thanks for stopping by my site ! I've recently re-discovered my love of YA and I was very happy to find your site - your reviews are gonna make trips to the book store a WHOLE lot easier ;)

    Wondering what you're gonna say about the Vampire Diaries, which I saw in your reading list. I see they've made a TV show out of it - Sept. 10th. Course that only makes me wary about reading the books now ... I pick apart 90% of all movies based upon books - if I read the book first that is. If I see the movie first the book just fills in all those annoying gaps :)

  11. I have a copy coming that I've very excited about so I can't read your review, but I skimmed and saw "interesting" and 3.5, which I'm glad about! I like both covers, but which suits the story better? The old one has a "princess" feel and the new one has a "warrior" feel, like a Tamora Pierce/Kristen Cashore book. I almost think that the girl on the old one has far too nice hair to have spent very long practising weilding that sword!

  12. Thanks for reading, StephSu! I'm glad you enjoyed it.

    I think it's funny that the entire conversation has been about the cover. Must be something in the air, or the folks on the internet really like talking about this stuff. It's ironic, given that my first book actually had THREE different covers and no one ever said a word about it!

    StephSu, I can honestly say that you're the only person who has actually READ the book and prefers the old cover. The new cover is much more like Astrid (young, no makeup, long hair), and much better reflects the content of the book. Plus, it has a unicorn on it!

  13. Interesting. I'm not sure which cover I like best. The old one's really cool, but I think maybe the new one gives me a better idea what to expect. It does sound an interesting book - unicorns - how come no one's tapped that yet?

  14. I like the new cover better though I wish I could see more of background.

    This book sounds great, at least I've never read anything on unicorns before.

  15. I actually like the new version better than the former. While beautiful and I can see to an extent virginal I also think it doesn't really showcase the content/story as well. I can also see where the publisher would like the recent verion because I imagine it will be far more appealing to boys than the first.

    Excellent review. I'm gonna keep this one on my must get list.

  16. ugh, virgins, really? how is virginity defined? does oral sex count? any sexual experience? what if you're a lesbian? blarg. virginity is such a meaningless word.

    (nothing against your review of course--just griping)

  17. (Notemily: I think they mean physically... like, hymen intact. It's a pretty traditional element in unicorn lore. And now I'm going to go off and giggle immaturely.)

    I personally like the new cover better. The chick on the old cover reminds me a ton of Dolly Parton.


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