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.
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!