“Forget everythig you’ve ever known about unicorns…” is what the publisher says of this unique take on the myth’s and legends of unicorns. For these are not your mother’s unicorns. The unicorns of Rampant are vicious, man eating monsters.
Despite everything her mother has always told her, Astrid Llewelyn does not beleive in unicorns. Until she and her boyfriend are attacked by one. With her boyfriend bleeding to death, Astrid calls 911 and then does the only thing she can think of: call her mom. Even after the attack, Astrid doesn’t know what to believe. Then her mom sends her to the Cloisters in Italy to be trained to be a unicorn hunter like her ancestor, Clothilde Llewelyn.
In Italy, Astrid meets more young women like her aging from 12-19. The quite pianist Rosamund, the rich and spoiled Dorcas, the angry and bitter Cory, and Astrid’s extremely outgoing cousin Philippa are among the cast of supporting characters. Each of the girls has a distinct personality that comes out little by little, a great feature when most characters in YA books can fit into cookie cutter molds or all basically the same.
But Astrid doesn’t want to be a hunter. In fact, she hates it and would rather work on the research end. But, according to Cory, Llewelyn’s are the best hunters and, therfore, Astrid must hunt or “waste her natural talent.”
At the Cloisters, Astrid learns that they are all the descendants of Alexander the Great, and that only his virgin, female descendants can hunt and kill unicorns. She also learns that hunters have powers. Increased speed, agility, and reflezes, but only when hunting. They also have increased healing, but only from wounds infliced with a unicorn horn, or alicorn. When most characters who discover they have powers in teen novels always have those powers, this is a nice touch on Peterfreund’s part that keeps her characters from being too powerful all the time.
Phil and Astid begin to leave the Cloisters at night and subsequently meet two young men. Soon the girls are training by day, and sneaking out to meet the boys at night. This leads to Astrid being torn between how she feels when with her boyfriend, and how she feels when she actually gets to hunt. Because while she hates the idea of hunting and killing a living creature with ancient weapons, she comes to love the exilerated feeling of actually doing it. Both feelings are described in such a way that the reader can really feel the emotions Asrid is feeling.
Unfortunately, things aren’t always what they seem, and a “bad guy” is eventually revealed. The girls must fight to protect an area in Italy from a unicorn attack, and that could cost them their lives if they aren’t careful and don’t work together.
Peterfreund draws on various myths and legends from around the world, and a detailed list of them is on her website. I was thourghly intriged the whole time I was reading the book, anc coudln’t wait to find out what was going to happen next. While the book was told in first person, I didn’t tire of Astrid’s head and didn’t wish to leave it.
Fair warning though, the hunt scenes are described in almost every bloody detail. From the knocking of the girl’s arrows, to who gets run through or trampled and how much blood there is. Sex is also mentioned and talked about as a way out of being a hunter, but Astrid only ever makes out with boyfriend, again talked about in detail. Rape is also mentioned, but not shown. Some parent’s may have a problem with both of these issues making this the perfect “problem novel” talked about in my textbook. Overall, I give this book 4 1/2 stars. Almost 5.