The Last Hunt (Book 4 of the Unicorn Chronicles!)

The Last Hunt, by Bruce Coville

(Disclaimer: Bruce has edited not only some of my short stories, but also some of my unicorn short stories. So I’m not an unbiased reader here.)

If my inner 10-year-old has a strong thread of horse girl in her, she has an even stronger thread of unicorn girl. (The two are somewhat entwined, but not entirely.) And she and I have both been waiting for the conclusion of The Unicorn Chronicles for something like fifteen years now. We’re not at all disappointed that we waited.

One of the many things I love about these books are how each book is more complex and deeper than the one before. Longer too: the first book is a slender 150 page middle grade novel, and each book after it is 150 pages longer than the last. Unicorn girl that I am, I loved these books from the start, and thought even the first brought more to the story than a quick summary (girl goes into the land of the unicorns and has to save them) might suggest, but even more I love how the later books aren’t constrained to the shape of the first, but allow the story keeps expanding outwards and inwards.

I love the mythmaking of these books. The original origin story of the unicorns’ mortal enemy, the ever-wounded, ever-healing Beloved, is powerful enough, especially for anyone who already is a fan of unicorn stories–but by the third and forth books, the mythology expands to take on the whole question of what unicorns are, and what the price is for creating a creature so pure–not only for us, but also for them. There are lots of other threads, too, including threads about family and the bonds among them.

Unlike the first three books, I do think the fourth one wants to be read after the other three–but it does an excellent job of reminding someone who has read the first three books and is simply too impatient to reread them before plunging in (that would be me) of things that need remembering. And even at 600 pages, there were threads I sort of wanted to see given more time, especially around heroine Cara’s family and the betrayals and pain that have shaped same, threads that (as the book acknowledges for at least one of those relationships) will take more time to fully heal.

But by this book the story is no longer only about Cara–for all that one of the book’s final acts of redemption is hers, as it needed to be–but also about the world she’s found herself in and its fate.

Mostly I just loved this book, with its rich-yet-oddly-fragile world of Luster, and the things it has to say about creators, creations, stories, and–as with all the best fantasy stories–being human.

Also? (Spoilers ahead–highlight to read.) I loved Cara’s turning into a unicorn–making her, of course, the ultimate unicorn girl. I loved even more that the change wasn’t reversible, and so not without a price. And I will ship Cara and Lightfoot forever, even if the story (maybe) stops short of doing so.

ETA: If you’ve been following these books too and want to have some fun, here’s the Unicorn Chronicles’ TVTropes page, which surely needs some updating now that The Last Hunt is out. 🙂

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