The Hunt of the Unicorn is a YA fantasy by C. C. Humphreys.
Teenager Elayne doesn't think much of the old family story her dad likes to tell her - though the fact that he's too sick and weary from his cancer to read it any longer, and has to ask her to read it to him, makes it more significant. But really, it's just a fantastical take on their ancestry, full of unicorns and other crazy beasts - and has absolutely no bearing on reality.
Or does it?
When she's at the Cloisters museum in New York City she is startled to find unicorn tapestries, just like those described in her father's beloved stories. Her initials are even woven into the fabric, just like in the legend. Before she gets the chance to get too freaked out, she slips and falls right through one of the tapestries and into another world - the world, apparently, from the stories: Goloth.
Quickly she finds herself introduced to the star of her dad's musty old book: the unicorn Moonspill. Moonspill wants her help - but in the meantime she's just trying to come to terms that any of this is real - let alone all the totally weird and scary creatures that surround her and the fact that the whole land in ruled by a tyrannical king that talks like its still medieval times!
When it comes down to it, Elayne just wants to go home. Her dad isn't doing well... and now is not the time to be hanging out in some alternative universe!
The Hunt of the Unicorn started so quickly with all the folklore and unicorn stories (from Elayne's dad's book), that I literally knew nothing about Elayne before we started getting loaded with all this info. But Elayne's father is instantly sympathetic with his weariness and sickness.
Though the novel is certainly fanciful right off the bat, I couldn't help but hope that The Hunt of the Unicorn would be soon broadening itself further than just a rather bland girl (Elayne) reading a rather bland book. It was just too much plot before any character development whatsoever, and that just threw me off a bit. I really felt the book needed more personality, and though the "family history" Elayne was reading was moderately interesting - it wasn't as gripping or fun as maybe it should have been so early in the book... Of course, this was just my opinion - doesn't mean you'd agree!
However, once Elayne entered Goloth and met a bloodthirsty, creepy manticore - things started to speed up! I loved how we were presented with mythical creatures galore - chimeras, cerebrus', griffins, and more! They pepper the novel heartily as it continues and give it a fun fantasy flavor. I still didn't find myself being the biggest fan of our main character, Elayne, as she kept coming across as weepy to me. Of course, rationally, this is understandable. But I can't help but rather have a gal that is more assertive, funny, or something. Again, just my personal opinion. And, to be clear, Elayne is NOT a bad character - I wasn't overly annoyed with her or anything - I just wasn't her biggest fan.
Overall, The Hunt of the Unicorn did end up being nice, enjoyable fare with some espionage adventure stuff and, like I mentioned earlier, awesome beasts. Really, the beasts stole the show in this one. They have the most personality and are really written with flare and imagination - I mean, the manticore was honestly spine-tingling!
Even though I personally found Rampant and Ascendant, two modern-day unicorn books written by Diane Peterfreund, to provide a darker, deeper, more original take on this particular subject - The Hunt of the Unicorn did redeem itself, in my eyes, with the presentations of its creatures of legend and very touching, cool moments in the final third of the novel.
I wouldn't mind a sequel that just follows these sometimes hilarious, sometimes frightening beasts of lore, actually. What say you, Mr. Humphreys? ;)
***ALERT: Due to continued bibliophile reading overdosing, I am continuing the 5 reviews a week through August. After that, I am absolutely returning to only 3 reviews a week in September and on. So, we'll just think of this as a summer special! Thanks for reading!!!