Sarah Rees Brennan (sarahtales) wrote,
Sarah Rees Brennan

Killer Unicorns! Going Once, Going Twice...

'Sarah' you would be within your rights to say accusingly at this point. 'Did you not say you were going to celebrate this year by giving away a free book every month? Where is our AUGUST BOOK?'

You have not said that, because you are all ladies and gents. But nevertheless there is an August book. Diana Peterfreund's Rampant.

I heard about Rampant and the fact it was about killer unicorns, and that was all I needed. I love a good subversion of a trope. (See also: hot trolls, dainty ladies who shoot people, and heroes who need rescuing.)

Diana Peterfreund was one of the band of writers who I roped into coming to a castle in Ireland earlier this year. We didn't know each other, so I was on my best behaviour until she rashly produced an advance copy of the book and offered it to her friend Jen Barnes.

DIANA: I brought this for y-
SARAH: Oh my gosh killer unicorns for ME!
DIANA: No, not for y-
SARAH (brightly): I'll fight you for the killer unicorns, Jen!
JEN: ... That's okay. You can read it first.
DIANA: But I brought it for-
JEN: Hush Diana! I want to live.

So, killer unicorns have returned to this world. Only girls with Certain Qualifications (among them being descendants of Alexander the Great) can kill them. Astrid's mother has been preparing her for this day for years: Astrid herself is unpleasantly surprised to learn her mother is not crazy, and that Astrid herself is going to have to learn how to fight great big huge evil-minded unicorns with poison horns on their heads.

So not only are there killer unicorns, but there are a lot of awesome girls carrying on with being awesome, having relationships with a lot of other girls. There is the whole unicorn-fighting team. There's Astrid's relationship with her mother. There's Astrid's relationship with her cousin Philippa, who is one of the most awesome characters in the book - she's gorgeous and very athletic and confident and she loves her cousin and her cousin loves her back, and she's always extremely likable. She's got her flaws, but she's allowed to be magnificently awesome and it never diminishes Astrid at all.

I have to say, I did find myself wondering why the unicorns got to be so judgey about their hunters, but since I find both the team and the unicorns to be awesome, I forgave this. All different kinds of ladies in battle training! All different kinds of ladies in competition not to be prom queen, but to be awesome unicorn slayers!

You find the unicorns to be awesome? you might say. But what do the unicorns do? There is an adorable baby unicorn called Bonegrinder in the book, who yearns to dine on delicious human calves. And there is Bucephalus.

Tall. Dark. Handsome. Temperamental. Immortal. Mysterious.

Every novel needs a hero.

Unicorn and unicorn slayer. Clearly the new vampire and vampire slayer.

Astrid and Bucephalus have many mysterious, alluring encounters, in which the young ingenue earns his respect and she comes to understand his brooding pain. And then of course... the flirting begins.

BUCEPHALUS: Accept your destiny, daughter of Alexander-
ASTRID: Astrid.
BUCEPHALUS. Cute name. Suits you. So, Gemini-
ASTRID: Taurus.
BUCEPHALUS: Awesome. So, do you like moonlight rides on the beach?
ASTRID: Don't you mean walks?
BUCEPHALUS: I know what I mean. So, uh, about your destiny. You have one. I know from destiny. I was, uh, the steed of Alexander. You know the one.
ASTRID: The Great?
BUCEPHALUS: Aw, shucks. You know, I don't like to boast, but, well, yeah. They had some names for me also. Bucephalus the Really Awesome was mentioned. Once or twice. I don't like to blow my own horn. But speaking of my horn, it's pretty shiny.
ASTRID: Tell me more about your past of myths and legends!
BUCEPHALUS: Well, I would, Astrid. But you see my past is kind of... dark. I have issues, Astrid. Many of them. And I could mention - I have inner pain. Just saying.
ASTRID: Oh my.
BUCEPHALUS: I can't speak of it now. I'm too mysterious and manly.
ASTRID: Unicorn-ly.
BUCEPHALUS: ...Yeah. So I have to whisk away, darkly, into the mist. Never to be seen again. Unless perhaps you sneak out into the dark Italian night away from your guardians for an illicit meeting with me. I may or may not actually arrive.
ASTRID: ... I might be able to make it.
BUCEPHALUS: Awesome, I hope you like Mexican food! Wear something nice! We'll talk about your destiny later.

Okay, okay. I admit it: the heroine's actual love interest may actually be a human, and therefore person-shaped. But I like to think I see the truth at the heart of the novel. I do enjoy Astrid's relationship with her unworthy human boyfriend, though, because it addresses important issues from an interesting angle - it's not right to objectify someone during sex. Is it right to use a man as your Get Out of Killer Unicorns Free card?

The advance reader's copy that I read had a different cover than the one the final book has, and I thought you guys might be interested in seeing both: first is the advance cover, and second the version now on shelves.

Photobucket Photobucket

It's pretty rare for a book to change cover between advance readers' copy and final copy, but I think it was an excellent decision. Astrid looks much more serious and awesome, plus adding swords is something I for one approve of extremely.

Most importantly, now there is a unicorn on the front. Astrid and Bucephalus. Together forever!

So, I have two copies of Rampant. Who wants to be showered with rampantly awesome ladies, and the rampantly magnificent unicorns who love them?
Tags: book recommendations, team castle
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