Book Review: The Last Unicorn

The Last Unicorn

“We are not always what we seem, and hardly ever what we dream.”

─ Peter S. Beagle


“ But I always knew that nothing was worth the investment of my heart, because nothing lasts, and I was right, and so I was always old.”

   ─ Peter S. Beagle


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Book Information

Title: The Last Unicorn

Author: Peter S. Beagle

Publisher: Roc, an imprint of the American Library, a division of Penguin Group Inc., 1991

ISBN 978-0-451-45052-4

Genre: Fantasy Fiction, Fairy Tales

Ages: 9+

294 pages


Book Summary:

Upon hearing she is the last, a unicorn leaves the idyllic sanctuary of her forest in search of others like her, other unicorns. In her heart, she knows she cannot be the last. No one really believes in unicorns, anymore, until she is seen for what she really is. Through her despair, the unicorn meets new traveling companions and friends in Schmendrick, the bumbling magician and Molly Grue as the trio travel to meet her destiny in a cursed castle along the shore ruled by a cruel monarch. The unicorn learns about the sorrows of life, death, and love that she never knew before. Everything must end, and so the unicorn must face the creature that hunted all the unicorns.

Book Rating  4 /5

The Last Unicorn is a classic fantasy fairy tale celebrating its’ 50th anniversary. Unlike many fairy tales not all the good guys get a happy ending, at least not in the typical sense. While this may disappoint some readers, I found it only reinforced the character realism that Beagle wove into the entire story.

I found The Last Unicorn an enjoyable tale full of humor, magic, and character depth and growth. The characters truly make the story come alive. The plot is a simple and straightforward like many fairy tales, but the characters keep the story from being far from boring.

The immortal unicorn is depicted as the most beautiful creature, the symbol of magic and purity. Yet there is no depth of being to the unicorn. As an immortal being time is meaningless as she drifts through her life. The unicorn forms no attachments to the creatures and people she encounters. Her life is a solitary one, in which she is content with the knowledge of being one of many. In a way, Beagle has shown this beautiful, magical creature living an idyllic life in an enchanted forest as an empty shell. The unicorn overhears hunters claim there are no other unicorns, and that she is the last. This is when the unicorn begins to gain dimension as a character. The concern and curiosity of whether she truly is the last awaken her from the empty idyllic state. Leaving the forest and journeying into the world the unicorn experiences loneliness, fear, love, and sadness all foreign concepts to her before.

Much of the humor within The Last Unicorn is found with the characters of Schmendrick the magician, and Molly. Both characters can laugh at themselves and the world around them. Schmendrick is a bumbling magician that sees his potential on hold. He understands and accepts his lack of magical ability, but believes it is only a temporary state. Molly is on the opposite spectrum, believing life has passed her by in a way. Both Molly and Schmendrick still believe there is magic in the world around them. Schmendrick and Molly compliment each other well with their opposing views of present and future states of potential. These views give both characters a dimension that shows in their preceptive insights throughout the story.

The only part that I was disappointed in the story was the villain. King Haggard was the cursed villain. While the bad guy, he is not ultimately the most feared and evil being in existence, so a realistic bad guy. To some extant he is someone to be pitied. To be fair, I liked how his character was depicted. My disappointment stemmed more from thinking he should be more prominently featured. I felt his interactions were more of an afterthought. The build up of being cursed by some witch was interesting, I wanted to see more of that appear later.

I would recommend reading The Last Unicorn is you haven’t already. The way Beagle depicts his characters and developed them throughout the story, and the overall humor has added him to my list of authors to read.

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For those of you who liked The Last Unicorn, there is also the 50th Anniversary Special Commemorative Edition that includes an eighty-five-page genesis of the masterpiece.

You can purchase The Last Unicorn The Lost Journey by Peter S. Beagle here: