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Posts Tagged ‘Fairy tales’

Peter S. Beagle’s “The Last Unicorn” begins as expected, lyrically introducing us to our main character, the Unicorn. The Unicorn, described by Beagle as the color of snow falling on a moonlit night, is alone in her lilac forest when she overhears the words of passing hunters. Upon her eavesdropping, and after being spotted by one of them, she discovers that she is thought to be the last – the last unicorn in existence. After a bit of restlessness and worry, she eventually decides to leave the familiarity of her beautiful lilac forest in a search to find her people. For in her eyes, they simply cannot be gone. This, of course, is where the adventure begins.

Upon first look, I thought the idea of a main character being a unicorn was a bit strange..or perhaps a little too silly for my tastes. However, I can say that I was definitely mistaken, and the Unicorn in this story, was a fabulous and interesting character thanks to the excellent writing of Beagle. While there is a lot to enjoy about this story, and I will go over all that very soon, I can say that the real strength here, at least a good part of it, is in the unique characters. Not only was the unicorn incredibly likable, but the others who come in contact with her were equally interesting.

From Shmendrick, an incompetent wizard working at a bizarre carnival owned by Mommy Fortuna, to a hard edged, yet truly caring woman, named Molly Grue — To lesser involved yet equally interesting characters such as King Haggard – A king whom’ can find no happiness in anything, to a prince who thinks himself a hero. While I really enjoyed all of the characters, I personally found Schmendrick to be the most entertaining, and perhaps one of my favorites in a long time! Not only was his failed attempts at magic humorous, but he truly had heart, and completely had the reader (at least for me), caring for him. His intension were pure, his story interesting, and his personality was excellent. I quite liked Molly as well, and the chemistry between all of them was fantastic..

So in general, I really quite liked the characters in this novel – and that for me, is incredibly important. If I don’t connect with the characters, I just don’t care. Aside from THAT aspect, and equally as important, there is the story, and I thought it was great as well! Not only was this tale about a unicorn searching for her lost people, but it was story of self discovery – love – perseverance. It was a story of magic and beauty. I personally adored the fact that the world Beagle built was so magical. A world of odd creatures.. of talking animals.. of wonder..of strangeness..and oh yes, I cannot forget the poetic butterfly (loved him!), and the witty talking cat. All of these aspects together — the characters, the story, the magic, the beautiful writing – blended together perfectly, creating a truly enchanting read.

With that said, I was very impressed with this novel. While Beagle did throw in the some-what traditional fairytale format, he also tossed in just enough strangeness to keep the story fresh and unique From the bizarre carnival, to the decrepit castle and cursed kingdom – drained of all hope and happiness – to the raging red bull, King Haggards very odd companion – to the beautiful unicorn, everything here kept me interested, and after finishing the novel..I simply felt good. This is the type of book you read, in my opinion, to feel that way. Especially after a long, hectic day in such a busy world. While I won’t narrow down my recommendation for this – as I think anyone with an open imagination can quite enjoy it – I will say that it’s very possible that many fans of Gaiman will get a kick out of this – at least fans of Stardust. Really though, this is a novel that I believe anyone can enjoy..as it’s quite wonderful!

(5/5)

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In a different world, and a different time, “The King of Elfland’s Daughter” is a fantasy novel that came before fantasy was even an actual genre. Lord Dunsany, an Irish writer & poet, known heavily for his short stories, was a one of a kind talent in his time — painting new, lush, imaginative worlds with strange an engaging characters and plots. To put it as clear as possible, Mr. Dunsany crossed the boundaries of twilight when it came to creative writing, and is in many ways, a pioneer of the genre itself. Written before more mainstream and well known fantasy works such as The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings, “The King of Elfland’s Daughter” is a beautifully written fairy tale of elves, unicorns, princesses, magic, and so much more.

Set in the vale of Erl, “The King Of Elfland’s Daughter” starts it’s tale with one of our main characters, Alveric, who is sent beyond the fields we know; into the world of faerie. His mission, assigned to him by his father and lord of erl, is to cross the border of twilight and bring back the elven princess of Faerie for the purpose of enchanting Erl with magic — breaking it free from its mundane, all-to-worldly existence. Well, all goes well quite fast..and the story starts as many would end — with a happily ever after — or should I say, where the happily ever after would start. Though unlike most books where the happily ever after is on the closing page, THIS happily ever after is brought to the forefront just within the first few chapters, and soon goes sour, and that, in essence, is where the heart of the story begins and lies. The experience after the happily ever after.

Filled with beautiful, descriptive, and poetic imagery, “The King Of Elfland’s Daughter” is a book that should not be devoured — but savored. Lord Dunsany is a true story teller, and wraps this unique tale with a complex writing style of his own — one that archaically paints the picture — bringing the words and characters and actions to life. Enhancing them with a certain kind of magic – the magic of wonder, imagination, and power. While some may find his style a bit much — perhaps, a bit TOO descriptive or wordy, I found it enchanting in it’s own right — for without this special touch, the story would not have been as majestically effective.

Aside from the brilliant writing style, and poetic feel of this lovely piece, I also must point out that I enjoyed the contrast between Elfland and Erl. The distinct variation in time, in motion, in change. While Elfland stood nearly changeless, frozen in it’s perfective beauty, the real world went on and withered, and died, and bloomed, and prospered. The sun would rise, and then set. The stars would come out – the moon would grace the sky. And while the people of Erl longed for the ageless beautify of the magnificent Elfland, other creatures in Elfland we’re equally fascinated and entranced by the beauty of change – the beauty of the fields WE know. I liked this concept – the concept of the grass always being greener on the other side, and how true it really is.

In truth, “The King of Elfland’s Daughter” is not for everyone. At times the story seemed to be plod along a bit slowly, and on some nights, after such hectic days with so many thoughts and words rolling in and out of my mind, I found keeping focus on this story a bit tough — for reading this novel without concentration rather disturbs the experience. But all in all, I found this to be a great and interesting read — a fascinating look into what fantasy really was and how it started — and how it became the phenomenon that it is today. And while this in itself, made the read interesting — I found the story to be fulfilling and the characters to be engaging in their own right – especially the troll, Lurulu (yes I must add this, I did love him).

As I close this review, I’ll say this — if you’re a fan of Fantasy and want to see how it, in many ways, came to be — check this out. If you enjoy poetic, enchanting stories that truly rely on the beauty of writing itself – the magic of creating real worlds and characters through the use of language and words — bringing them to life — making them real to us, for that momentary read — then check this out. As said, “The King Of Elfland’s Daugther” is not to be devoured. It is to be enjoyed — savored — experienced. While reading this novel, I truly felt like I was having an experience, and I hope that you, after reading this, will take the time to do so as well. It is, in my mind, well worth it. So travel now beyond the fields we know, and experience the magic that is deeply entwined with this fantastic book. If you have the patience and desire to read a true fairy tale, one that not only captivates but inspires, then you will NOT be disappointed. I wasn’t!


(4 out of 5)

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