Monday, October 12, 2015

The Last Hunt by Bruce Coville, 2010

Wait just a minute! This is the last book in the four-book Unicorn Chronicles. Have you read the first three? What's that, you haven't? Then please kindly hit the back arrow and get off this page until you've read the other books (my reviews of the first, second and third). Unless, of course, you don't mind having entire series spoiled for you. In that case, feel free to read on. Just don't say I didn't warn you.

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on Goodreads 
Readers will be on the edge of their seats with this concluding episode of the riveting best-selling series by one of America's most gifted fantasy writers.
In the center if Luster stands an enormous tree called the Axis Mundi, the Heart of the World. But now that tree is wounded, pierced through by magic. And through that wound marches an army of Hunters, led by the sinister and vengeful Beloved. And they are all determined to destroy each and every unicorn.
As the unicorns gather to defend their lives, the human girl, Cara, is sent on a mission to meet a ferocious and mysterious dragon. Faced with perilous danger, Cara must make a desperate decision that will change her life forever.

(605 pages)

Okay, wow. Just wow. When I started the Unicorn Chronicles, I had no idea what I was in for. It grows (literally almost doubles!) with every book, so that the first book was a cool 180 pages, and the fourth, final, book is a whopping 600. I'm still trying to figure out what happened. I mean, I can see this series being seriously awesome for kids who read the books as they came out: the books would grow in length at the same pace your reading ability did, so you could read a single series stretched out over your entire childhood, and you'd never feel like you were outgrowing it.

Reading it over the course of a few months, though, I'm hard pressed to find any other advantage. Except maybe tricking kids into reading long books by gradually weaning them with a series they're hooked on? I can see that as a great selling point for the series, actually: "Get your kids to no longer be afraid of big books! Give them short little Into the Land of the Unicorns hook them onto the series, and then slowly reel them in with longer and longer books until they're reading the MG version of Lord of the Rings!" It's like hooking your kids on drugs, except reading is legal - and, you know, actually good for your brain.

But then again, I'm not sure I'd want my kid transitioning from Into the Land of the Unicorns to The Last Hunt. The books don't just get physically heavier as the series goes on - they start featuring heavier material. Sure, there's no romance or walking dead or other topics that scream "YA," but there sure is a lot of violence in The Last Hunt. And I mean blood-gushing, head-crushing, unicorns-dying, really-gross violence. Violence that I had a hard time reading about. So I think the Unicorn Chronicles are dangerous, because they promise one thing in the beginning, but wind up offering something very, very different.

And that's not even going into any of the weird religious undertones that were scattered throughout The Last Hunt. I'd try to analyze them, but I'm still befuddled by the whole bureaucracy-of-creators thing.

But really, it's not like I hated the book. I spent a few happy hours reading it, and I really was invested in all of the different storylines. I cared about Rocky, and Cara, and Cara's mom, and the queen, and the centaurs, and the geomancer, and the dragon - and, um, all the other semi-random characters who got page-time. Whoever's point-of-view I was reading, I genuinely cared about (except maybe Cara's dad - I still don't like him). And in the end, I was satisfied that I had just read an epic-type book, full of adventure and quests and grand battles between good and evil. Did I question the way everyone assumed all Hunters were incurable monsters, after Cara's own father had converted from being one only a few months before? Did I get supremely frustrated at Cara's grandmother, the queen who spends literally two whole books not communicating with her own ex-husband about whether Cara was his grandkid or not? Did I question whether the entire centaur side-story was even necessary for the plot? Why, yes I did. But that doesn't change the fact that I did enjoy it well enough, and that fans of this sort of epic would probably like it much more than I did.

But let's be honest, if you've read the first three books in the series you're not about to stop now no matter what I say. Go on, track down a copy - it's like fifty dollars on Amazon, but if you hunt around long enough you can probably find a library system that has it.


  1. I was also a bit surprised at how much the books developed over the years! I read the first book when it was first released and I can't imagine what I would have thought of this last one (I still love the first two best). What did you think about Cara becoming a unicorn? (I /think/ that's what happened, haha, it's been awhile since I read this one.)

    1. Yes, the first two are my favorites also - Song of the Wanderer was easily the best out of the four, in my opinion! I didn't want to talk about Cara becoming a unicorn in the review for fear of spoilers, but that was another thing that was kind of weird about The Last Hunt. On one hand I really liked it (It was so original and interesting, and it seemed like Cara didn't mind too much by the end of the book), but then on the other I . . . well, I just don't know. I think turning into a unicorn forever would be dreadful, to be perfectly honest. You lose so much by trading your arms for legs and your hands for hooves, like the ability to hug other people/creatures. Plus, after over a year of dealing with an injured dominant wrist I've learned to really appreciate everything I can do with my hands - I'd hate to lose them altogether.


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