I didn’t adore Rampant, the first book, but I was very curious to see where Peterfreund would take Astrid and her fellow unicorn-hunters. This sequel was a bit darker than the first, but overall has many of the same preoccupations: the difficulties of committing yourself to a life of killing and celibacy when you’re sixteen, the difficulties of being forced together with a bunch of girls you don’t know and have little in common with, occasionally having to deal with a crazy mother. So while I didn’t adore this one, either, I definitely don’t regret reading it.
The main surprise for me with the first book was (what felt like) its overwhelming interest in Astrid’s love life. By the end I could see why this was important – in terms of plot – and of course if Peterfreund was setting out to write a teen romance with killer unicorns then that’s totally cool; it’s just not what I had expected, which is my problem not hers. That continues into this book, naturally, with some neat (well, difficult actually) twists that meant it wasn’t simply rehashing the initial plot. Peterfreund is certainly not interested in making life easy for her characters. The romance didn’t work for me but I’m not a teenager, so maybe I’m too cynical.
I liked that Astrid got to experience life a bit outside of the Cloisters, and that she got to think through her difficulties with the whole idea of killing. There’s a nice, if simplistic, balance between Cory on the one side, all in favour of killing the lot, and Phil wanting to set up some sort of genuine conservation – and Astrid fitting between them. It did relieve me that Kill The Beast! didn’t become an overwhelming theme for the novel.
I’m surprised there’s no third book. … and I’ve just looked at Peeterfreund’s website which says that she’s hoping to write the third, Triumphant, “soon” (but I don’t know when the site was updated). I’ll probably end up reading it, although it’s not a preorder-in-a-mad-rush kinda thing.
By Diana Peterfreund
Sadly I did not love this book as much as I had hoped. Partly this is me, partly it is the book.
I had read the novella, Errant, so I thought I kinda knew what the story was going to be about. But Errant is set… I forget when, some time in the past. Rampant is not; it’s about a girl in modern America learning about unicorns. Which is fine, it was just a bit of a surprise. I had t read the blurb, deliberately; I didn’t want any spoilers since I figured it was going to be the sort of book I’d like anyway.
Killer unicorns? How can that not be awesome? That’s what it’s about, by the way. Unicorns are real and they hunt animals and people. Only certain people can hunt them in return. This is the learning-about-your-abilities book. If that’s your thing, feel free to ignore my whinging! Just go read it; it’s certainly enjoyable enough that I wouldn’t dissuade potential readers automatically.
Anyway, what I really had not expected was how much the book would be focussed in sex. Not having it, how people feel about you if you do or don’t, etc (do American teens really feel pressured to have sex before they leave high school??). It does make sense, given that Peterfreund has kept the virginity aspect for her unicorn hunters, but… it felt like it got in the way of what I was expecting, which was learning about unicorn hunting and dealing with that aspect of your nature. Which, yes, virginity is part of that. But there was a lot of going on dates and agonising which I guess just isn’t what I was interested in reading.
So I’m willing to agree that in that aspect, definitely a problem of my expectations. And I did like the discussion around rape, attitudes towards and reactions to, although the victim seemed to deal with it faster than I would expect. (Not that I want intense victiming either, necessarily.)
On the book’s side, I felt that the plot went a bit too fast sometimes; fast enough that things got a bit improbable (yes yes, around the killer unicorns bits) and too convenient. In the characters I especially found Astrid’s mother a bit much; a bit ridiculous.
For all its faults I will definitely read the sequel, Ascendant, at some point.