Peterfreund, Diana. Rampant (2009). 402 Pages. HarperTeen. $8.99
I was first introduced to Diana Peterfreund’s man-eating unicorns in Kiss Me Deadly, which is when I knew I had to read Rampant. I didn’t bother even reading the back of the book, I just jumped in. I was not expecting what I got:
“‘I will never really leave,’ said the unicorn. Diamond sparkles floated from the tip of its glittering silver horn. ‘I will always live in your heart'”
I swallowed the bile rising in my throat and forced myself to continue reading.
“Then the unicorn turned and galloped away, its fluffy pink tail swinging merrily as it spread its iridescent wings to the morning sunshine.”
Oh, no. Not wings, too.
“Every time the unicorn’s lavender hooves touched the earth, a tinkling like the chime of a thousand fairy bells floated back toward the children.”
Having just read a story about man-eating unicorns, this was not at all what I expected to find on page 1. I closed the book, walked away for a few minutes, then came back and gave it another go. This time, I got what I was expecting.
Astrid Llewelyn never thought her mother’s crazy stories about unicorns were true. When one attacks her boyfriend in the woods, she has no choice but to believe. Unicorns– previously thought extinct, even by her mother– are back with a vengeance, and Astrid will learn much more about her heritage than she ever knew.
Before she’s really had time to process, Astrid — a descendant of Alexander the Great, and thus a hunter– is on her way to Rome to study unicorn hunting at the Cloisters of the Order of the Lioness. Of course, since the last unicorn was killed several hundred years before, the Cloisters have fallen into disrepair, but that might be the least of their worries. Other hunters need to be found, a task which is easier said than done, as they must not only be descendants, but they must also be virgins (a rarity in teen girls this day and age.) Astrid (and the other girls) must learn to fight like true unicorn hunters, or they will die.
I loved this book. I was totally a unicorn girl when I was little. Our games would go something like: “I’m a princess, and I have a unicorn who’s sky blue with sparkly pink wings and purple mane and tail and her horn is silver and she’s super special because she’s a unicorn princess… … … etc etc etc” A few hours later, when we were done describing our unicorns, we could get to playing our game. I’m not sure I ever really outgrew that phase. I do love that this manages to be completely unexpected; who would think of unicorns as carnivorous and evil? I know I wouldn’t have. I also love the modern setting because Astrid’s disbelief mirrors the reader’s own.
Astrid manages to grow from the beginning to the end, and she transforms into a true warrior. She’s got her problems along the way, and she’s not always happy with her choices, but she keeps going. I really liked that about her.
With what can only be called a unique approach to unicorns, Diana Peterfreund manages to make Rampant a special book about butt-kicking teenage girls. It’s firmly based in real mythology, and despite the fantastical beasts, feels like something a lot of teens could go through. It gets a 5/5 because it was that good.