The Last Hunt: A fitting end to the Unicorn Chronicles

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsThe Last Hunt by Bruce CovilleThe Last Hunt by Bruce Coville

The fourth and final book in Bruce Coville’s THE UNICORN CHRONICLES  was published nearly twenty years after the first came out, and it appears that Coville sought to make up for this delay by making The Last Hunt more than six times thicker than Into the Land of Unicorns.

It’s impossible to start The Last Hunt without having the first three already read, as the story dives straight into the action with no preamble. At the end of Dark Whispers the world of Luster was torn asunder in order to provide passage for Beloved, a woman kept alive by the shard of unicorn horn in her heart who is determined to destroy all the creatures that she believes are responsible for her prolonged (and painful) existence. She arrives in Luster with an army of Hunters and a collection of young virgins, all trained to destroy any unicorn they come across, oblivious to the fact that their entrance into Luster puts the stability of that entire world into danger.

Meanwhile, Cara Hunter is sent by the Queen of the Unicorns to enlist the help of Graumag the dragon in their fight against Beloved. The protagonist of the past three books, Cara now shares the page-count with a variety of other characters, each with their own point-of-view chapters as well as their own goals and motivation. As such, it’s a rather crowded book, with plenty of characters vying for space, and Cara tends to get a little lost in the shuffle. The focus of the conflict also strays away from Beloved (a pity since the presence of so many Hunters opened up the possibility of several terrifying cat-and-mouse games) in order to focus on three god-like entities that have an entirely different purpose to achieve in Luster. Their introduction poses more questions than answers, and they become something of a deus ex machina as the plot goes on.

Essentially, most of the entire story involves various characters journeying from place to place and passing on information to each other. This is not necessarily a bad thing, as Coville has a lot of pieces in play throughout the three books leading up to this finale, but it does affect the pacing a little. With an array of unicorns, dragons, hunters, centaurs and humans all striving for their own personal goals, and the entire book set over the course of just five days, the sheer volume of the characters involved can get a little staggering, though the threads begin to weave together nicely as the conclusion nears.

Some of Coville’s ideas are striking, particularly the delvers: strange dwarf-like creatures that have a mysterious animosity toward the unicorns. Coville provides a rich background on their customs, language, and history, making them one of the most interesting parts of the book, though other bits of the story aren’t quite so fleshed out – we never really get a full understanding of the centaurs, or the “higher beings” that are responsible for most of the story’s background. There are little speckles of adult content here and there: allusions to sex and virginity, a couple of gruesome deaths, as well as a bittersweet ending that involves the demise of several main characters and a few ambiguous notes.

Cara remains a compassionate and intelligent young heroine, who undergoes a rather remarkable transformation over the course of the story. One of the major themes is that of fluidity: that people and relationships must change and adapt over the course of a lifetime if they are to survive and thrive. Those that seek to destroy are destined for misery, whilst those that reach out and explore new options hold the key to their own happiness. Coville remains true to these ideals when dishing out the fates of his characters, and though some aspects seem needless or unresolved (Cara’s father’s temporary blindness, the inclusion of the Queen’s Players) he maintains a good handle on the course of the story, even as it grows ever larger in scope.

I was reasonably happy with this ending – though I’m not sure I would be if I’d had to wait over a decade for it. There’s plenty happening on every page, with cliff-hanger endings for practically every chapter, and closure for most of the main characters and plotlines. New readers will be thankful that they don’t have to wait so long to get the complete story (as well as a short prequel to be found in A Glory of Unicorns) though it would be interesting to know whether those who have had to endure the long wait between publications found The Last Hunt to be a satisfactory ending. After all, the longer one waits, the higher one’s expectations rise.

The Unicorn Chronicles  — (1994-2012) Ages 9-12. A Glory of Unicorns is a collection of stories. The Unicorn Treasury is a collection of stories and poems. Publisher: This is the magical story of Cara, a girl sent on a mission by her grandmother to the land of the unicorns. Only Cara can protect the unicorns and their world from invasion.

Bruce Coville Unicorn Chronicles 1. Into the Land of the Unicorns 2. The Song of the Wanderer 3. Dark Whispers 4.Glory of Unicorns 5. The Unicorn TreasuryBruce Coville Unicorn Chronicles 1. Into the Land of the Unicorns 2. The Song of the Wanderer 3. Dark Whispers 4.Glory of Unicorns 5. The Unicorn TreasuryBruce Coville Unicorn Chronicles 1. Into the Land of the Unicorns 2. The Song of the Wanderer 3. Dark Whispers 4.Glory of Unicorns 5. The Unicorn TreasuryBruce Coville Unicorn Chronicles 1. Into the Land of the Unicorns 2. The Song of the Wanderer 3. Dark Whispers 4.Glory of Unicorns 5. The Unicorn TreasuryBruce Coville Unicorn Chronicles 1. Into the Land of the Unicorns 2. The Song of the Wanderer 3. Dark Whispers 4.Glory of Unicorns 5. The Unicorn TreasuryBruce Coville Unicorn Chronicles 1. Into the Land of the Unicorns 2. The Song of the Wanderer 3. Dark Whispers 4.Glory of Unicorns 5. The Unicorn Treasury 6. The Last Huntfantasy and science fiction book reviewsfantasy and science fiction book reviews


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REBECCA FISHER, with us since January 2008, earned a Masters degree in literature at the University of Canterbury in New Zealand. Her thesis included a comparison of how C.S. Lewis and Philip Pullman each use the idea of mankind’s Fall from Grace to structure the worldviews presented in their fantasy series. Rebecca is a firm believer that fantasy books written for children can be just as meaningful, well-written and enjoyable as those for adults, and in some cases, even more so. Rebecca lives in New Zealand. She is the winner of the 2015 Sir Julius Vogel Award for Best SFF Fan Writer.

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