Rampant, by Diana Peterfreund: flesh-eating, killer unicorns; virginal maiden warriors; lots of weapons, blood, romance, and cloisters.
Boy, I'm sorry I didn't read this a long, long time ago but the cover on my advance reading copy was just so horrible I couldn't bring myself to pick it up! Almost embarrassing to be seen with. Very much a cover that would be right at home on the grown-up romance shelves.
But a book I wish now was twice as long, and it is already a long book, a couple pages shy of 400. I picked it up at lunch yesterday and thought, "Yay! There is so much left to go!" I haven't felt that way about a book in a long time.
Okay, Rampant is about a girl named Astrid who is descended from the the Llewellyns, one of a number of tribes of warrior girls who rid the ancient world of the evils that are unicorns; nasty things, five different species from the tiny goat-sized zhi to the elephant-sized kakardann. All of which have pointy poisonous horns and slobbering fangs in their mouths. And, they are all willing to kill and eat the maiden hunters who are trained to track and kill the unicorns.
And they're back! It is 2010, Astrid is 16 years-old, the daughter of a woman who has been studying the Llewellyn's past and is convinced that unicorns were real and that Astrid's life may well end up a part of that history.
Astrid and her boyfriend are making out on a blanket outside in the woods when, just as he makes his move and then asks who she's saving it for, her skin starts to crawl and a rabid goat breaks out of the dark, goring first the boyfriend and then bowing down to Astrid. Astrid calls her mom first (her mom has a magic jar of something on the counter that might help) and then 911.
The contents of the jar are an ancient remedy that Lilith, Astrid's mom, received from the man who was Astrid's father and it helps to keep the boyfriend from bleeding to death, closing up the wounds that unicorn poison keep open.
Well, it turns out that unicorns are re-emerging from supposed extinction all over the world, and there is a call-out for virgin girls from the ancient lines of unicorn hunters to come to the Italian convent that was once home to Order of the Lioness (I think that's the correct name- can't find the reference now) to be trained to make the unicorns extinct again.
Rampant is filled with art and mythology, battles, good kissing, Alexander the Great references, Diana the Huntress stories....It's really good and I'm pretty sure there are story lines in here that don't have bows on top - can we hope for a sequel?
And, I must say that the finished copy of the book has a MUCH better cover!
Rampant would be a great read for 13 and up (for up-front sexual references and alcohol use). HarperCollins. 17.99. Available now. READ THIS BOOK!
MJ (Mary Jane Beaufrand, author of The River and Primavera): Thank you so much for raving about this book to me from the very beginning! If it weren't for you and your other great rec's, this book might well have languished at the bottom of the pile.
likes to read and write in Seattle. I've been primarily a children's bookseller most of my career and recently became an owner of Eagle Harbor Book Company on Bainbridge Island. I ride a ferry to work! Reading and connecting people to books is what I love to do. There's not much more to say: I read, I'm married, we have a cat...I see hummingbirds out the window. It is a good life.