Thursday, September 2, 2010

Rampant

Astrid Llewelyn grew up being afraid of unicorns because of her crazy mother’s rantings of venomous, fanged, and violent unicorns that existed in real life. As a teenager, Astrid dismisses her mother’s stories as just a weird obsession and tries to lead a normal life. Her normal life comes crashing down when a small unicorn gores her boyfriend, Brandt. Unicorns are re-emerging everywhere and attacking innocent bystanders. Astrid’s whole life is taken away and she has to live up to her heritage as a unicorn hunter. Her mother sends her to Italy to train and hone her skills to have a better chance against the new wave of unicorns. Astrid has no choice but to go, since she’s a minor, but she doesn’t know if she wants to do this with her life or even if the unicorns should be forced into extinction. Can she even afford to think about these things when she and a handful of inexperienced girls are being constantly attacked by deadly unicorns?

When I first heard about a book about killer unicorns, I literally laughed out loud. It just seemed really silly and cheesy to me. Based on the summary on the flap, it looked like my initial description wasn’t too off the mark because it seemed that Astrid was an empty-headed valley girl who cared more about going to the prom than about her boyfriend who was just seriously injured by a wild animal. Needless to say, I wasn’t expecting much when I started Rampant. I was completely wrong and these things are really the only things I didn’t like about the book, none of which is about the actual story. Rampant turned out to be one of the best young adult novels I’ve read all year.

Diana Peterfreund is an excellent writer, choosing a strange, but undeniably unique premise and immersing the reader in her world. Astrid is a compelling character who transitions from normal teenager to strong, confident warrior throughout the course of the novel. Although her unicorn killing abilities border on mythical, her problems beyond unicorns are ones that many teenagers face. She is forced to pursue a path as a unicorn slayer only because her mother wants her to and, as a teenager, she really has no say in the matter. At first, Astrid frantically looks for ways to get out of it, just as any person would, but eventually comes accept that there are a limited number of people that can combat against these dangerous unicorns. To abandon the other hunters would be dangerous not only to them, but to humanity at large. Issues about sex and relationships are in the forefront, due to Astrid’s role as a unicorn hunter being dependant on her virginity, but the narrative avoids being preachy in any way. I was impressed that Peterfreund was able to intertwine real teen issues with her fantastic story.

Rampant was a really quick read because I couldn’t put it down. The Italian setting sets this book apart with its beautiful descriptions of museums and iconic landmarks. It also gave the book a link to Roman history, which was thoroughly researched and sometimes embellished upon implementing art, legends, and historical events. The ancient background contrasts with the modern setting and forces the unicorn slayers to try to find a balance between their destinies determined by fate and their modern right of free will.

Rampant is a surprisingly good novel that I would recommend to fans of fantasy and books with strong female characters. Its unflinching look at harsh realities and violence mixed with fantasy sets it apart from other YA fantasy novels. I can’t wait to read the sequel, Ascendant.

My rating: 5/5 fishmuffins


** Even though this is an excellent addition to the young adult fantasy genre,I still maintain that zombies are indeed better than unicorns. I will have many more zombie reviews to come, so never fear, Team Zombie! **

** This post is for Velvet's September Zombies. **

5 comments:

Mary Ann said...

Mary D.
a/k/a M.A.D.

That was a REALLY good review, Titania!!!! :D

Dang, I'm Team Zombie, too - but Rampant sounds so awesomely messed up that I'm adding it to my *must-read* list.

Giada M said...

Thank you for your review Titania! I already have this on my absolutely want list!*________*

Misty said...

One of the best you've read all year? Really. I almost bought this when it came out (purely on cover appeal, and because I'd been hearing good things.) but I didn't. And then I could have got an ARC of the next book at ALA -- but I didn't. Now I'm kinda kicking myself.

Vampires and Tofu said...

I REALLY need to get my hands on this one!

the epic rat said...

I loved Rampant to pieces - and I totally cannot wait for Ascendant. It was pretty awesome to say that I was reading about "killer unicorns" when my brother asked and get the strange look on his face!

I mean, "killer zombies" is redundant...but aren't unicorns supposed to be fluffy? Think again!

Glad you enjoyed the book!