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. **