Tuesday, November 9, 2010


Astrid Llewelyn is a reluctant unicorn hunter. There aren't very many due to the fact that only descendants of Alexander the Great that are virgins are eligible for the task. Recruitment has been slow since many potential hunters make themselves ineligible for the job to avoid the danger that is being advertised in the news, mostly by Astrid's attention seeking mother. Astrid lives in a nunnery in Italy with her fellow hunters. She would rather be in a lab, trying to find a way to replicate the Remedy, a powerful cure for poisons and sickness. An opportunity arrises for her to continue her education when Gordian Pharmaceuticals, now led by Isabeau Jaeger, offers her a position guarding a herd of einhorns as well as tutoring, new clothes, a room in a mansion, and a way out of putting her life in danger every day. She accepts the job, but it's not as easy as it seems. Her ex-boyfriend, Brandt, is around her all the time, distracting her from Giovanni, her boyfriend going to school in New York. She also finds that her work with the einhorns isn't so easy when experiments are done on them as she grows to know and like them. Should she walk away and not be involved with the torture of these animals? Is it any different from killing them like she's been doing?

I was afraid that Ascendant would be a lackluster sequel to Rampant because the first book was so dynamic and compelling that maybe it was too hard to follow up with something better. I was pleasantly surprised and proven to be wrong. Ascendant turned out to be almost as good as the first. It has much more moral complexity than the first book. On one hand, unicorns are violent, wild animals that attack and kill humans. Unicorn hunters are people's only protection. On the other hand, unicorns are an endangered species and, as with all animals, they are aggressive because they feel threatened. There is also the added issue of animal testing and at what point is it considered unnecessary torture.

The first book pretty much stayed in Italy and the cloister where Astrid lives. This book widens that view to other countries and gives a nice look at how killer unicorns are effecting the rest of the world. Instead of being mocked or ignored, the hunters are finally being taken seriously after people witness the devastation that can happen when the creatures go unchecked. I also like the change of scenery to France with Gordian Pharmaceuticals.

Astrid is an excellent, strong female protagonist. Even though she makes mistakes that sometimes end up hurting her friends, she is still a sympathetic and relatable character. Although she is physically strong, she is also intelligent and has ambitions beyond slaying unicorns. One of my favorite things about her is that even though she's a peaceful person, she feels that it's her obligation to stay a hunter and fight to save human lives. It's easy to choose the selfish route, but Astrid stays a hunter despite her doubts. After reading books like Hush, Hush, Fallen, and Nightshade, it's refreshing to read a book about a girl who isn't defined by her relationship with a man and doesn't let men overpower her.

The pacing of the first half is a bit slow, with a lot of Astrid's angsty internal struggle to figure out who to trust and what is right and wrong. It was still enjoyable to read, but it went on a little bit too long for me. About three quarters through the book, a bombshell is dropped that really shocked me. After that I devoured the rest of the book quickly and I'm eager to read more. I've heard that a third book isn't planned at the moment, but I really really hope that another one gets written soon because I need to know what happens next. I highly recommend this series to anyone.

My rating: 4.5/5 fishmuffins

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