Renee Reviews: Diana Peterfruend's - "Rampant"

Forget everything you ever knew about unicorns…
Real unicorns are venomous, man-eating monsters with huge fangs and razor-sharp horns. Fortunately, they’ve been extinct for a hundred and fifty years.
Or not.

I had been curious to read Rampant ever since I discovered that, in addition to featuring killer unicorns and teenage huntresses, it also explores the themes of female sexuality and gender discrimination, all under the guise of an epic fantasy adventure.

17 year-old Astrid Llewelyn is dismissive for years of the warnings and ramblings of her mother, who proclaims the existence of unicorns and Astrid’s lineage of unicorn-slaying. However, a seemingly chance and violent encounter with a unicorn one evening convinces her otherwise, and suddenly Astrid finds herself being shipped off to Italy, along with several other teenage girls, to ‘fulfil her destiny’.

Despite common associations nowadays liking unicorns to cuddly, cute, sparkly little critters, Diana Peterfruend appreciates the history of the unicorn as a mythological creature, and applies this knowledge by burdening her cast of female characters with a centuries-old destiny/duty to fight mythical creatures typically associated with the idea of “purity”. The innate and understandable struggle that arises for protagonist Astrid, and her young comrades, is effectively drawn and admirable in its influence on the romantic sub-plots of the novel, which for once are refreshingly genuine and credible. Astrid’s attempts at a relationship with Giovanni, for instance, begin (very realistically) not with any notion of ‘true love’ but with sexual attraction, which eventually leads to actual affection and trust, and a difficult path for both parties to navigate, given Astrid’s new ‘profession’.

Of course, there is plenty of action and excitement to appeal to readers as well, but for me personally it was the moral and social debates contained within the novel that made Rampant such a worthwhile read. The characters are also dynamic and interesting: while it’s true that there are simply too many young huntresses to get to know them all intimately, some, such as the intense Cory and the vibrant (and tragic) Phil, are intriguing in their own right. As for villains – let’s just say that the real bad guys of the narrative are not at all who you expect, and the unicorns, despite appearances, prove to be creatures of immense fascination and even empathy, rather than mere murderous beasts.

I loved Rampant so much that I immediately followed on to its sequel, Ascendant, which proved just as addictive and emotionally engaging (many tears were shed!) While at present there is, sadly, no plans for a third instalment, I highly recommend The Killer Unicorn series to anyone who appreciates a gripping yarn, some highly personable female characters, and themes that deserve more recognition in YA fiction.

Rampant – Diana Peterfruend

Harper Teen

ISBN: 0061490008

402 pages

August, 25th 2009

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