Final Ruling: 5/5 stars
Oh my sweet goodness, talk about ****magical****. This story is the fairy tale to end all fairy tales. It is magical, self-aware, quirky, breathtakingly lovely, mysterious, and just all-around wonderful. Not only does it read like a traditional fairy tale, but it feels like magic, it feels like childhood, it feels like everything a fantasy story should be.
The story follows the unicorn, later dubbed Lady Amalthea, who is the last of her kind. She searches relentlessly for the resting place of the rest of the unicorns, along the way picking up a ragtag group of supporters, who later prove themselves actually integral to her quest. She braves cruel people, being captured and displayed, evil kings, fiery monsters, and a lonely prince with a heart of gold.
Beagle creates a poignant and stunning landscape that still manages to echo with the dark despair of the people under the rule of King Haggard. The unicorn provides a glittering ray of hope, managing to bring light to everyone she touches. Regardless of this, nearly everybody that encounters her attempts to take her for their own, thus depriving the rest of the world of her magic. Even the prince, albeit unwittingly, keeps her prisoner with his stereotypically ‘prince-ly’ acts of heroism; however, what makes him different is that he did not intend to detain her, but instead to make her fall in love with him. This fact opens the door to the idea that perhaps love is its own type of prison. By the end, the prince, now the only ruler of his kingdom, does attempt to detain Amalthea, whose time as a human made her seek the imprisonment that she tried so so so very hard to avoid. But, in the end, he allowed her to go free, albeit after a stern talking to from Molly and Schmendrick, and I can’t help but think of a line from one of my favorite poems: “nothing gold can stay”.
The Last Unicorn is a breathtaking story about the true nature of love, the importance of friendship, the true nature of greed, and the true nature of people in the face of something truly beautiful.
I would recommend this epic and timeless fairy tale to anybody, young or old, who wishes to once again look at the world around them with wide-eyed fascination.