Astrid has always thought her mother was crazy. Lillith believes in unicorns (though she says they’ve been extinct for over a century), and she believes that an ancestress of theirs killed the last one, because Lillith’s unicorns aren’t tame, fluffly creatures from storybooks, but rather, bloodthirsty, man-eating beasts.. She thinks that they come from a family of unicorn hunters–can you see why most people think she’s crazy?
When Astrid’s boyfriend is attacked by a unicorn, however, she’s forced to admit that perhaps ber mother isn’t as crazy as everyone else thinks. And apparently, despite her desire to just be a normal sixteen-year-old girl and not kill things, it’s Astrid’s destiny, as a virgin descendent of Alexander the Great, to hunt them down.
To fulfull this destiny, at her mother’s command, she joins the other unicorn hunters in Rome, at the falling-apart cloisters that were the training grounds for hunters hundreds of years ago. In Rome, she encounters a number of unforeseeable mysteries and problems, as if she doesn’t already have enough to deal with, being a reluctant unicorn hunter and all.
Rampant is quite a departure from Diana Peterfreund‘s other books, and I love it. She’s a great writer, and, just as with her other books, I had a difficult time putting this one down! Astrid is a seriously awesome heroine, and the other characters are well-drawn and complex as well. Even though the book was obviously focused on Astrid, I think that we got a nice feel for the personalities of the other characters, too, which is great; I hate flat background characters.
The setting had enough of a presence to where it felt like they were in Rome rather than suburban Connecticut or something, which is definitely something I look for, loving settings as I do (would have enjoyed more of it, but this is not a travel book on Rome). I liked how the history of the city was woven into it as well.
This book also addressed what I was worried about: I am a huge animal lover, and even if they’re killing people, I have difficulty with the idea that we should wipe out a whole species. Luckily, some of the characters felt the same way, and it was discussed (though not resolved). There was also the moral conflict of killing the unicorns when a unicorn of a tamer breed was living at the cloisters, and was in fact quite cuddly; it was difficult to think about killing them all when the unicorn we saw all the time was like a puppy (around the hunters, not other humans), and I’m glad that this wasn’t taken too lightly in the novel.
The story itself has a fantastically unique premise (I challenge you to point me to another book about a girl who hunts killer unicorns, seriously), combined with engaging writing and wonderful characters, which all adds up to a book that you really should not miss. Even better? There are some unresolved threads to the story, enough to hint at a sequel (but not enough to make me angry and say this isn’t a complete story on its own), which I can’t wait for (even though this book isn’t out for several months!).
Five out of six windows: