I squeed out loud when I found out that I was approved for an ARC of this book through NetGalley. I loved The Last Unicorn. Loved it like only an 8-year-old girl with an *obsession* with unicorns could. I entered the world through the film, but it wasn’t too long before I read the book, and then again, and then again.
So, getting to read this little anthology was the highlight of my week. It’s also the first ever NetGalley book I’ve ever reviewed, and I’m super excited!
An odd couple patrols a county full of mythological beasts and ornery locals. A familiar youngster from the world of The Last Unicorn is gifted in magic but terrible at spell-casting. A seemingly incorruptible judge meets his match in a mysterious thief who steals his heart. Two old friends discover that the Overneath goes anywhere, including locations better left unvisited.
“He came draggling behind the old man: a tall, extremely thin boy with a perfectly unremarkable face surrounding a remarkable nose – someone else’s nose, it looked like, borrowed for the occasion – and the most striking pair of green eyes I’d ever seen. Not your shifty, undependable run-of-the-mill blue-green or gray-green: this pair were green as the deep spring forests, green as the icy, shallow tides of the northern land where I was born.”
Oh my god, guys. The imagery. It is so awesome!~
So, the first and most important thing that lead me right into being like “YES, NETGALLEY, I WOULD LOVE TO READ THIS BOOK” is that the green-eyed boy featured in the first story “The Green-Eyed Boy” is in fact, Schmendrick the Magician, last of the red hot swamis. A young Schmendrick, who has just started his apprenticeship with Nikos, a master wizard. We see Schmendrick’s clumsy attempts to work the powerful magic that he has right from the beginning. I loved it. Getting his origin story, so to speak, an outcast boy from a family that cares not a whit for him… even his name, from a Yiddish word that means something along the lines of “somebody out of his depth” as Beagle once put it, is a source of shame for him. Poor Schmendrick. I feel for him. What an amazing opener for this book of stories!
There are a few stories about unicorns in this anthology (surprise!), but they are all different kinds of unicorns.
For example, The Story of Kao Yu tells the story of a travelling judge who is occasionally helped out by a chi-lin, a Chinese unicorn. My Son Heydari and the Karkadann is a story about a wounded Persian unicorn, a karkadann – somewhat like a rhinoceros – being nursed back to health by a local boy.
It also has a bunch of fantastic stories in it that aren’t about unicorns, like The Queen Who Could Not Walk, which had a really fantastic reveal, and Trinity County, CA : You’ll Want to Come Again and We’ll Be Glad to See You! which is about a group of people that go in and rescue illegal exotic animals in Trinity County… only the exotic animals in this case, are dragons. Kaskia is a story about a middle aged man with a failing marriage who buys a strange laptop from his cousin and ends up instant messaging an alien with it. Music, When Soft Voices Die is a really cool story about a medical student in Victorian England who builds a machine that starts to pick up random voices, and it’s a bit of a mystery finding out what they are and where they come from. Really surreal and wonderfully written stories of all different kinds.
It was awesome from start to finish. Never samey, never boring. I loved the entire collection, and I’ll be honest here, I can only say that about 3 short story anthologies that I’ve ever read (including this one). So, there you go. 5/5 stars! 😀
Many thanks to NetGalley and Tachyon Publications for the advance reader copy of this book.