Thursday, September 26, 2013

Title: Rampant
Author: Diana Peterfreund
Narrator:  Luci Christian Bell
Series: Killer Unicorns, book #1
Length:  11 hrs 44 mins
Publisher: HarperCollins
Publication Date: February 27, 2012
Source: purchased audio
Purchase: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Audible

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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.

Astrid had always scoffed at her eccentric mother's stories about killer unicorns. But when one of the monsters attacks her boyfriend—thereby ruining any chance of him taking her to the prom—Astrid finds herself headed to Rome to train as a unicorn hunter at the ancient cloisters the hunters have used for centuries.

However, at the cloisters all is not what it seems. Outside, the unicorns wait to attack. And within, Astrid faces other, unexpected threats: from the crumbling, bone-covered walls that vibrate with a terrible power to the hidden agendas of her fellow hunters to—perhaps most dangerously of all—her growing attraction to a handsome art student ... an attraction that could jeopardize everything.

Wherein Jen Reviews a Book About Killer Unicorns

Sorry, couldn't help myself...that's how each chapter starts out:  Wherein Astrid blah blah blah.  It was repetitive but cute.

So, if you know anything about unicorns at all, you probably think a) that they're mythical and b) that they're these beautiful horses with a golden alicorn (that's what a unicorn's horn is officially called) atop its glorious head.  And you'd be wrong in both cases, at least according to Astrid Llewelyn's mother.

I adored the snarktastic ambivalence Astrid showed her mother regarding her predilection to research and track down any mention of the supposed mythical beasts.  But now that Astrid's boyfriend has been attacked by one of the beasts, it's up to Astrid to humor her mother and attend unicorn hunting school in Italy.  Hey, an all expenses paid trip to "The Eternal City" doesn't sound so bad.

Astrid is a descendant of Alexander the Great, who famously tamed a unicorn the size of an elephant as his loyal steed. As such, it is her duty to protect humanity from the killer unicorns that are plaguing the world, attacking innocents and just generally wreaking havoc.  At the cloisters, she meets other such descendants, some of which share her hesitancy to pick up the, erm, "family trade".  Others are very gung ho about the whole business.

I think when I read the phrase "killer unicorns", my mind immediately assumed this would be a fantasy story, with a contemporary vibe.  But it's more of the latter and less of the former.  I'm not complaining...I had a lot of fun listening to this one, especially last night while I was stuck in traffic for two hours.  But rather than focus on the fantastical, this novel focuses on the mythological aspect of unicorns, with special emphasis on the role of the virgin maiden and the magical and/or medicinal properties of the alicorn.

According to most lore, unicorns love them some virgins.  By nature, unicorns are apparently ferocious, feral beasts unable to control their bloodlust, but for virgin maidens, they will lay aside their lack of impulse control and can become almost like pets.  The Zhi in this novel are some such unicorns.  The rest, however, have no compunctions about killing a girl, virginity intact or otherwise.

There's a rape plot in this novel that removed one of the girls from the ranks of the unicorn hunters, and for the most part, I thought it was handled in an acceptable manner.  It wasn't written into the story just for the sake of added drama...the removal of choice in this instance played a big role in the girl's life as a hunter and as a young woman, and I thought it a valid storyline in addition to the actual hunting.  I just would have preferred that in addition to the consequences for the girl, the notifying of the police, the clinic visit, etc., we could have seen what happened to the guy, who abruptly went missing after the ordeal.  There's a reason for his absence, but I can't say for risk of spoilers.  I haven't started the second book in this series, so I can't say that we don't see a resolution to this in it, but I'm still waiting for a confrontation, especially considering the circumstances regarding the deed.

Anyway, that aside, the book is fun.  The narrator was great...she sounded like an actual teenager and her emphasis on the sarcasm was perfect.  She had Astrid's snarky attitude down pat.  The narrator employed a variety of voices for different characters and somehow made a gaggle of girls all sound different.  My one complaint, though, would be that she made Astrid's love interest sound more like a surfer dude than the art history major he was by giving him such a laid-back voice.

Rampant is my first experience reading (listening to) a novel by Diana Peterfreund, though I'm also reading For Darkness Shows the Stars right now.  I'm slightly more impressed by that book, but I'm definitely impressed by the author's writing in general.  And the narrative voice in each book is totally unique to each story, further impressing me.  I've already got the next book in each series queued up on my reading and listening devices...seriously regretting how long it took me to discover this author!

About the author:

Diana Peterfreund has been a costume designer, a cover model, and a food critic. Her travels have taken her from the cloud forests of Costa Rica to the underground caverns of New Zealand (and as far as she’s concerned, she’s just getting started). Diana graduated from Yale University in 2001 with dual degrees in Literature and Geology, which her family claimed would only come in handy if she wrote books about rocks. Now, this Florida girl lives with her husband and their puppy in Washington D.C., and writes books that rock.

Her first novel, Secret Society Girl (2006), was described as “witty and endearing” by The New York Observer and was placed on the New York Public Library’s 2007 Books for the Teen Age list. The follow-up, Under the Rose (2007) was deemed “impossible to put down” by Publisher’s Weekly, and Booklist called the third book, Rites of Spring (Break) (2008), “an ideal summer read.” The final book in the series, Tap & Gown, will be released in 2009. All titles are available from Bantam Dell.

She also contributed to the non-fiction anthologies, Everything I Needed to Know About Being a Girl I Learned from Judy Blume, edited by Jennifer O’Connell (Pocket Books, 2007), The World of the Golden Compass, edited by Scott Westerfeld (BenBella Books, 2007), and Through the Wardrobe, edited by Herbie Brennan (BenBella Books, 2008).

Her first young adult novel, Rampant, an adventure fantasy about killer unicorns and the virgin descendents of Alexander the Great who hunt them, will be released by Harper Collins in 2009. When she’s not writing, Diana volunteers at the National Zoo, adds movies she has no intention of watching to her Netflix queue, and plays with her puppy, a Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever named Rio.

Find Diana:

Website | Twitter | FacebookGoodreads | Pinterest


  1. Wow. I never would have chosen a book with killer unicorns as the subject, but you've got me interested. I'm going to check it out! Thanks!

  2. When I hear "killer unicorns" I don't really know what to think, but this one actually looks decent. Thanks for your review!

  3. Now this sounds different and intriguing because it has my curiosity peaked. I really want to read her other series too. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

  4. OMG, this book sounds great! Killer unicorns indeed! Wishlist, here it comes.

  5. Killer unicorns, you say? I'm intrigued! What really makes me want to read this book is that you mentioned her snarktastic attitude AND the narrator captured it perfectly. I've tested a couple audiobooks, but grew quickly annoyed when the POV is sarcastic (which is good) but the narrator can't seem to hit it just right. Great review :)

  6. Well, you can't fault Diana for being avant-garde. Never would I imagine anyone else writing about these mythical beings. But that's basically what's stopping me from reading this book. Unicorns remind me of Rainbow Brite for some reason and I have this already-made (mis)conception that the novel would be juvenile. Lol. Killer unicorns though...

  7. ha I felt similarly about the titles for each chapter. Corny but cute. I recently read both Rampant and Ascendant and adored both of them. I've also read For Darkness Shows the Stars, and I actually found that I enjoyed her Killer Unicorns duology much more. It's fresh and just so very...different from all other unicorn stories I've seen. And I did love how Peterfreund clearly did her research and placed the unicorns in historical, religious, and other contexts.
    I hope you end up enjoying Ascendant just as much (I ended up loving it even more, to be honest). The one thing I will say, though, since you mentioned it in your review, is that there isn't much resolution concerning the rape in the second book either. Oh well. Still there are so many aspects of this book done well.


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