This book has a premise that is as awesome as the story itself. This book is about KILLER UNICORNS. Yes, you have read that correctly. Unicorns are not the fluffy white harmless creatures everyone thinks them to be. They are something entirely different. I quote:
"Unicorns are man-eating monsters.
They don't have wings, they aren't lavender or sparkly, and you could never catch one to ride without its goring you through the sternum.
And even if it somehow managed to miss you major arteries - and it never misses - you'd still die from the poison in it's horn.
But don't worry. My great-great-great-great-great-aunt Clothilde killed the last one a hundred and fifty years ago."
This is what sixteen years old Astrid has been told all her life by her unicorn-obsessed mother. She or course doesn't believe this nonsense, until her boyfriend is attacked by one. Luckily, he survives, but her chances of him taking her to prom are instantly eradicated. This confirms everything Astrid has been told all this time, and her mother sends her off to Rome to be educated in the reopened unicorn hunters headquarters.
If you think killer unicorns are awesome, you will absolutely love this book. Not only is the idea utterly amazing, the presentation is really good. Rampant has a solid plot, with more than enough lore to support the story. At first, the extensive background may seem a little bit overwhelming, but these pieces of information are so often referred back to that you will remember them without effort.
"This was the karkadann, the most dreaded and deadly of all unicorns. This was the creature of nightmares, the thing my family fought for so many generations."
I cannot stress the fact enough how utterly brilliant this book is. Astrid has made it to my top 3 most kick-ass heroines. I love that there finally is a girl in a YA novel that doesn't hide behind her crush at every sight of danger. She is truly self sufficient, and actually has to protect her crush from being hurt. I adore that she isn't dependant. It annoys me that almost all female characters seem to be nothing without their male counterparts.
This is at times a rather dark book. The unicorn hunting business is not at all without risk. Any of the girls could die in an ambush. More often than not there are at least a few broken bones after a fight. I think it's great that Ms. Peterfreund didn't gloss over the fact how horrible combat is. It isn't all honour and glory, it's frightening and a struggle for life and death. You can see that this takes a toll on the girls, as would be expected. But it must be done, and only the hunters can take unicorns down. They accept their duty with their heads held high and bows strung and axes raised.
"The kirin turned in our direction and lowered its head to charge. It was smaller than the one I'd seen before, barely more than a yearling, yet every bit as deadly. I froze, forgetting all Lino's archery lessons as the monster stared me down with its glowing, golden eyes."
It's not all about fighting and killing though. There is a clear message about growing up and learning how to make your own choices. The hunters must keep their virginity, otherwise they will lose their powers. This makes for a rather tough topic for the girls to cope with. They will have to make a choice between love or their obligations.
"I wasn't quite sure what kind of "unicorn crap" I could potentially pull off. You might lie about having lost your homework, but I wouldn't be able to pretend I'd killed a kirin if I hadn't."
This is one of those books you come across that you think is so great you can't stop talking about it. As you might tell from the abundance of quotes from this book, I obviously can't get enough of it. While I'm reviewing, I'm skimming through the pages again, looking for great passages. It makes me want to reread the whole book. While I just finished! *sighs*
Please read this. That way we can all squee together. There is also a sequel to Rampant, called Ascendant. I must have that book now!