Rampant by Diana Peterfreund Book Review

Title: Rampant

Author: Diana Peterfreund

Publisher: HarperTeen

ISBN:  9780061490002

Astrid is about to learn that her nutso mother isn’t as crazy as everyone thinks.  Lilith firmly believes in unicorns, but they aren’t the sweet, serene beasts of popular fairytale.  Lilith’s unicorns are blood-thirsty, man-eating horrors, with poisonous horns, cloven hooves, and dagger-like teeth.  Lilith gave up a life of normalcy to research her terrifying unicorns, and she’s been planning for when they return to feast on humans again.  When Astrid’s boyfriend is attacked by a horned creature that looks suspiciously like a unicorn, her life takes a turn for the bizarre.  Lilith wants Astrid to claim her birthright as a unicorn hunter, and Astrid doesn’t have any say in the matter.  Shipped off to unicorn hunting school, Astrid learns that fairytales are real, love is a lie, and unicorns aren’t easy to kill.  Will she survive this crazy unicorn hunting boot camp?

What a wonderfully imaginative book!  Taking the myth of unicorns and turning it on its head, Diana Peterfreund weaves a tale of danger, romance, and betrayal.  Astrid is one tough young lady, and even when she’s staring down a rampaging unicorn, she stands fast and holds her ground.  Secretly mocking her mother for years, Astrid learns the hard way that her mother’s delusions about unicorns are all too real.  Stuck in the Cloister of Ctesias with gung-ho strangers who want to take unicorn extermination to new levels, Astrid just wants to go home again.  The place is a dump and the unicorns are out to kill her.  How could her mother have sent her here, to a life of celibacy and the threat of a painful death?

I love urban fantasies, and this is one of the best I have read.  Astrid is a typical teen tossed into a not so typical setting, and she relates her harrowing experiences in a clear, no nonsense voice.  She shares her doubts, fears, and most intimate thoughts, drawing readers firmly into her world.  She is desperate, she is afraid, and she just wants to go home.  Learning that losing her innocence is a fast pass to losing her hunter powers and is a one way ticket out of the Cloisters has her eyeing her new friend, Giovanni, with a mercenary attitude.  Is it worth throwing away her virginity to be released from the obligation of her bloodline?

Astrid’s world is vividly imagined, from the squalor of the Cloisters to her less than glamorous introduction to unicorn hunting.  Training to be a warrior is hard work, and battling to the death against rampaging monsters is worse.  No longer in control of her destiny, Astrid struggles to remain true to herself.  As her new circumstances unfold before her, she encounters intrigue and betrayal, and a strength she didn’t know she possessed.  Astrid snagged my imagination from the moment I met her, and made me remember how much fun reading can be.  This is a suspenseful adventure that draws on history and blends it with fable and romance.  Forget the sparkly unicorns of your dreams; these man-eating beasts are the stuff of deliciously intense nightmares.  Sweet dreams, baby!

Grade: A-