The Unicorn Anthology

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 12 Aug 2019

Member Reviews

I was lucky enough to receive a digital proof of this and my inner little girl was squealing when I was. Unicorns have been a favourite of mine for the longest time, and I was always sore that they were never featured in fantasy as often as dragons. Like, these beautiful babies are cool too?!

I enjoyed these stories and was surprised that most were set in a more modern setting, I was going into it expecting knights and castles and other medieval period settings. Despite this, it was definitely an interesting take and I was mostly pleased with it.

I only had to bypass a one or two stories where the writing didn't really click with me, or I wasn't engaging with the story and just decided to move on. 

Other than that, it was enjoyable and I enjoyed getting introduced to new authors, as well as being introduced to some I'd heard lots about but hadn't had the opportunity to delve into previously.
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Because who else but the author of The Last Unicorn would you ask to (co-)edit an anthology on this theme? In his introduction Beagle works his way around from vague exasperation at forever being associated with unicorns, to confessing he's loved them at least since he was four and is awed by them still. But they do have that slight problem that, while endlessly fascinating as a symbol or an image, there aren't ever so many stories you can tell around them, and those which do exist fall into certain categories such as to make a single-topic anthology feel prone to repetition. Whether you're in a classic historical-fantastic setting, the modern world, or a demon-haunted noir New York, the unicorn represents purity. It may redeem or be despoiled, or some hybrid of the two. It can bring justice, forgiving or fatal or merely poignant. That old, awful notion of the unicorn hunt can be used to dig into patriarchy (or as in one story here, matriarchy, which of course is not necessarily any kinder to young women's sexuality), or simply to remind us of the human knack for betrayal in the cause of power and profit. But aren't those all parts of a whole, variations on a theme even tighter than you'd find in an anthology where every story is meant to be about dragons, or swords, or vampires? Indeed, one of the stories at the outer limit of inclusion feels more like a vampire story, as a unicorn tattoo keeps its bearer alive and vigorous, but only at a price. Others are more ghost stories with a unicorn motif, and Beagle's own contribution is a borderline cheat, centring as it does on a regional variation of the myth which is clearly a rhino, and every bit as ornery as that suggests. One of the most successful of the variorum efforts comes from Caitlin R Kiernan, a writer I'm only recently and gradually forgiving for her run on The Dreaming, whose story here largely won me over with her horribly innovative use for the unicorn's precious horn – though I did cavil a little at how its powers still function even when it's entirely coated in another material. Still, it's not that any of the other pieces are bad per se; Jane Yolen's in particular is absolutely beautiful. It's just that even a few months was too short a span in which to read them all without a degree of frustration at the growing overfamiliarity. And that was largely down to my having it as a Netgalley ARC, with politeness imposing a certain obligation not to take too long about it. If you like unicorns, get yourself a copy without that worry, and dip into it every so often over a few years, I think you'll enjoy this. Me? Well, I suppose I got my own lesson about trying to grab hold of unicorns without pure enough intentions. Consider it well learned.
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This anthology of sixteen tales portrays unicorns in a way you may not have experienced before. When as an author you're typecast by a popular character, it can make writing challenging. Such is the experience of Peter S. Beagle, the unicorn guy. Thus his introduction is one of the most enjoyable, insightful, and "life is humorous" ones I've read in years. Even more so for me as my introduction to his work was not with The Last Unicorn, but with another tale, Summerlong. It sets the tone for a wonderful anthology of stories by many well known names in fantasy. Each takes the bright shiny virgin and a white unicorn story and examines it in a different and unique way. While they have all been published previously, not all are easy to access today. This is an enjoyable collection for those looking for different stories of unicorns.
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This collection of previously published stories offers a wide exploration of style and theme, far more than one might expect in a collection of stories about unicorns. In these stories, you can find interdimensional travel, time travel, noir mystery, unicorn riding competitions, and a grifter with a heart of gold, a zombie queen, and an American soldier in the Vietnam War, to name a few. These are modern takes on the unicorn myth, and I enjoyed the variety in them.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, there is a lot of sexual content in these stories, often subverting the virgin aspects of the unicorn mythology. Other stories touch upon other aspects of unicorns' affinity for purity, whether it's magical healing or purifying water.

My favorite stories were "Survivor" and "The Highest Justice." "Survivor" follows a young Vietnam soldier who gets a unicorn tattoo, only to discover that it protects him from death, at a terrible cost. "The Highest Justice" follows a princess and her undead mother, traveling with the unicorn who continues to revive the dead queen, on their way to confront the dissolute king.

Content warning: rape and racial slurs, in multiple stories
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[I received a free e-copy of this book from NetGalley for review purposes.]

I’ll begin by saying that I loved the introduction to this collection. I know introductions and forewords are not everyone’s cup of tea, and many skip over them, but I found this one to be candid, honest, earnest and a little bit funny. There seems to be a bit of chagrin concerning the common plight of the author who ends up pigeon holed, tagged, and classified by just one (the most popular) of their works. In this case, of course, The Last Unicorn. Lovingly, but still. 

The stories within really play with the various ways that the aspects and attributes of a unicorn can be interpreted. The unicorn as : something pure, innocent, wild, naïve, lawful good, sinister in its relentless immortality, cruel, lovely, whimsical and more. There’s little humor to be found in this book, but there is quite a bit of satisfaction, and several stories fall within the theme of ‘be careful what you ask for’. Always a fun theme. Bonus points for some great stories featuring lesbians, and not just the tragic sort (I am oh so tired of the tragic lesbian love trope, where are my happy lesbian ladies? Why does it always have to go badly for them eh?! But not here! There is at least one happy lesbian tale and honestly, this one did give me a bit of a chuckle). If you like anthologies, this is a good one, with a broad variety of approaches to a theme that could easily become trite or repetitive. Instead you’ll be treated to a refreshing selection of interesting tales.
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Peter S. Beagle tends to be thought of - as he tells us in his introduction - as "the unicorn guy", because of his best-known book. That's not how I think of him, though. I think of him as a lit-fic author who uses fantasy tropes, but whose books tend to be dark and tragic, with imperfect people messing up their lives by their bad decisions and turning a potentially wonderful world infused with magic into something sordid and unpleasant. 

And that is pretty much what this anthology gives us, which is why I couldn't finish it. All of the stories, as far as I read, are well written (though, as usual, Caitlin R. Kiernan needs more copy editing), but they pretty much without exception take the unicorn, symbol of purity and innocence, and show it being corrupted in some dark, nasty way. 

DNF not for quality, but for taste. It's as if a gourmet chef has, with great skill, prepared a unicorn's liver for me. I can admire the technique in the abstract, but I don't want to eat it.
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The Unicorn Anthology is a collection of 16 pieces of short fiction by some literal titans of speculative fiction. Every single story in this collection is top-shelf, there are no weak stories. All of these have been published previously and date from 1975-2017. Many of the older stories are quite difficult to find and several were new to me in any form.

Due out 19th April 2019 from Tachyon, it's 288 pages and will be available in ebook and paperback formats.

One reason I prefer collections and anthologies is that short fiction is really challenging. It's spare and the author doesn't have a wealth of wordage to develop characters or the plotting. Well written short fiction is a delight. I also love collections because if one story doesn't really grab me, there's another story just a few pages away. I can only recall a few times where I've read a collection (or anthology) straight through from cover to cover. This one I did. I even re-read the stories which I had read before.

I won't precìs all the stories, and all are strong, but there are a few true standouts:

My Son Heydari and the Karkadann by Peter S. Beagle is a first person story in the form of an anecdote. Based in both folklore and Persian oral history, it's a twisty tale that kept me guessing completely to the end. The nuance and flavor of the storytelling is amazing and I am utterly in awe of Mr. Beagle's command of the form. Just a really superlative story. This one was also included in The Overneath reviewed on my blog.

The Transfigured Hart by Jane Yolen. Part fable and part coming of age. This one is a modern story and in a way is all about perceptions and consensual reality (what things actually are depends on how we perceive them). I adore Ms. Yolen's writing and this story is gentle and wistful and beautifully written. I believe I had read this one years ago, but had forgotten about it for a long time. Such a melancholy piece.

Ghost Town by Jack C. Haldeman II. A grifter gets a rare chance to change the path he's on. I really loved this one even though it's more or less straightforward fiction with the slightest touch of magical realism. It's an upbeat and very well written story.

Just a really super collection of short stories.

Five stars
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The Unicorn Anthology falls outside my typical wheelhouse. Almost everything I read is tied one way or another to history which means I’m as surprised as anyone over my decision to read an anthology rooted in fantasy and myth. 

Having said that, I found the experience of this collection unexpectedly enjoyable. I liked some of the stories more than others, notably “The Magical Properties of Unicorn Ivory” by Carlos Hernandez, “A Hunter’s Ode to His Bait” by Carrie Vaughn, “Survivor” by Dave Smeds, and “Homeward Bound” by Bruce Coville, but appreciate the book as a collaboration of unique and creative voices. 

As a footnote, I think it important to mention that while the collection itself is new, none of the stories it contains are unique to this volume so it is highly likely that fans of unicorn lit will find familiar stories between these pages.
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I love how this whole anthology was put together. The stories are emotional yet light hearted. Fantastic job!
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Che ci faccio io con in mano un'antologia pluriautore (che non amo) sugli unicorni (che non amo particolarmente)?

Semplice, cedo al richiamo di alcuni dei nomi citati: Jane Yolen, Patricia McKillip, Margo Lanagan, Peter S. Beagle, tutti già visti su queste pagine.

Che vi devo dire, agiscono su di me come una fanciulla innocente su un unicorno - almeno così dicono le leggende.

E se, infatti, la raccolta si è prevedibilmente rivelata una lettura nel complesso media, e sono rimasta delusa nel vedere che il contributo di Jane Yolen era The transfigured hart, splendido ma che ho letto e recensito di recente, la favola crudele di Margo Lanagan (A thousand flowers), l'ariosa immaginazione di Patricia McKillip (Unicorn triangle) e, sopratutto, il sorprendente, esilarante racconto di Peter S. Beagle (My son Heydari and the Karkadann) vangono eccome la lettura.
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With this bevy of authors, you CAN"T go wrong, but my personal favorite I will admit was Jane Yolen and Carrie Vaughn. I REALLY REALLY want those two to be full length novels. Overall, what a fantastic collection of both stories and authors and the adding of Coville, someone I wouldn't normally read, was fantastic.
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The Unicorn Anthology by Various Authors. This looked to be a good book of short stories but sadly did not live up to any of my hopes. Some of the short stories are better than others but most fall in the mediocre range sadly. Read at own risk.
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Peter S Beagle’s The Last Unicorn is one of my favourite books of all time so I was thrilled to receive an arc of this unicorn anthology which he curated. As with almost all anthologies, there is something for everyone but like all anthologies, not everyone will like every story. Some of these were distinct 5 star reads for me and some were not. I don’t want to dwell on the ones I didn’t like. I will say it was a great mixture of styles and talents and interpretations of the theme. Some of my favourite fantasy authors contributed to this collection, including Carrie Vaughn, Garth Nix and Karen Joy Fowler. It was a beautiful collection with several true gems.
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As person who really likes unicorns I thouht I would love this anthology, but honestly, not so much...
The book offers a compendium of different unicorn tales, collected by Peter S. Beagle. All the tales offer a different looks at these mythical creatures, from being hunted to extinction for the power of their horn like rhynos, to having the horns used to craft dildos, to different types of stories. On one hand, is nice the book collects this different array of stories, as it offers a mix of differents ways to see a unicorn, and different ways in which people relate to it, but on the other hand i just confirmed again that books of short stories/anthologies don't seem to work well with me on the majority...
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The Unicorn Anthology, edited by Peter S. Beagle & Jacob Weisman, is a collection of seventeen stories starring the mythical beast with a magical horn.. A mixture of contemporary fiction, urban and classic fantasy - this is an anthology that will peak the interest of many readers, particularly those who are entranced by the myths of the unicorn. 

Readers will note that among the seventeen stories are some by well-known fantasy authors, including Garth Nix and Jane Yolen - and the introduction is written by editor Peter S. Beagle, who wrote the famed The Last Unicorn. The stories themselves are not for the faint of heart, with many exploring the dark side of unicorn lore in vivid detail. This is not a collection for young lovers of unicorns, but rather for the adult reader who wants to delve deeper into the complex heart of a beast who is both beautiful and violent, entrancing and frightening. There is a strong sexual nature to some of the stories as well, which explores the connection unicorns have to virgins and the feminine - often ending in violence and bloodshed. 

As is often the case with an anthology, there were some stories that held my attention and others that did not. The ones that I enjoyed most were - The Highest Justice (by Garth Nix), The Transfigured Hart (by Jane Yolen), The Lion and the Unicorn (by A.C. Wise) and The Unicorn Series (by Nancy Springer). All of these stories, though written in contemporary prose, maintain a classic fantasy feeling - with the last being written as a prose poem in eight stanzas. It is Springer's last vision of the unicorn, ultimately, that will remain in my memory from this anthology - a solitary beast with her pearl horn shining in the moonlight, disappearing into the mist over the meadows.
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Tachyon’s upcoming Unicorn Anthology seeks to revitalize the genre of horse-girl literature while also proving that unicorns aren’t just for little girls anymore. Needless to say, I was delighted in being given an opportunity to read and review it, and for that I have to thank NetGalley. 

The stories within tend to vary a fair amount, from the traditional high fantasy to things a bit darker and a whole lot stranger. While I wish the works as a whole could have pushed the boundaries of what is and isn’t a unicorn a bit more, perhaps included some more diversity in cultural views of the unicorn, overall there’s a pretty good spread, if all fairly confined to the fantasy genre. 

Unfortunately, many of them aren’t new stories, though they may be new to you. They come from other anthologies, and for the unicorn-savvy reader, that means reading a lot of words you think you’ve seen before. That’s not to say they aren’t strong stories, but rather, that they may not be as fresh as you would imagine, which can be disappointing when backed by Beagle’s strong name. 

Particular stand-outs for me were: “The Magical Properties of Unicorn Ivory,” a story about conservation and the thirst for more, some new magical panacea, centering conservation and unicorns in a way that I wish I had written. 

“Falling Off the Unicorn” was about unicorn dressage and young love between two teenage girls- what is virginity anyway? 

“The Maltese Unicorn” is perhaps the raunchiest story, centering around a black dildo with rather unusual properties that may or may not be made of unicorn horn. 

I still think it was a fun collection, and the unicorn fan in your life will enjoy it as long as they haven’t read too many other anthologies. It was rather hit-or-miss though, not quite sure where it was going to fall thematically.
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Lots of people will buy this book, in part because of Peter Beagle's name. But they shouldn't. And it's a damn shame that Tachyon has pushed Beagle to co-edit it and write an Introduction. As his Introduction states, eloquently and bitterly, Beagle has become "the unicorn guy." It's not what he wanted; he thinks his best work is still his first novel, the ghostly romance A Fine and Private Place. But he's been hemmed in by the unicorn-lovers and especially those who would capitalize on them. This book is an attempt to do just that--cash in on the unicorn-lovers, who may or may not know Beagle's views on the matter. A lot of these stories are good, but many of them are from other, readily available anthologies, such as Zombies vs. Unicorns, which is very-well represented here (by which I mean: just go read Zombies vs Unicorns instead of this book). 

I won't even get into the problems of all of the pieces in which "virginity" is given actual consideration in the course of the story. 

Leave Beagle alone. Go read his unicorn book, and his other books, and the other books that this anthology borrows from. But don't keep asking him to be "the unicorn guy" anymore.
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3.75 out of 5 stars

Thanks to NetGalley for providing me with an ARC in exchange for an honest review. 

Yay! I made it 55 books this year. I'm ecstatic. I'm glad this was my last book of the year. I actually received a beautiful unicorn necklace for Christmas from my mom. 

This is a collection of short stories. 

The Magical Properties of Unicorn Ivory by Carlos Hernandez was a completely plausible (or almost) explanation of how unicorns came to inhabit the land of our friends across the pond. It's also a sad and gruesome tale of what would most likely happen if a unicorn were ever to be discovered. A cautionary tale. 

The Brew by Karen Joy Fowler was a wistful tale of two kids with a plan to break into an old, drunk man's basement that results in a story that branches out into their own. 
"Nothing is so beautiful as that which is about to fade."

Falling Off the Unicorn by David D. Levine and Sara A. Mueller was a completely unnecessary inclusion, in my opinion. One of my least favorite stories in the collection. 

A Hunter's Ode to His Bait by Carrie Vaughn was another cautionary tale of what men would do to lure unicorns, but with a twist: the maiden is willing and becomes bitterly obsessed with hunting unicorns. Will she fall in love ever? Will she and the hunter bag the legend among legends, the beastly, humongous unicorn?
"He did not fear. But he was getting old, finding himself wishing for some of the roofs he had shunned. Perhaps that is nearly the same as fear."

Ghost Town by Jack C. Haldeman II was an eerily beautiful short about a particular town in the southwest that a wanderer passes through. 

A Thousand Flowers by Margo Lanagan was hard for me to follow. First, there were the typos (I understand...uncorrected proof), but then the first person narrator changed multiple times. It was all very muddled and confusing. 

The Maltese Unicorn by Caitlin R. Kiernan was a borderline erotic noir-ish story in which I realized that if this made it to the book, Mr. Beagle possibly hates unicorns. Or perhaps he hates the adults who clung to The Last Unicorn as a kind of wormhole to their lost, magic, innocent childhood. Or perhaps, like myself, it was simply a matter of not being able to stop reading the story, regardless of the sad aftertaste. 

Stampede of Light by Marina Fitch was a mysterious, heart-wrenching story of what happens to forgotten children. One of my favorites in the book. 

The Highest Justice by Garth Nix was a hopeful story about how justice may be served if there were unicorns in the world. Captivating, full with dead queens, bad kings, and witches. 

The Lion and the Unicorn by A. C. Wise was an ugly, brutal tale of what happens to human unicorns in the hands of lustful humans. Definitely my least favorite in the book. 

Survivor by David Smeds. I have to say, after reading this story, I Goodreaded David (Dave) Smeds and what else he's written and added a few things to my to-read list. A Brutal, beautiful story of a young man who gets a unicorn tattoo stateside while he's serving during the Vietnam War, and finds that he can't die. Unfortunately, this does not mean he cannot have his heart broken, and the immortality does not extend to those close to him. One of my favorite stories in the book. Perhaps my favorite one, period. 

Homeward by Bruce Coville was an interesting story about a boy obsessed with the horn his uncle says came from a narwhal. 

Unicorn Triangle by Patricia A. McKillip was about a unicorn turned into a girl. Wildly confusing, especially at the end. 

My Son Heydari and the Karkadann by Peter S. Beagle was a unique tale of a boy and an injured beast, and the tentative bond they briefly share. Told by the father after the fact, he is rough with the son, but is fascination and love for his son shines through. 

The Transfigured Hart by Jane Yolen was one of the more tender stories of an albino deer sought by two individual youths who come together to save it before hunting season opening day. 

Unicorn Series by Nancy Springer was a series of micro poetry thrown in at the end which I can only assume means that it was done to meet a page count quota. Some were good, but it was a bit disjointed.
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Thank you to NetGalley and Tachyon Publications for the eARC in exchange for an honest review!

I love horses, unicorns, mythology,  and anything by Peter S. Beagle, so I may be biased but fully enjoyed reading through this collection.

My first thought is to say that this is not a children's book!  I would see a unicorn on the cover and buy it for a kid or teen without thinking, but there is some surprising adult content and strong themes throughout. 

My favorite stories were "Ghost Town" by Jack C. Haldeman, and "The Transfigured Hart" by Jane Yolen.  They were well developed stories and packed a lot of character into a short work!  The forward was also a great read, I feel for him but Beagle will always be one of those unicorn guys!

Other stories felt half finished, such as Garth Nix's story where I was dying to know what he was doing with the male guard character.  Nix is a huge draw for any title or collection and while his story was altogether unique and disturbing, it just left me wanting more.

The publication date is a little far out so I will post the review on April 1st (I have a calendar) at

Thank you again for letting me review this title!
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This was a rather hit and miss collection of short stories featuring unicorns. None were what I would consider your "traditional" unicorn story and while that was not necessarily a bad thing, it was somewhat unexpected. Most of the stories I either didn't like at all or I didn't start to like them until at least half way through. Some of the standouts that I did enjoy where The Magical Properties of Unicorn Ivory, Falling Off the Unicorn, and A Hunter's Ode to His Bait which is the best story in the collection in my option.
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