Rampant, by Diana Peterfreund
Astrid Llewelyn has average 16-year-old girl struggles with boys, the pressure to have sex, and thinking her mother is crazy. But when her boyfriend is attacked by a unicorn, it seems that mom isn’t as crazy as she seems. Forget the fairy tale unicorns. The real unicorns are blood thirsty, man-eating monsters. And Astrid comes from a long line of unicorn hunters. When Astrid’s mother sends her to Italy to hone her blossoming skills as a warrior, Astrid is less than enthused. She isn’t sure that she wants to be a hunter, giving up her freedom to deal with constant danger and violence.
Peterfreund has done an incredible job of world-building a place of magical unicorns and virginal female warriors entrusted with protecting the world from the vicious creatures. As Astrid discovers, there’s a mysterious connection between the unicorns and the hunter’s skills. And the characters are completely believable – one girl’s struggle with her mother’s death and wanting revenge, peer rivalries, dealings with boys and sex, and the moral ramifications of hunting a species to extinction.
The story is gripping, from beginning to end. The author obviously did a lot of research into Italy’s history and architecture, as well as fighting and archery techniques. Astrid is a reluctant heroin, but has strong character, and does more than her share of growing through her struggles, both losses and wins. This young adult fantasy is a remarkable and fascinating story full of mystery, love, heartache, mysticism, adventure, and conflict. Utterly unique, this bizarre twist to unicorn lore has left me wanting more.