Reviews of Unicorn & Dragon (1987)
Review by tempest_gypsy (2006-10-07)
"Unicorn & Dragon" is classified as a Young Adult read, but I feel that some younger readers might have difficulty with the complexities of both plot and characterization. This, however, does not in any way make for a bad book!
The book takes place in the somewhere in England, well after the Saxon conquests, but at the beginning of the Norman ones. The two main chracters, Alison and Wildecent of Hafwynder manor are commonly accepted as sisters, though no true blood tie runs between them. They are secretly appreticed to Lady Ygurna, last of the line of Priestesses of Avalon. When a young Norman man, Stephen, makes his way to their home after having been attacked by both two-legged and four-legged wolves, it sets in motion a series of events that change their lives, and the lives of all they love, forever.
I found the strength in the book was its commonality. The events described therein did happen, in their general shape to dozens if not hundreds of homesteads throughout England during that time period. The other most interesting thing, though I did not feel it was explored to it's best extent, was the difference between the magical systems. Both secret, witchcraft was tied to women, and the older ways. Sorcery was for the men, and a modern invention. Each system distrusts the other, leading to tragedy.
I didn't find any sort of coherent theme or moral to the tale. It wasn't even satisfactory as a coming of age tale, as the realization at the end did not seem to match the trials the girls went through. I always enjoy a historical tale that doesn't try to explain itself, just presents the culture, but the Saxon culture of ancient Britian is so different than a modern reader grown up on the romantic tales of King Arthur expects, a small amount of explanitory text would have been helpful.
End conclusion: I don't feel that I've wasted my time, but I wouldn't reccomend it unless you already have an interest in ancient Britian, or wicca.