Wednesday, October 27, 2010

CR Book 27: Rampant by Diana Peterfreund

My final entry in this year's CR (it ends in November, right?) was crap. Utter crap.

So... I was drawn to this book after I heard the basic premise. Two words: "Killer unicorns."

Sounds awesome, right?

Astrid Llewelyn is a sixteen year old girl who dreams of becoming a doctor. She's a typical teen girl, caustically sarcastic, constantly fending off her boyfriend's advances and fighting with her mother. She and her mother Lilith don't see eye to eye on most things, the biggest of which is her mom's firm belief in the existence of unicorns. But these aren't your typical, fluffy, friendly unicorns, the kind you might see Robocop riding. No, these are the venomous, snarling, bloodthirsty beasts Robocop probably wishes he could ride. And according to Lilith, Astrid is descended from an Order of unicorn hunters known as the Order of the Lioness, which extends back to Alexander the Great's descendants. Astrid, naturally, believes her mother is loopy and that unicorns are mythical.

Then, one night, as Astrid is trying to keep her boyfriend out of her pants, they're attacked by a wild unicorn. Astrid calls her mother in a panic after the boy is mortally wounded, and Lilith arrives with something called "the Remedy," which is somehow extracted from unicorns and has magically healing abilities. Not long after the attack, Lilith informs Astrid that the unicorns are reemerging, and the Order must stand once more to fight... which means Astrid will be moving to Rome post-haste to live in a Cloister and train to be a hunter.

Yup, a Cloister. Because only virgin girls can fight unicorns. They are drawn to the girls because the girls possess a "potentia illicere," which the author never bothered to explain and my Google-fu tells me that it roughly translates to "alluring power." So, magic. Or whatever. Unicorns like 'em pure, apparently.

So Astrid goes to Rome, meets the other virgins who have been sent to the Cloister, and tries to amp herself up to devote herself to fighting unicorns. It's not as easy as it sounds, though, as unicorns possess super healing abilities - you basically have to cut off their heads or cut out their hearts to get them to die. And Astrid feels like her mother has forced her into this life, which she basically has, and tries to find a way out. The most obvious way? Lose her virginity. Enter Giovanni, an American going to school in Rome. Will Astrid give in to temptation? Or will she stay true to her calling and protect the world from the scary horsies?

Should you even care? Not really.

My first gut reaction to reading this book was, Look, another lame attempt to cash in on the supernatural craze kicked off by Twilight! Seriously. I think when Stephanie Meyer finished her last novel, she created this vortex of Suck that could only be filled by more Suck, and that's how this book ended up getting published. This one WAS published in 2009, but who knows, maybe it was kicking around before Twilight hit the presses.

Look, I'll be honest. I really wanted this book to be one of those so-bad-it's-good novels. But it's not. It's just BAD. Astrid is insufferable (rather like whiny Bella); she bitches and moans about everything. The unicorn stuff needed to be totally balls-out crazy, and the creatures needed to be terrifyingly scary, but the author kept undercutting their fearsomeness, like by giving the girls a pet unicorn named Bonegrinder who sounded rather adorable. The book kept forgetting its own rules and tripping up over details. For instance, regular people (aka not hunters) can't see unicorns because they're unable to see magical things. But then Giovanni is able to see them and it's never really addressed why he can or why the Don of the Cloister can as well. And then there's a whole subplot about the Remedy that goes nowhere until it's conveniently mentioned again at the end of the book, perhaps setting up a sequel (oh let's hope not).

I don't think this one is going to catch on like Twilight did. I just don't think the world wants scary unicorns. And I can't blame them. Now if you'll excuse me, I have a book to donate to Goodwill.

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