This is not but a review of written fiction, including a review of the animated film based upon it I saw first. I'll attempt to reveal little of consequence with this review; I recommend both of them.
The author's website listed on the book is here.
I recommend viewing France's Unicorn Tapestries before experiencing the film, as it references them.
The book is a story of the titular unicorn searching for others of her kind. The story is concerned with knowledge; immortality, and holding it. The world is medieval, but littered with anachronisms, the mention of a train being the earliest and most obvious to me. Some of the characters call their goings-on a story, and talk as if they were mere characters, and this comes across so naturally that it may not be properly noticed at first. Many times, throwaway fairytales and events are mentioned, but this doesn't dilute the verisimilitude at all; instead, it serves as depth to make it more real. As I was writing my review, I'd intended to mention the unicorn comes across supernatural situations and foes, then recognizing how silly that was, but that's how well she is integrated with her world.
Before I began reading the book, I was concerned about its contents; reading is considered a largely solitary and intellectual exercise, but this is a modern mistake; even for one as disconnected as I, it's a social activity to learn of new books to read and whatnot. There is too much to read without guiding heuristics, such as chance; I only learned of it due to the film. The book's reputation was known to me shortly afterwards. I also write fiction, unlike anything I write here, guided by goals and constraints and purpose so different, and I worried over whether those markers of good writing I judge by would appear to me in the book, whether I would be left justified in using them or mistaken about what constitutes good writing. I have what may be peculiar standards for the fiction I write.
I was delighted to see aspects of my writing style reflected in the words and their arrangements. I saw myself, and much more, reflected in its pages; it has been a lesson, and I have learned from it.
I remove all dialogue I reasonably can, and the book uses the same techniques for elision of some of it: ````No,'' she said, answering his eyes.'' It's a shame such mechanism doesn't translate well to film. Other delights are as simple as separating a sentence into its lonely paragraph for emphasis. Some of the formatting of the book was new to me, particularly in capitalizing words in the midst of sentences to indicate quoted thoughts without any punctuation, and this has shown me of some variety all to easy to dismiss as unnecessary for say, language modelling, but I never dismissed it, and now this book is a counterexample for those who would. The book contains some very subtle references to other written works, introduced to then be immediately left, hard to recognize and so easily missed.
It's often advised to ``show, don't tell'' in fiction, to an absurd extent. I noticed many examples of this while reading. There are ideas which can't reasonably be communicated otherwise, and a good story is independent of such obsessive rigour; it's better to read a good book than a writing guide.
It's not sufficient to have an interesting idea; it must also be communicated in an interesting way. A story that could've been beautiful at nine pages can fail at fifty, or six pages at five. So many authors I've read literally lack style, writing the same as any other, with the ideas being the only distinguishing factor. The book contains so many smaller works within itself: poems, songs, rhymes. The repetition of some of them throughout the work builds their significance, or appearance thereof. This book is one in which I didn't understand all of the words, and so how fun and atypical, for me.
When I read fiction, I tend to build a detailed mental image of the world and its persons; my mental image tends to approximate faces and body types, but this isn't an issue. I noticed my mental image reflected the cartoon, less so with the architecture than the cast, in spite of myself. I recommend others use the opportunity to read the book beforehand and to have a more unique mental image by it.
I empathized with the unicorn, and her detached view of the world. I was disconcerted to see myself in King Haggard so harshly and so literally. I've felt the euphoria from so many accomplishments of mine I've worked so hard for die soon thereafter; I can only smile when thinking about a few things.
The film is very similar to the book, being what I had originally been enamoured with. Many things, particularly the relationships of several characters, are less confusing in the book, which has them perfectly clear; this is particularly true with the skull. The book has more detail and depth in, I believe, every respect; the book also contains more foreshadowing, whereas many of the events of the film go unexplained, in comparison, not that this is particularly felt. I enjoyed the ending of the film better than that of the book, however. The elision of magical words or of true descriptions of supernatural sounds is something no film can do better than approximate. An image is prized for its ability to show a moment in detail, words for describing the transitions between them, and music for what I'm too ignorant to put into words, perhaps for invoking unconcious feelings. An animation can encompass all of these and become gestalt. The songs of the film accomplish what words alone can't, and many pages of the book are summarized in minutes by them. I nearly cried during the first song.
I've not cried but rarely in adulthood, and don't cry lightly. Every few months or years I allow my delusions or other such things to hit more heavily, and cause me to weep; while watching part of the film again, so close to its end, I allowed this feeling to overtake me once again, and I wasn't sad.
In general, the book's dialogue is longer, more detailed, and better than that of the movie; follows is one instance in which I preferred the latter's dialogue, in the order of the book and then movie:
Follows are selected passages from the book, chosen for their beauty or whatnot even standing alone:
There are other aspects of the book I feel I should notice: the significance of that which shouldn't talk talking; how I didn't much care for the captain's part of the story overall; how the book notes male unicorns, whereas the film ignores them; the spider and the differences of the cat in the film.
I read the book without any music or other distractions. Having read this will have me read similar unicorn books. I anticipate reading the sequel, ``Two Hearts'', which I'll be reviewing separately; if I decide I don't like it, which I don't expect, I'll have no issue enjoying only the first story.
This is one of the few long works of fiction I enjoy experiencing more than once.