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Well of the Unicorn by Fletcher Pratt
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Well of the Unicorn (original 1948; edition 1981)

by Fletcher Pratt (Author)

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426537,366 (3.61)9
Member:AuthorJamesAaron
Title:Well of the Unicorn
Authors:Fletcher Pratt (Author)
Info:Del Rey (1981)
Collections:Your library
Rating:****
Tags:None

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The Well of the Unicorn by Fletcher Pratt (1948)

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A young man is dispossessed of his family land and sets out to seek his fortune, then gets caught up in a war between a mean king and his overtaxed and unhappy subjects. He's a wizard, sort of, and 'helps' in that way, and then becomes a leader in the war.
Yeah, this one was pretty awful. The characters have absolutely no dimension whatsoever, and the plot of the rebellion and war is set out in absolutely painful dead-horse-beating detail. Just, NOPE. ( )
  electrascaife | Apr 8, 2019 |
This is my father's first edition of the novel by Fletcher Pratt, originally published as by George U. Fletcher,. I regard it as one of the greatest fantasy novels of the pre-LOTR era. It begins with young Airar being taxed out of the family homestead by the oppressive Vulkings, and ends with Airar emerging as the successful leader of a revolt against the Vulkings, Duke of Dalarna in his own right and husband of an imperial princess. The world in which this takes place is meticulously detailed, and the plot owes something to the career of Gustav I Vasa of Sweden, though the technology and social structure is more late medieval than eary modern (no guns), and some of the cultures are more ancient than medieval --the Vulkings themselves are in some ways a negative reflection of the Romans, while the Carrhoene mercenaries suggest classical Greek aristocrats --but somehow it all fits together very smoothly. Pratt provides a back history linking his story to Dunsany's King Argimenes and the Unknown Warrior (Argimenes is said to be an ancestor of the imperial dynasty of Pratt's society) but the "feel" of Dunsany's play is more a slightly satirtc version of a Biblical kingdom, complete with prophet, while Pratt's as noted has a later feel. Pratt's stry also has significant philosophical depth; the sacred well never appears 'on stage' but all the tals about it somehow suggest the peace and love that drinking from it provides are somehow less than what is promised; also, the magic which Airar (as a beginner) and his would-be patron Meliboe (as a master) sometimes practice is always difficult to do and often has unpredictable negative effects.
One bonus te frst editi0n has whch later b reprints lack is that while bit versions ave an overall map of the world, the first edition has little close-up maps of the scene of each chapter ( )
1 vote antiquary | Nov 17, 2016 |
See review of other edition ( )
  antiquary | Nov 17, 2016 |
When people think of the early fore-bearers to modern fantasy, Tolkien and his contemporary Lewis leap to mind. Their success overshadowed other contemporaries, now forgotten and overlooked. Fletcher Pratt among them (as proven by the fact that the recent reprint I own has a picture of Tolkien's world on the cover).

Shameful, especially since The Well of the Unicorn stands alone as an individual story.

After Airar Alvarson is evicted from his homestead, he falls into the company of the sinister magician Meliboe, who requests he take a message to a group of conspirators in the city of Naaros. The conspirators have plans to overthrow the Vulking rule, which slowly strangles the land with heavy taxes and slaves. Airar finds himself swept up in the campaign, and the setbacks, hardship, plans, arguments, battles and successes that follow.

It took a fair few chapters to get started, this novel. The writing style is slightly archaic and stilted, and many characters and places are introduced in the beginning that are hard to keep track of. But soon enough, the good begins to outweigh the bad.

For a fantasy novel, there is very little actual magic involved in the story; cameos from sea-demons and a grotesque worm, the spells that both Meliboe and Airar cast (and whose effects are felt rather than seen), and the ever-mentioned Well of the title, that "grants peace to all who drink there." Though it may not be a peace others would wish for...

The story is mostly a detailed world (rest assured, you will definitely need the map included!) and a campaign with a wide cast of characters. On the level of story and world, I'd be hard pressed to name a more sensible novel than this. Fletcher Pratt was a historian as well as a novelist, and that is clear throughout the book. The world is based on medieval Scandanavia, detailed and minutely thought out. I'm not one who finds war scenarios very interesting, but I got so wrapped up in this story that the siege of Os Erigu became a page-turner.

On another level, this story works because it is character-driven and human. I know I'll not soon forget the rough-mannered, quick-tempered Star-Captains of Carrhoene, or the rash but loyal Rogai, forever changing his tune. But the real star is Meliboe, who defies the public image of the gray-bearded enchanter by being philosophical, laid-back and helpful while acting under ambiguous morals and never failing to come across as utterly sinister.

The third level of this story, after the fully realised world and plot, and the human aspect of the characters, is the philosophical undertones. Many times in this novel, when Airar has a question about right and wrong or the consequences of some action taken, he turns to Meliboe. Other moments abound, as the characters talk amongst themselves often. It is hard to pinpoint this third level in any way. It's simply there, and it made me think.

If it wasn't for all the characters, the other aspects by themselves would make for a dry read. But the people inhabiting this world are realistic, with many levels to them. And they defy some expectations; Airar is lucky and clear-headed, he's a good judge of people, but he does not have all the answers. Battle plans are often come up with by others and so it feels that he is fallible. Airar may be the hero, but he does not hold all the cards, which is quite refreshing.

One flaw does appear at the climax. Various characters and plot threads are not tied off properly, and the last few chapters have a rushed feeling that disappointed me. Some issues were perfectly handled, but there were many that did not come full circle as I had hoped and the ending was a little abrubt.

Despite that, this is a fine example of the fantasy genre, more serious and mature than most I've come across. It turned out to be a real page-turner once I became acquainted with the cast and the narrative. To me, this is unfairly forgotten and I'm glad it's back in print at long last. ( )
4 vote nymith | Jan 2, 2009 |
http://www.fireandsword.com/Reviews/wellunicorn.html

Fletcher Pratt may be better known for his naval wargames than for his work in science fiction and sword and sorcery. If so it’s a pity. In The Well of the Unicorn Pratt created an epic fantasy with a hard-boiled attitude toward war, politics, and sex.
1 vote DaveHardy | Dec 27, 2006 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Fletcher Prattprimary authorall editionscalculated
Hildebrandt, GregCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Hildebrandt, TimCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Palacios, RafaelCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Savage, SteeleCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Sweet, Darrell K.Cover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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When young Airar Alvarson is evicted from his farm for non-payment of taxes, he sets out to make his own way in the world. Charged by the sinister old enchanter Doctor Meliboe with delivering a message to a secret band of conspirators, he finds himself caught up in a plot against the ruling military caste. His life becomes a whirlwind of action, colour and conflict as he first falls for the passionate girl-soldier, Evadne, and then is forced to head up a desperate rebellion against the country's rulers. Colourful characters and swashbuckling adventures abound as Airar makes his way from adolescence to manhood.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0575072679, Paperback)

Book is NEW. No remainder marks. Gift quality. Same day shipping.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:18:38 -0400)

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