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Year of the Unicorn by Andre Norton
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6761122,328 (3.93)38
"Far from the besieged home of Simon and Jaelithe, in peaceful Norsdale, we meet Gillan, who longs to leave her dull life in a secluded country abbey. But when her wish comes true, she finds more than a little adventure. As she ventures out, not only is her life in danger, but also the power that lies within her, waiting to be discovered."--Container.… (more)
  1. 10
    The Crystal Gryphon by Andre Norton (Aldrea_Alien)
    Aldrea_Alien: Though not the same characters, this story expands the background of the war that brings Gillan to the Abbey and her subsequential decision to venture forth with the bridal group.
  2. 00
    Winter Rose by Patricia A. McKillip (cammykitty)
    cammykitty: I view Year of the Unicorn as a fantasy/romance, so here's another great fantasy/romance.
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» See also 38 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 11 (next | show all)
This story is almost like a fairy tale. But where the woman is taking an active role in choosing her future. To survive she must learn and grow a power that could get her killed if others discover its existence. ( )
  karidrgn | Aug 6, 2019 |
An intriguing telling of a familiar plot: maidens are given to mercenaries as payment for services rendered in battle, but in this version the mercenaries aren't quite human, and only one of the young girls has the ability to see beyond the illusions. Enjoyable but not predictable read. ( )
  fuzzi | May 16, 2018 |
I always remember loving this book - I love the first part, the last bit gets a little vague and wandery. Gillian taking action, Gillian pushing past being abandoned, those I like. And I like Herrel, too, though he's a bit low on self-esteem - Gillian has to point out where he's overcome the odds and the other Riders several times. So when Gillian becomes helpless, and they have to go wandering through a dreamscape, it gets annoying. The end isn't bad, though I derive more amusement from imagining the reactions of the Riders in the morning than from the actual events. And phooey on Hyron. This is my many-th reread - I have no idea how many times I've read it, though this is the first time in the last decade apparently. This was the first appearance (I think) of both the Dales and Arvon, which I prefer to Estcarp in this universe anyway. ( )
  jjmcgaffey | Dec 1, 2016 |
ORIGINALLY POSTED AT Fantasy Literature.

Year of the Unicorn, third in Andre Norton’s Witch World saga, is a departure from the first two novels. It’s the story of Gillan, a girl with no family and an unknown heritage who has grown up in an abbey in High Hallack, far from the places we visited with Simon and Jaelithe in the first two Witch World novels. Gillan feels stifled in the abbey and longs for something more. She also feels the stirrings of a strange power within her. She finds a way to escape her meaningless life by volunteering to be one of the 13 maidens that High Hallack has promised to a group of shapeshifters who helped them win a war. This leads her on a terrifying adventure in which she discovers her power and, possibly, love.

Year of the Unicorn has a completely different feel from the previous Witch World novels. It’s written in first person and is, therefore, much more introspective than the action-packed stories about Simon and Jaelithe. The prose, also, has a completely different tone, and is most comparable (in my experience) to Ursula Le Guin’s. This comparison seems especially notable with the audio edition because it feels a lot like the audio version of Le Guin’s Voices — even the voice of the reader (though different) is extremely similar. Kate Rudd reads Year of the Unicorn for Brilliance Audio and she does a great job.

I enjoyed learning more about Andre Norton’s universe. The world-building is extensive and Norton avoids infodumping, so we just get a tantalizing glimpse of the Witch World with each book. The first half of Year of the Unicorn flies by while we learn about High Hallack and get to know Gillan as she makes sneaky plans and moves quickly to implement them. Unfortunately, the magic system, which relies mostly on willpower, is not so intriguing. Basically, supernatural things are accomplished by thinking and willing strongly enough. This is forgivable for a fantasy novel published in 1965, but it’s still boring.

Speaking of fantasy history, according to Wikipedia, Year of the Unicorn marks “the first time in American publishing history that a young woman is the primary protagonist in a fantasy book” (no citation, retrieved on May 12, 2010). I don’t know if that’s really true, but I can say that Gillan is a likable young woman and her characterization is strong. However, this was actually both boon and bane, for Gillan, as she says herself, “speaks little… but she thinks much” and each thought she has is recorded for us. Thus, we are frequently subjected to her inner queries and then her entire cognitive process as she contemplates a catalog of potential answers. This includes frequent exclamations of “I could not... or could I… but how… how could I?” (etc.) and habitual reiterations of her terror. This caused the second half of the story to drag and to become frustrating when it seemed that Gillan had worked out a solution, acted on it, and then discovered that she was wrong and had to start over. I usually enjoy a first-person point-of-view, and I loved the first half of Year of the Unicorn, but by the end, I was quite eager to get out of Gillan’s head.

Those, especially female readers, who enjoy a strong introspective heroine, are likely to enjoy Andre Norton’s Year of the Unicorn. This can be read as a stand-alone novel. ( )
  Kat_Hooper | Apr 6, 2014 |
Everything that is great about high fantasy. ( )
  LauraBLough | Dec 26, 2013 |
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» Add other authors (2 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Andre Nortonprimary authorall editionscalculated
Breslow, J. H.Cover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Gaughan, JackCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Gaughan, JackIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Harrison, MarkCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Pound, JohnCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Roediger, Susi-MariaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Walker, HughForewordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Book description
    IN THE WANING OF WITCHERY ...

The Land of Estcarp has become a distant tale, the power of her Witches a myth. But in the green Dales of HIgh Hallack is one whose mysterious past will unleash the power of legends ...

IN a bizarre alliance born of desperate need the Lords of High Hallack have pledged thirteen brides to the Were Riders of the Wastelands, those strange nomad-warriors who are more than men, but less than human: Thirteen maids ride out to pay unearthly tribute.

Journeying into a world of shadows where danger lies in wait for ht e only one of them with the power to pierce the veil of illusion. To her fall the perils of a forgotten world, and The final terrible challenge to her life and love in the 
    YEAR OF THE UNICORN

    BRIDAL NIGHT

It was very dark ... Moving with caution I sat up in bed. the room was warm as if a fire blazed ... But in my body there was a spreading cold. All of a sudden it was very necessary to see - to see not only the room, the bed, but most of all what lay upon that bed and slept so soundly ....

I thrust at the shutters, sending them flying open. Moonlight - it was very clear and brighter than I had ev er seen it before ...
]
"Ahh..." Voice - or snarl?

I turned to look to the bed I had left. What lifted heavy head and looked at me green-eyed? Fur-sleek and shining fur, the fanged mask of awakening fury -
the lips wrinkled, showing even more the fangs meant to tear, to devour - it was horror beyond any horror I had ever dreamed upon.

This - this you have chosen! -
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