Before you read Ascendant by Diana Peterfreund:
1. Read Rampant, the first book in this series.
2. Discard any and all preconceived notions about unicorns.
Well, it is now after midnight on Election Day. Since I don’t have to work on this lovely and nerve-wracking school holiday (YAY!), I decided to stay up later than I normally would and finish my latest book, Ascendant by Diana Peterfreund. I read the first book, Rampant, in April of this year, during what was probably the darkest period of my adult life. (It’s a long story.) A lot has happened since then, but, oddly enough, this past weekend, when I really got into Ascendant, I was going through another dark period. (Yet another long story.) Both of these amazing books helped me to escape my life for a little while, and I will be forever grateful for that, even though these books made me take a whole new look at a creature I had always viewed as innocent and pure–the unicorn. And that’s quite enough about me…onward to Ascendant by Diana Peterfreund.
In Ascendant, we return to the Cloisters in Rome, where Astrid Llewelyn and the other girls around her are fully trained unicorn hunters. Since the world has discovered the existence of the mysterious–and deadly–unicorns, the hunters have become celebrities, in a way. Astrid’s mother is at the forefront of this newfound popularity, but she really has no idea what the hunters are facing: possible death at every turn, no semblance of a life, a world that is falling apart around them, and being seen as freaks to everyone outside their safe haven.
When things begin to change all around Astrid–her best friend’s diminishing powers, her boyfriend’s departure, and new rules imposed on the unicorn hunters–she takes an unexpected opportunity to get away for a while. She becomes involved with the very company that was sabotaging the efforts of the unicorn hunters just a short while ago. The company is under new leadership (since the previous leader was killed by a giant unicorn), and Astrid thinks things are changing for the better. She takes a place guarding captive unicorns, she begins to study science, and she spends each night in a comfy bed instead of in a tree waiting to kill murderous unicorns.
Life is better for Astrid outside of the Cloisters, and she begins to question what she’s been doing for the past several months. As she grows closer to the unicorns she guards, she becomes convinced that is not strictly necessary to kill each unicorn she encounters. What if they can be controlled? What if not all of them are violent? What if they’re just doing what they must to survive?
As events unfold, and Astrid learns of several secrets being kept, both the unicorn hunters and the animals they hunt are in more danger than ever. Can Astrid save the unicorns, those she loves, and herself without losing who she truly is? Is it even possible? Read Ascendant by Diana Peterfreund to find out.
While Rampant added unicorns to the long list of things that scare me, Ascendant redeemed these creatures a bit. With Astrid’s help, I came to understand the beings a bit better, and I’m not quite so scared of them anymore. (Yes, I know this is a work of fiction, but some of us would rather live in a fantasy world than deal with the realities of life. Cut me some slack.) I hope to understand these unicorns a bit more in the future, but, according to Diana Peterfreund’s website, http://www.dianapeterfreund.com/, there are no current plans for a third book in this series. Hopefully, that will change soon. There are a lot of questions that need answers. Even without these answers, though, I think both Rampant and Ascendant are excellent books with strong female characters. My inner feminist is rejoicing.