The Last Hunt

The Last Hunt by Bruce CovilleBy Bruce Coville [GoodreadsLibraryThing]

The ancient and evil woman called Beloved has finally broken through into Luster, the land of the Unicorns, and brought the Hunt with her. As the Hunters start their genocide, the unicorns gather together and find allies of their own — but if they can’t find a way to get back their fighting fire, it could be the end of the unicorns forever. But Beloved’s mad Hunt has an unintended consequence: the gate she opened is right in the heart of Luster, destroying the great tree that holds the world together, and now not just the unicorns, but all of Luster, may be doomed…

General spoilers are unhidden after the cut.

Not gonna lie: I devoured this book. I did a doubletake when I realized I’d missed its release, bought it the next day, and had it finished in under 24 hours. I had originally planned to reread the whole series first, but it was so new and tempting and right there in my bag, and look, I’m only human and I’ve been waiting for the series conclusion for, like, 16 years now.

It’s hard for me to figure out what to say here, so I’ll start with this: it feels like the legend and worldbuilding behind Luster ran away with the story at some point. I remember reading the second book, and I was utterly blown away by the twist at the end, when you find out the truth about the Wanderer. But I didn’t feel similarly about the reveal of the Whisperer in the third book, because the first two set it up clearly that Beloved is the series’ Big Bad. Adding in the Whisperer, while intriguing (and it says a lot of interesting things about the unicorns) meant that the story was no longer about Cara and the unicorns fighting with Beloved; it was about defeating a much more nebulous villain, and Cara was no longer at the heart of that conflict.

The fourth book takes it further. It turns out that the Whisperer isn’t something that can be defeated by Cara or the unicorns at all, which surprised me: with the repeated talk about the unicorns needing to find a way to “regain their fire” after having tried for so long to be pure, I genuinely thought that they would have to reclaim their darker impulses, and in so-doing, defeat the Whisperer that was created by those impulses. Instead, there was a whole additional layer of conflict added. To defeat the Whisperer, the book had to bring in Elihu, Fallon, and Allura, and even though we barely got to know Elihu as a character, the whole conflict hinged on him. There were pieces of it I loved — I think the Dimblethum’s backstory was awesome — but that meant that the series was really no longer about Cara and Lightfoot and their friends. Instead, it was about some godlike creatures and ultimately out of everyone else’s hands, and that frustrated me a little.

Actually, now that I think about it, very little of The Last Hunt was about Cara (and Lightfoot was barely in it at all). Between her parents, the dragons, the centaurs, the delvers, M’Gama, and other unicorns, her story was only one of many, many plot threads. They were all woven together very well. The book never sagged, I was never bored, and once I remembered what had happened in the previous book I was never lost or confused by having such an array of subplots. And the fact that they came together in the massive final climax was nothing short of amazing — just getting all of those characters together at one place and time couldn’t have been an easy narrative feat, and the dual-climax of the Hunt and Luster shaking apart worked really well. But, as I said in my mini-review of Dark Whispers, having so many POVs and so much going on means there isn’t time for a lot of development for any of the characters. I think the character who stuck out to me the most in this book was Rocky, because (between this and the previous book) he really did have the strongest character arch.

As a reader, I’m really into story structure. I love worldbuilding. On a technical level, I think those aspects of The Last Hunt are brilliant. But as good as they are, I don’t think those things are really Coville’s strength as a writer. I’ve always loved his characters most of all. He has a rare talent of making characters feel very, very real — especially tween and teen girl characters, which seems to be pretty rare from male writers (and oh man, I can’t tell you how strongly I identified with Wendy from the AI Gang as a kid, for example). So as much as I flew through this book, and really loved the glimpse into Luster’s history and aura of hope for its future, I also wish there had been more of that character in it. Still, I enjoyed it mightily — more than Dark Whispers, definitely — and give it a solid four cupcakes.


    One Response to “The Last Hunt”

    1. […] about it! And it is a MG/YA-ish fantasy novel! And I have a whole other blog for those! So you can read my full review here, if you are so inclined. But in summary: I liked it! I know that is an enormous […]

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