Review: “The Last Unicorn” – Peter S. Beagle

Posted: September 17, 2019 in Peter S. Beagle
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S4E9B – The Last Unicorn (book)*


Wherein we discuss a beloved classic of american fantasy literature as well as some unfortunate and lengthy legal travails undertaken by its author. I am joined again by my cousin, Kaelin O’Reilly, a book reviewer (Kaelin Reads YouTube Channel: for her second appearance on the podcast. This is our first recorded duo episode for NDIOS, but the second to be released (podcast time doesn’t adhere to the normal rules of the space time continuum). 

Both of us enjoyed the author’s noted lyrical quality of prose and appreciated the depth of dimension found in the main and secondary characters. The bumbling well intentioned wizard was a favorite. Kaelin brought out some quotes demonstrating the author’s writing as well as his skill in light-touch worldbuilding. He manages to create a secondary world that hints at our own but is very much different with an effective brand of low-magic based in wonder, and absurdist humor that is contrasted by real world consequence. 

After an utterly epic book synopsis that went on far too long, Ryan noted that the ending was particularly unique and powerful and Kaelin identified aspects of feminism coming through. Ryan admitted to be influenced by the highly esteemed praise and love for this piece of literature, but found that there was simply nothing else he wanted from it that might cause it to fall short of a perfect rating. Kaelin said that the more she discussed the story the more she discovered new layers of meaning to enjoy, which pushed her rating higher than it was at the start of the show (an occurrence not so uncommon on NDIOS). 

All around a good book discussion was had by all.**


**CORRECTION: During the podcast Ryan incorrectly stated that Peter S. Beagle wrote the screenplay for the 1978 animated film “The Hobbit,” and possibly the 1980 animated film “The Return of the King,” which were both directed by Arthur Rankin, Jr. and Jules Bass. The screenwriter for both of those films is credited as Romeo Muller who also worked on other famous screenplays for the duo directors. Kaelin had it right when she stated that Peter S. Beagle worked on the screenplay for the 1978 animated movie “The Lord of the Rings,” which was directed by Ralph Bakshi. In actuality, Beagle is given co-writing credit on that screenplay with Chris Conkling who is named first. (Updated 9/17/19)



“The Last Unicorn (1968)” by Peter S. Beagle (book) 

Ryan: 5 Stars “…Magical prose that flows in lyrical quality and somber notes in deft creation of a profound myth that is familiar and yet completely unique. Hope and regret and joy and sadness–a complete and wondrous tale…

Kaelin: 3.75 Stars “…it’s filled with pretty round characters that are interesting and very different, and it’s an adventure story but it also has a really good touch of humor in it as well…a really good fantasy fairy tale…

(Click the links to read full written reviews on



During the episode Ryan and Kaelin briefly mentioned working together on a short comedic film called “Shut-Eye” written and directed by her brother and past NDIOS guest Mike O’Reilly which is available on Mike’s YouTube Channel and can be viewed here: Kaelin has her own BookTube channel there where she has done some video blogs on books she has read: She is currently more active with her bookish interests on Goodreads here:

The author for this book has influenced many other authors over the years including fantasy writer Patrick Rothfuss (The Kingkiller Chronicle) who interviewed Peter S. Beagle at the 2018 SFWA Nebula Award conference. That interview is available here: On the podcast we discussed how this author wrote screenplays including co-writing the uniquely animated and story-stunted version of “The Lord of the Rings” released in 1978 and directed by Ralph Bakshi. On a side note, Peter S. Beagle’s absurdist humor and playful nod at classic fantasy and fairy tale tropes in this work reminded Ryan of Harvard Lampoon‘s parody effort at LOTR called: Bored of the Rings.

During the bio portion of the Podcast the author’s various legal struggles were talked about. There are a few websites tracking this over various blog posts including a Snopes article which were used for research. These can be found here:


We also stated that over the years the author has either wrote more tales set in the same universe as this story or about the subject of unicorns. There are at least two which can be found free online. If you want to read these check out the story “Two Hearts” which acts as a Coda to this book at:; and a story about the bumbling wizard, Shmendrick, that was featured in Fantasy Magazine called “The Woman Who Married the Moon” here: Two more stories about the wizard (The Green-Eyed Boy” and Schmendrick Alone”) and three stories about different kinds of unicorns (Chinese in “The Story of Kao Yu,” Persian in “My Son Heydari and the Karkadann,” and North American in “Olfert Dapper’s Day”) unrelated to this narrative are collected in the author’s anthology “The Overneath,” which was reviewed by Gary K. Wolfe for science fiction industry magazine “Locus” here: In addition to these, we talked about the early manuscript version of this novel which was released at least a couple times in special editions with commentary from the author as “The Last Unicorn The Lost Version” or “The Last Unicorn The Lost Journey“.

Lastly, both Ryan and Kaelin mentioned being fans of the bumbling wizard character in the book. Ryan compared him to the likable and often perplexed superhero protagonist of the 1980’s science fiction comedy/drama series “The Greatest American Hero.” Watch the opening of that show to get a quick sense of how the two would compare:


* DISCLAIMER: Please be advised that the views and opinions of the hosts and guests of NDIOS are completely their own and do not necessarily reflect the views and beliefs of the other hosts and guests or that of NDIOS.


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