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Robbed of lands and heritage by the rapacious Vulkings, young Airar Alvarson had only his limited gift for sorcery to aid him against a world of savage intrigues. Other Books by this Author. See more books by Fletcher Pratt.
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I've read historical fiction with a greater sense of the fantastical than this. Worst unicorn book ever. This is a superior fantasy novel in many ways. The casting of magic has drawbacks, the war scenes are intense and brutal, the romance is not simplistic, and the politics are fully realized. Unfortunately it is this last positive that too often became a negative.

Long scenes consisting of arguments over policy and war tactics soon became the focus of each chapter. Character development that had been at the forefront took a backseat to long round table discussions that were interesting at first bu This is a superior fantasy novel in many ways.

The Well of the Unicorn

Character development that had been at the forefront took a backseat to long round table discussions that were interesting at first but soon became repititious. If Pratt had edited himself better he could have created a difinitive fantasy. View all 3 comments. The Well of the Unicorn is an early heroic fantasy novel with glaring weaknesses but still worth reading.

I rarely read a book that weak in exposition. Readers are constantly confronted with unexplained facts and names that partly are explained somewhere else later but enough things are left unattended. Was this published as a serial novel? That could at least explain how these faults have passed an editor. The development of the plot and the characters is not very plausible. What is it that makes The Well of the Unicorn is an early heroic fantasy novel with glaring weaknesses but still worth reading. What is it that makes Airar a leader? How does he end up with his strategic skills in planning battles?

How come that he's as powerful a magician when this seems to be such a rare skill in Dalekarlia? Why does the Princess of the Well fall in love with him? These are just a few of the questions relating to the main character. The only parts of the plot that show some understanding of story-telling are the battles that are detailed although a bit too much for my liking. This is understandable given the author's primary occupation as a writer of military history books.

In terms of plot, the Well of the Unicorn would be a clear miss. What is rescuing the novel, is the author's focus on political and moral issues that are frequently discussed among the characters. While shallow at times, the basic questions of freedom, free will to choose one's own destiny, sexual moral and ethical behavior are thematized in a way that goes beyond what the genre usually offers and puts the novel closer to high fantasy novels from that time such as Tolkien than the pulp stories.

The characters are not as stereotyped as in today's fantasy. Even on the 'good' side characters feature evil traits, boast, betray, act cruel and without honor. Promiscuity is a prevalent feature. A few of the heroes are gay which is astonishing for a book from Parallels to history can be seen on two levels: On a more distant level, the emperor can be equated with the Holy Roman Emperor of the German nation, the Vulkings could symbolize the Franks or a comparable dominant medieval realm.

On a more recent level it could be argued that the author took up the recent history from WW II and translated the powers to this story with the Vulkings representing the Nazis, the sea-based liberty adoring pirate realm could be the United States and the Carrhoenes who only decide jointly, could be the USSR. This is what makes the Well of the Unicorn a remarkable novel worth reading.

Without the political parallels and the unusually textured characters it would have been at best a two-star novel. The Well of the Unicorn is probably one of the et als. Spells are not used often, and rarely one after another, though this is due to the strain it puts on the caster rather than a Vancian memorization scheme.

Pratt is known among gamers for enjoying and popularizing tabletop wargaming, and if he wanted to much of this book could be reproduced as a game scenario. Much of the action is about acquiring soldiers, equipment, and allies, in preparation for battles. At one point, some of the characters even create a sand table to work out their strategy. Visto shrugged and the shadows danced again. Overall it works, if in places it requires reading a passage twice.

The well of the unicorn in the title is a place of religious devotion; when people drink from it, it enforces a sort of peace upon them. Whether it truly does so is questionable, but other magic clearly exists in the world.

The well is a destination never reached, which plays into the sentiments at the end. I know Fletcher Pratt from his collaborations with L. Sprague de Camp on the "Harold Shea" stories, in which a psychologist uses symbolic logic to travel to other realities! They're light stories, lovingly parodic of their source material.

Well Rounded Warrior

By contrast, though The Well of the Unicorn vaguely borrows its fantasy world from a Dunsany play as Pratt says in the intro, he projects the history of that world several genera I know Fletcher Pratt from his collaborations with L. By contrast, though The Well of the Unicorn vaguely borrows its fantasy world from a Dunsany play as Pratt says in the intro, he projects the history of that world several generations into its future , it takes its setting seriously--no jokes are made here at the expense of fantasy as a genre, except When you read the jacket of this book, it may sound classic, i.

But Pratt is writing in '48, years before Tolkien's Lord of the Rings and Lucas's Star Wars would really cement the fantastic archetypes into their current shape. So, yes, the farmboy does leave his farm, but not because his wizard friend marks him out as in The Hobbit or he inherits an artifact of great evil or imperial soldiers kill his family--he leaves because he can't pay the taxes.

He leads a rebellion, but armies don't just show up--there's a lot of back-room politicking and deal-making, shows of force, needful betrayal, motivating lusts both hetero- and homo-sexual , etc. If you wrote that today, people would probably and probably rightly call it a meta-commentary on fantasy, playing with the generic tropes; and I like meta. I'd call that a "confession," but everyone should know that by now. But I think Pratt's book is useful to read not so much because it plays with the tropes as it is an example of a work written before the tropes; Pratt's gritty realistic fantasy is an example of the road that is not taken by mainstream fantasy except for a few examples, like George R.

Martin I've been assured. Though if you do read it, I'd say give it a few pages; the language is a little strange and archaic and it takes a while to absorb the meaning, in my experience.

Primary Verifications

Oct 01, Silvio Curtis rated it really liked it. An early twentieth-century fantasy published at the same time as Tolkien was writing The Lord of the Rings. It shows a strong tendency in the direction of Tolkien's careful construction of a "secondary world," especially in geography and political-military history; the front of the book has a map like the ones typical of post-Tolkien fantasy, and the map really is important for the plot, which ranges all over it. Of course he doesn't have Tolkien's linguistics; the proper names, depending on reg An early twentieth-century fantasy published at the same time as Tolkien was writing The Lord of the Rings.

Of course he doesn't have Tolkien's linguistics; the proper names, depending on region, are a hodgepodge of obvious imitations of various European languages, and even some unadulterated Latin and Greek! The plot is about an uprising of one region against foreign but historically closely related overlords, mostly with conventional violence but with some help from "clerkish" or magical power. Some of the characters are given to reasonably thoughtful meditations on the ethical foundation for political governance. Less comfortably, they're also given to some viciously sexist and racist attitudes the latter mostly regarding to the "barbarous Mictons" of the North, who are not on either side of the main conflict that make Middle-Earth look like a model of political correctness.

Dec 04, Sean rated it really liked it. I enjoyed this a great deal and devoured it in relatively short order. What prevents me from five-starring this is a lack of strong characterization and somewhat unsatisfying story arc. I will say that I enjoyed the writing. Missing characterization is made up for by insight and poetical rhetoric. I enjoyed the dynamic of the wizard advisor and the war leader, which borrowed some Arthurian tones but was more satisfying to me in this reading. I plan to revisit this book at a later date in order to I enjoyed this a great deal and devoured it in relatively short order.

I plan to revisit this book at a later date in order to tease out more understanding from the text.

The Well of the Unicorn

I read relatively quickly to pad my page count for All legit of course. Aug 08, D-day rated it liked it Shelves: fant-list , mod-fant-list. It took me two attempts to read this. It is, in fact, a pretty good book; good world building and realistic takes on the problems of government, rebellion and war. The problem is the writing style is very difficult to read. It is written in a kind of psuedo-archaic style that made me give up after a chapter or two. I tried again a few months later and just powered through.

I eventually got used to the style and ended up liking the book. It is a classic of the genre, which is why I gave it a seco It took me two attempts to read this. It is a classic of the genre, which is why I gave it a second chance, just be forewarned. Closely written account of how a man begins in rebellion from good motives, gradually acquiring dubious allies of more cruelty than those they overthrow, moving to a state of constant strife.

Re-read May - I enjoy the philosophising and would benefit hugely from reading some critical commentary on whether the Well is a good thing or not. Its means of preventing strife seem quite questionable, as do the motives of many a character.