Thursday, March 16, 2006

Red Unicorn - Tanith Lee

Tanith Lee's Red Unicorn is the final book of her Unicorn trilogy. I read the first two, Black Unicorn and Gold Unicorn, back in November, but the library didn't have Red Unicorn at the time, so I requested it from them and it finally turned up last weekend. As it has been 5 months since I read the first 2 books and I've read about 150 other books and written an essay in the meantime, I decided to read the whole trilogy in one go. Fortunately the page count for the trilogy is less than 600 pages, so I managed to get through them in just two days and I found I had only forgotten a few minor details of the first two stories. Red Unicorn resolves the romantic tension in which Lee's heroine, Tanaquil, was left in at the end of Gold Unicorn. She had fallen in love with a soldier of the Empress Veriam, but Honj was betrothed to the Empress, so Tanaquil set out for home. Before she had gone far the sorcerer Worabex had revealed that he intended to visit her mother, Jaive, herself a sorceress. By the time Tanaquil arrives back at her mother's desert fort, Worabex has been there a week and has made his influence felt everywhere, from dismissing most of the human servants (replacing them with demons) and the soldiers (replacing them with magical means of protection), to altering the decor and even the locations of many of the rooms. Tanaquil is deeply unhappy, both because of her own situation and because her mother appears to be madly in love with Worabex. To make matters even worse, her familiar, the peeve, has found a mate and is losing interest in Tanaquil's company.

The only thing Tanaquil feels happy about is the fact that she is able to mend the broken heart of the Captain of Jaive's guard. He has always been in love with Jaive, but she has been unaware of it, and now she's fallen in love with Worabex. The Captain tells Tanaquil that Worabex has told them that she repaired Honj's arm after it was broken when they were in the Hell world (in Gold Unicorn) and he asks her to mend his broken heart; she is reluctant, convinced that such a thing is quite impossible, but she envisages his heart in his chest, shaped like the traditional heart symbol with a break in it, then she puts her hand on his chest and mends the break in his heart.

A couple of weeks after she gets home, Jaive announces that she and Worabex are going to marry, and that they plan to create an oasis garden in the desert near the fort. Tanaquil decides that she will go travelling again and on the day that Jaive and Worabex start work on the oasis garden, bringing an underground water source to the air, Tanaquil follows a red unicorn into another world, in which many things and people have a weird mirror version of themselves, including Tanaquil, the Empress Veriam and Honj. Tanaquil finds herself able to make herself invisible, to talk through walls or float through ceilings and do other strange things. She also discovers that her mirror-self, Tanakil is planning to murder Liliam, the mirror-Empress, so that she can marry the mirror-Honj instead of Liliam. Tanaquil finds herself trying to prevent Tanakil from committing a murder and in the process works out how to resolve her own romantic issues, as well as helping Tanakil to do the same.

This is an interesting and fitting finale to the Unicorn trilogy, and Tanaquil is a very interesting character. If you're interested in strong female heroes, I can recommend Tanith Lee's trilogy.


heavenlyanomaly said...

I read this quite a few years ago and just started thinking about it. I've been trying to find the ending to Red Unicorn online but couldn't. Your's was the most detailed synopsis, and if you still remember, I'd appreciate if you could email me how Tanaquil resolved her email is

Michele said...

I'm afraid that I've read rather a lot of books between then and now, and written a lot too, and I've no recollection of how the story ended. However, I'll be in the library tomorrow - if I can pick up the book, I'll take a look for you and let you know.