I finally restored this, thank goodness for David and Technorati.
The Last Unicorn has always been near and dear to my heart. I first discovered it in its animated form as a child and was touched by the magic of the story and the beauty of the music that accompanied the film. It was not until very much later, well into college, that I discovered the book itself by Peter S. Beagle. The book was as touching to me as an adult as the movie had been to me as a child.
So when I discovered that Beagle had penned a sequel (actually they’re calling it a coda, those clever marketers), Two Hearts, I was absolutely delighted. Two Hearts (nominated for a Hugo this year) is a novelette (longer than a short story, shorter than a novel) set in the universe of The Last Unicorn. It takes place many years after the original story but brings back the four main characters of The Last Unicorn. For many years Beagle had refused to write a sequel to his beloved story, believing The Last Unicorn was a stand alone novel that told everything that needed to be told of the story.
[Spoiler alert] (If you have not read the sequel, please do so before reading on. Below are links to for buying the novelette)
Before the Hugo awards are announced (at the end of August), you can find a free version of it at: http://www.sfsite.com/fsf/fiction/pe01.htm.
However if you want to have your own copy, there are currently two ways of obtaining one.
One is by going to: http://www.conlanpress.com/html/books.html and buying the audio file of The Last Unicorn. A hardcover limited version signed by the author comes as a gift to the first 3000 customers. If you want this version, the ONLY way to get it is by buying the audio file of The Last Unicorn
The other is by going to Amazon and buying The Line Between, Peter S. Beagle's new collection of stories, Two Hearts is one of them.
After reading Two Hearts, I am not sure what to think, I do not know what I was looking for in the sequel. As Beagle claims, The Last Unicorn ended where it did because it had come to its natural and (to me) perfect conclusion.
First the things I had a problem with, I did not like that in Two Hearts, the unicorn is addressed as Amalthea (at one point Smendrick even goes so far as to claim that it is her name). Those familiar with The Last Unicorn will remember that Smendrick called the unicorn Lady Almalthea to fool King Haggart. The unicorn was ALWAYS referenced as she or the unicorn to the reader. This is not just simple quibbling on my part. I believed that Beagle kept the unicorn nameless intentionally. It separated her from her companions; a way of reminding the audience of her true nature and her inability to be one of them. Calling her Amalthea in the coda I found untrue to the original.
I also found the killing of the griffin to be a slightly disenchanting scene. The griffin felt incredibly one-dimensional--- more plot device than creature--- as the force that set the story in motion and took it to its natural end. This was surprising because Beagle has always managed to give personality and depth to his creatures. The harpy and the Red Bull of The Last Unicorn both felt more real to me than the griffin in Two Hearts.
However this is not to say that Two Hearts failed as a continuation of The Last Unicorn, Two Hearts is a beautiful story. Especially for those who have read The Last Unicorn. It was surprising how strongly I must’ve felt about the story, and of the relationships, because at the first mention of Lir and the unicorn, I teared up in a way that surprised me. After all it had been many years since I had read the original. This effect is no doubt due to the mastery of the author.
Beagle’s voice stays true to the original, and the characters are very much the same, older but in no way altered to fit a new story. While The Last Unicorn was a story distinctly written by a young man, Two Hearts is no less distinctly a work of an older man. Between its pages, Beagle manages to address his own mortality.
Perhaps this is why it startles me. The Last Unicorn, while tragic, ends on a beautifully heroic note. The hero bereft of his love, rides of into the distance. Yet there is always hope…because he determines to remember her, to honor her, and to wait for her. In Two Hearts, age has paled everything and turned the rest to dust. It is no longer only a tale of a highly romantic and honorable love; it is also a tale of a man, once young, now old. I do not think I loved Two Hearts in the same way that I loved The Last Unicorn. However, as I become older, I’m also not sure that I will not grow to love it. I think only time will give me that answer.