Forge a Perfect World

Gold Unicorn — Tanith Lee
Unicorn, book 2

Gold-Unicorn

1994’s Gold Unicorn is the second novel in Tanith Lee’s Unicorn trilogy.

Some time has gone by since the events in Black Unicorn . Enough time for Tanaquil to find a new identity for herself (after turning her back on her mother and, reluctantly, on her half-sister Lizra). This has also been enough time for Lizra to metamorphose into the Empress Variam, the so-called Child-Eater.

Lizra is determined to save the world.


Lizra has a Vision and a Plan and an Army and a giant, terrifying mechanical gold Unicorn. The unicorn doesn’t actually work, but Lizra also has a Sister, and that sister, Tanaquil herself, has the magical ability to fix anything better than new. All that stands between Lizra and a global utopia is convincing her sister to apply her talent.

Tanaquil is not as confident in the Plan as Lizra, but there are compelling reasons for her to ignore her doubts. Lizra is an orphan in large part to Tanaquil’s hijinks in the previous novel; Tanaquil is aware of that. As well, the longer Tanaquil hangs around her half-sister and her army, the longer Tanaquil can hang around Lizra’s incredibly hunky lover Honj and Tanaquil is aware of that as well. Very aware.

How far can guilt and a furtive crush take someone? To Hell itself.

 ~oOo~

First, a word about the book as an artifact. It just so happens that I have the 1996 Tor mass market paperback. On the back, it proudly proclaims itself a Byron Preiss Book. It’s difficult to succinctly convey what that means. Preiss was a book packager who was often more persuasive than competent, someone who could always talk his way into the next deal. In the specific case of this book, the artifact is flashy but has aged badly. While it is nice that there are interior illustrations, it would have been even nicely if they had been crisply reproduced.

The text itself is still Tanith Lee and while it’s not quite as engaging as The Black Unicorn , it still rewards reading.

Oh, dear, poor Lizra.

“I can make this world perfect. I can get rid of pain and misery. There’ll be a law for everything. My advisers are making them now. No wars—we’ll all be one. No illness—because the physicians will all work together to find cures. No envy—everyone will have a proper chance. No poverty, no anger. (…) Oh, they’ll worry for a while, and then it will be wonderful, and they’ll thank me. You see, I have ideas for everything. For example, everyone who is young will dress in pale green.”
“Supposing they don’t like pale green?” said Tanaquil.
Lizra said “But they will. (…)”

Poor everyone in her path. Lizra’s plans leave a trail of carnage across a continent. Lee is careful about what she actually shows but there are clear hints that Lizra’s quest to save the world is in no sense bloodless 1; Tanaquil may be able to talk her determined little sister from having two rebels publicly lashed to death—but how many did the Child-Eater kill before Tanaquil joined her court?

The situation isn’t all Tanaquil and the Black Unicorn’s fault. Lizra’s understanding of how other people think has been shaped by her father, who was more proof that Lee protagonists are generally better off if they’ve been orphaned young. Lizra’s not great with regular people, but give her a far more powerful (yet stupid) man to manage? There she shines.

I’m curious; will the final book in the series will follow Tanaquil, as she deals with magician Worabex’s determination to meet Tanaquil’s hot mom? Or will the focus will be on the consequences of Lizra’s campaign? Or perhaps Lee will find yet another option.

As far as I can tell, Gold Unicorn is out of print.

Title

Missing or dead mothers

Missing or dead fathers

The Birthgrave

1

1

The Storm Lord

1

1

Volkhavaar

2

2

Drinking Sapphire Wine

0

0

Night’s Master

2

1

Shadowfire

2

1

Death’s Master

3

3

Sabella

1

1

Day By Night

1

2

Silver Metal Lover

0

0

Delusion’s Master

1

1

Cyrion

0

0

Anakire

2

1

Sung in Shadow

1

0

The White Serpent

1

1

The Book of the Beast

0

1

Electric Forest

1

0

The Book of the Mad

1

2*

Lycanthia

0

0

A Heroine of the World

1

1

The Winter Players

0

2

Delirium’s Mistress

1


The Blood of Roses

2

1

Castle of Dark

1

0

Prince on a White Horse

0

0

Heart-Beast

0

0

Quest for the White Witch

1

0

Shon the Taken

0

0

Black Unicorn

1

1

Gold Unicorn

0

1

Total

27

22*

* Includes one uncle.

1: Not to mention the early sequence during which the uninformed reader will probably not grasp the full dimensions of the threat that enemy soldiers might pose to our protagonist. The informed reader will be aware Tanaquil is coolly assessing if she can survive being gang-raped by the soldiers.




Support me with a Patreon monthly subscription!

Review Categories

By Author/Editor

Reviews by Date