No people, no problem!

Red Unicorn — Tanith Lee
Unicorn, book 3

red-unicorn-sfbc-tor

1997’s Red Unicorn is the third and final volume in Tanith Lee’s Unicorn series.

Poor Tanaquil! In the previous volume, she fell in love with Honj. Because he is the paramour of Tanaquil’s half-sister Lizra, he is forever out of reach. Heartbroken, she returns to her mother Jaive’s isolated home, only to discover that an unexpected romance has ruined life there as well.


The whirlwind romance between sorcerers Jaive and Worabex is just the sort of irresponsible behavior Tanaquil has come to expect from her mother. True, Jaive and Worabex are happy … but at what cost to poor, ignored Tanaquil? Tanaquil finds her former home almost unrecognizable. Tame demons are everywhere, while the human retainers have been sent on their way with only sacks of gold to comfort them in their dotage.

Jaive is unchanged in one vital way. She is just as careless in her spellcasting as ever; she refuses to consider possible magical side-effects. Tanaquil sets out for a melancholy stroll through the desert, only to find herself in the path of one of Jaive and Worabex’s spells. Tanaquil’s first adventure imbued her with physical invulnerability, but she is in no way immune to other magical effects.

When Tanaquil recovers consciousness, she is in a new and unfamiliar universe. Again. On closer examination, this universe is a distorted mirror of Tanaquil’s home dimension, complete with analogues of Tanaquil (Tanakil), Lizra (Lili) and Honj (Jharn). Their romantic triangle is duplicated as well.

There is one important difference between the Tanaquil-Lizra-Honj triangle and the Tanakil-Lili-Jharn triangle. Tanaquil’s solution was to flee before things became fraught. Tanakil has a more direct idea: murdering her inconvenient half-sister.

 ~oOo~

I have used the cover art from the edition I have in hand. I am not crazy about it, but I am not crazy about any of the covers this book has had so far. At least Tor


and later, Starscape


were trying. I get the impression from Gollancz’ cover art


is that their books are aimed at people who like SF, but don’t want to be seen reading it on the Tube.

Red Unicorn has an odd publishing history. It is, as far as I can tell, the only book in the trilogy published under Tor Books’ Starscape imprint. In fact, a cursory glance at ISFDB indicates that Red Unicorn is the only Lee book Starscape ever published. How odd to publish the third book without having the rights to the first two….

The first book presented Tanaquil with a paradise she could not share, and the second a hell from which she needed to escape. The third volume offers her a mirror from which to take various necessary life lessons, a prospect I suspect many people would find far more alarming than a mere hell dimension. Tanaquil has a worldview she finds quite familiar and useful (the universe and most of the people in it are mean and unfair to poor little Tanaquil), so she is a reluctant student.

Although Tanaquil is slow to see it, there is a perfectly reasonable solution to her romantic problems and it is not Tanakil’s straight forward “murder the hypotenuse.” It’s a solution that Tanaquil might have seen earlier if only she paid a bit more attention to people as they actually are rather than as she perceives them. It’s a moral lesson I certainly intend to ignore.

This is slighter than the first two books but it is still enjoyable. I found it a pleasant break from Lee’s usual melancholy.

Red Unicorn is available here.


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

0

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

Dark Dance

1

1

Personal Darkness

1

1

Darkness, I

0

0

Wolf Tower

1

1

Faces Under Water

0

0

Red Unicorn

0

1

Total

30

26*


* Includes one uncle.



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