One day, when I was studying English and beginning to read my first “real” books (meaning not those short ones for students that are in fact summaries of other novels), the book fair for second hand books arrived in town, and there was a stand with a tiny line of English books which made my day… until I took a closer look at them – the majority of the books were crime novels (not my genre), the rest were the Sookie Stackhouse series (I had already read them in Spanish), and then, I found this one. I was not sure if this was a fantasy book or what, but it was in ENGLISH, and I was there to purchase, people! No eventuality could have got me out of my way!
So I travelled back to the 13th century and I started this journey with a party of men who are asked by the king Manfred of Sicily to find a legendary beast. Antioch, an old scholar with a bestiary as a guide, has to travel to the Far East and bring back an animal marvelous enough to please the Pope. The scholar is not alone, though, since he will be protected by a small army whose leader, count Decious, was one of the greatest soldiers of that time. A little boy, apprentice of the scholar, travels with them, and in Asia they would also require the skill of a man called Venn, a translator who has learned all the languages of every spot in this vast and wild world. Years later, the boy’s father travels through Europe in order to find what happened to his son – the posse never came back and no one seems to know their fate.
In addition to this story, there is also a young woman who traveled to the Emperor’s court in order to marry a soldier she met in her little village, with whom she fell in love. And the path she walked would be the same as the party’s, both looking for different outcomes.
I have to words to explain how much I enjoyed this novel. There are several characters and every one of them has their importance within the whole story, but perhaps in the end the reader becomes really fond of Venn, the translator, and Ming Yueh, this poor girl who voluntarily travels away from her people in order to pursue a better future for herself, which turned out different from her expectations.
The narration is lovely too; the descriptions of the scenery, the great city and the harbors, and also the different points of view of every character; the way the different groups of men see each other makes you become part of the story. There is also a special issue I particularly loved: Ming Yueh and the other women of the East know a secret language with which she leaves messages to people along her way, and it’s this language what will bring Venn to her. Isn’t it beautiful, the power of words linking people?
And finally I liked the structure of the novel, addressing the desperate search of the boy’s father in every other chapter and, next, the actual events of the men who went to find a unicorn.
The unicorn road will break your heart, but it’s worth it.
The Unicorn road
Published by Hodder & Stoughton
Book on Goodreads
PS: I want to thank Joy for the helping me with the review.