Black Unicorn/Gold Unicorn Analysis

Tanith Lee

The Plot

(Critical Survey of Science Fiction and Fantasy)

Black Unicorn and its sequel, Gold Unicorn, tell of the adventures of sixteen-year-old Tanaquil. At first, Tanaquil knows nothing of her heritage, but by the end of the second book, she has learned much about her own identity and abilities. She also has learned not to judge people—including herself—too quickly. The ending of Gold Unicorn, in which Tanaquil journeys toward home, leaves open the possibility of another sequel.

Tanaquil wants to leave the desert fortress where she was reared by her emotionally distant sorceress mother, Jaive. She apparently has no magic of her own, and she wearies of the inconvenient side effects of Jaive’s magic. In one instance, Jaive’s magic resulted in a peeve, a common desert creature, acquiring the power of speech. Jaive refuses to let Tanaquil go or even to identify Tanaquil’s father.

One day, the peeve discovers the skeleton of a unicorn, which Tanaquil reassembles. It turns out that she has a magical power after all: the power to mend things. The unicorn comes alive, and Tanaquil and the peeve are compelled to follow it to an exotic city by the sea. There, Tanaquil meets Lizra, the daughter of the city’s ruler, the evil Prince Zorander. Soon Tanaquil discovers that Zorander is her father and Lizra is her half sister.

During a ceremonial procession, the unicorn appears and steals from Zorander two white shells. Tanaquil realizes that the unicorn is from a better world and that it wishes to return. She helps it by mending the sorcerous gate between worlds with the white shells. Unfortunately, the peeve follows the unicorn through the gate, so Tanaquil also must follow.

The unicorn’s world is wonderful, putting Tanaquil’s world to shame. She realizes with horror that her mere presence wounds the Perfect World and plans to...

(The entire section is 756 words.)