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The Theory of the Leisure Class (Modern Library Classics)
Thorstein Veblen, Alan Wolfe
Ascendant - Diana Peterfreund Astrid Llewellyn was raised by a mother obsessed with unicorns. But to hear her tell it, unicorns aren't the fluffy, innocent creatures of myth, but savage, blood-thirsty monsters. And to everyone's surprise, it turns out Astrid's mother was right. The unicorns' last hidden preserve has been lost, and now they're out into the world again. And they're hungry for fresh meat.

Luckily, it turns out that Astrid really has inherited unicorn hunting abilities. She and a small group of other young women band together. But their funds are low, public opinion on them is split (because despite their best efforts, the unicorn attack rate continues to rise) and none of them are completely committed to the painful and short life of a hunter.

Astrid wants to be a doctor someday, but she's also one of the few people who can defeat or even control unicorns. She feels a duty to postpone her education and personal ambitions in order to find a solution to the unicorn problem, but it's a struggle. I like Astrid--her interest in medicine feels genuine, not just a slapped-on bit of characterization, and her moral quandries were actually difficult decisions. The combat scenes are exciting but easy to understand, and the supporting cast is unique and interesting. But overall, the first half of the book is pretty pedestrian.

Then Astrid gets hurt. In fact, she's injured so badly that only the superpowers hunters get from being in the presence of unicorns give her even a semblance of her former self. Astrid's dream of becoming a doctor is shattered--and so is her ability to be a hunter. Without those two facets, Astrid is at a lost to how to think of herself, or what to do with her life. Astrid is eventually offered a potential cure, but (in an incredibly gutsy and morally righteous move) doesn't take it. Instead, she travels the world returning the cure to those it was stolen from, so they can choose what to do with it. The last third of the book is shattering but excellent.