Sunday, May 23, 2010
The story revolves around the medieval legend of Melusine, a hybrid fairy-human who is cursed to have the (occasional) appearance of a woman from the waist up and a serpent from the waist down. In Mujica Lainez's version of the tale, Melusine meets up with a descendant of hers, Aiol, and she relates her history to him as he travels across Europe to join with the Third Crusade. Since much of the story revolves around Melusine's past, there are many digressions into her past and themes of forbidden and lost love are explored in several fashions.
This story is one of those rare few novels where I found myself marveling over the prose and totally failing to engage with the story. Mujica Lainez, at least in the Spanish original (I have heard that the English translation is poor in comparison, but since I have not read it in translation, I cannot weigh in on its qualities), writes beautifully. I found myself reading and re-reading several passages throughout the novel, especially in the first three chapters, because of how ornate and beautiful the prose was for me. However, I had great difficulty in caring for the actual stories embedded. In particular, Aiol was mostly a cipher for me and I really could not engage with the scenes in which he appeared. Melusine was more interesting, but after a while, the digressions became too much and the story felt weighted down by these flashbacks to her tragic past. While the story does a good job in giving the sense that it is medieval in origin, ultimately I just could not engage with the text, making for a tedious story despite the beautiful passages interspersed among its pages.
Perhaps a re-read in the future will improve my opinion of the story, but for now, The Wandering Unicorn is one of the worst stories I have read this year that was not part of the WoT series. Considering that there are some good qualities to the story, that is in turn damning of the tale and a testament to the novels that I have read for the first time this year (the WoT series being the notable exceptions). Maybe others can enjoy the story as much as the prose; I just could not.