From School Library Journal
Gr 9 Up–Second novels sometimes pale in comparison to the series opener. Ascendant is not one of them. More sophisticated in both content and structure than the straightforward Rampant (HarperTeen, 2009), this title echoes the growing development of narrator Astrid as she questions the ethical complexities of her new life as a unicorn hunter. The threat of man-eating unicorns is increasing worldwide, and only the virgin descendants of Alexander the Great can stand against them. Many girls are choosing to give up their eligibility rather than accept the challenge, making new hunters difficult to find and train. Astrid, who hates hunting even while loving the powers that her calling gives her, takes a job with a pharmaceutical company, guarding the unicorns they use for testing. Once, she hoped to become a doctor, and her search for the recipe for the Remedy, a unicorn-based cure-all, appeals to her as an echo of the life she once wanted. But faced with the realities of animal testing and dubious behavior on the part of her employers, Astrid must decide where her loyalties lie, and the impact of that choice takes her in a direction she never imagined possible. Peterfreund is sure to gain a stronger following with Ascendant, and fans will eagerly await further titles in the series.Alana Joli Abbott, James Blackstone Memorial Library, Branford, CT
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Hard on the heels of Rampant (2009), Ascendant continues the story of unicorn hunters living in an alternate modern-day world. Astrid grows disenchanted with her job hunting the flesh-eating beasts after witnessing a unicorn birth and sustaining a unicorn-caused injury that, ironically, is somewhat eased by being in their presence. Although her naïveté sometimes seems contrived, Astrid is painted with a strong brush in this uneven mix of environmental advocacy and longing for love—both familial and sexual. Although the ecological message is front and center, it is rather dark, so this isn’t for Carl Hiaasen’s Hoot (2002) crowd. Grades 8-11. --Cindy Welch