Top Fantasy Books With Unicorns for Adult Readers

The mystical unicorn has entranced fantasy readers for decades. While there are several fantasy books about these enchanting creatures for children, what stories are there for those who are older?

Well, look no further!

Here are five great fantasy books with unicorns for adult readers:

Here’s a comparison chart of these novels. Moreover, if you’re searching for fantasy books focused on fantasy creatures overall, here are more lists that could have your next wonderful story.

The Outstretched Shadow by Mercedes Lackey and James Mallory


Kellen Tavadon, son of the Arch-Mage Lycaelon, thought he knew the way the world worked. His father, leading the wise and benevolent Council of Mages, protected and guided the citizens of the Golden City of the Bells.

Young Mages in training – all men, for women were unfit to practice magic – memorized the intricate details of High Magic and aspired to seats on the council.

Then he found the forbidden Books of Wild Magic – or did they find him? The three slim volumes woke Kellen to the wide world outside the City’s isolating walls. Their Magic was not dead, strangled by rules and regulations. It felt like a living thing, guided by the hearts and minds of those who practiced it and benefited from it.

Questioning everything he has known, Kellen discovers too many of the City’s dark secrets. Banished, with the Outlaw Hunt on his heels, Kellen invokes Wild Magic–and finds himself running for his life with a unicorn at his side.

Kellen’s life changes almost faster than he can understand or accept. Rescued by a unicorn, healed by a female Wild Mage who knows more about Kellen than anyone outside the City should, meeting Elven royalty and Elven warriors, and plunged into a world where the magical beings he has learned about as abstract concepts are flesh and blood creatures – Kellen both revels in and fears his new freedom.

Especially once he learns about Demons. He’d always thought they were another abstract concept-a stand-in for ultimate evil. But if centaurs and dryads are real, then Demons surely are as well.

And the one thing all the Mages of the City agreed on was that practicing Wild Magic corrupted a Mage. Turned him into a Demon. Would that be Kellen’s fate?

Deep in Obsidian Mountain, the Demons are waiting. Since their defeat in the last great War, they’ve been biding their time, sowing the seeds of distrust and discontent between their human and Elven enemies.

Very soon now, when the Demons rise to make war, there will be no alliance between High and Wild Magic to stand against them. And all the world will belong to the Endarkened.

What Do Readers Say?

Goodreads Rating: 4.01

Most Common Rating: 5

Positive Comments

First on our list of adult fantasy books with unicorns is The Outstretched Shadow. This novel intrigued readers with its detailed, fully-realized world-building.

Whether it was the living-and-breathing cultures, societies or settings, The Outstretched Shadow impressed fans with its depth. Several readers commented that Mercedes Lackey and James Mallory take common fantasy tropes and bring out the best in them.

Others mentioned that, in tandem with the world-building, the characters themselves felt vivid and human. As such, readers found both Kellen’s coming of age story and the background characters engaging.

Negative Comments

If readers didn’t enjoy The Outstretched Shadow, what did they say?

Both critics sand fans aid that the world-building and character development in this tale were excellent. However, to accomplish that, the story lingered heavily on these details. As such, readers consistently said that the book was slow.

The Last Unicorn by Peter S. Beagle


The Last Unicorn is one of the true classics of fantasy, ranking with Tolkien’s The Hobbit, Le Guin’s Earthsea Trilogy, and Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland.

Beagle writes a shimmering prose-poetry, the voice of fairy tales and childhood:

The unicorn lived in a lilac wood, and she lived all alone. She was very old, though she did not know it, and she was no longer the careless color of sea foam but rather the color of snow falling on a moonlit night.

But her eyes were still clear and unwearied, and she still moved like a shadow on the sea.

The unicorn discovers that she is the last unicorn in the world, and sets off to find the others.

She meets Schmendrick the Magician – whose magic seldom works, and never as he intended – when he rescues her from Mommy Fortuna’s Midnight Carnival, where only some of the mythical beasts displayed are illusions.

They are joined by Molly Grue, who believes in legends despite her experiences with a Robin Hood wannabe and his unmerry men.

Ahead wait King Haggard and his Red Bull, who banished unicorns from the land.

What Do Readers Say?

Goodreads Rating: 4.18

Most Common Rating: 5

Positive Comments

Third on our list of adult fantasy books with unicorns is The Last Unicorn. Readers who raved about this cherished classic said that it was imaginative, magical and unexpectedly profound. Beagle’s poetic prose wove a spell over these readers, who said the novel immersed them in its world and characters.

Others mentioned how much they appreciated the story’s message. Brimming with themes of hope even in despairing circumstances, the story touched and inspired them.

Negative Comments

Readers who didn’t think The Last Unicorn was their cup of tea said the book was slow-paced and didn’t grip them. Moreover, several readers mentioned that the plot itself seemed episodic and disjointed.

The story didn’t seem to build up toward anything, while the individual events came across more as a happening rather than a step along a larger narrative journey.

The Black Unicorn by Terry Brooks


A year had passed since Ben Holiday bought the Magic Kingdom from the wizard Meeks, who had set a series of pitfalls against him. Ben survived, by the aid of three loyal friends: Questor Thews, and ill-trained wizard; Abernathy, a talking dog, the Court Scribe; and the lovely Willow, who sometimes had to be a tree.

Bu ben had been troubled by dreams of disaster to his former partner, Miles Bennett. Yet when he returned to Earth, Ben found Miles doing splendidly.

Unknown to Ben, the dreams had been a trap by Meeks, who had returned to the Magic Kingdom as a tiny insect hidden in Ben’s clothing. That first night back in Landover, Ben awoke to see Meeks gloating over him. claiming to have the medallion that could summon the mysterious knight-protector, the Paladin, and that he had cast a spell to witch appearances with Ben.

Ben found himself outcast, no longer recognized by any friend, though all his powerful enemies seemed to know him. Without the medallion, he couldn’t seek the help of the Paladin against Meeks. There was only the prism cat–whatever that might be!

And where was Willow – and the mysterious black unicorn she’d set out to find?

What Do Readers Say?

Goodreads Rating: 3.77

Most Common Rating: 4

Positive Comments

Another one of our fantasy books with unicorns for adult readers is The Black Unicorn by Terry Brooks. Readers described this as a lighthearted novel that often made them laugh. It takes common fantasy cliches and weaves them into a fun adventure.

Several of them pointed out that while the fantasy cliches might put others off, it was also part of what made the story enjoyable. If you’re a reader who’s looking for a book that features their favorites tropes, The Black Unicorn will have you covered!

Negative Comments

If readers didn’t enjoy The Black Unicorn, they cited a few reasons.

The first was also what fans liked: the fantasy cliches. Common character types, plot scenarios and more feature in this story. While fans thought this made the book feel warm and familiar, critics were frustrated.

The second reason is an off-shoot of the first. Ben, the main character, struggles to find answers that frequent fantasy readers can supply at once.

Other readers, though, mentioned that they disliked Willow. As a character, she’s characterized by little more than her beauty. This not only made her uninteresting, but also had the effect of making her and Ben’s romance also flat. Readers couldn’t see what about her could justify Ben’s affection.

Birth of the Firebringer by Meredith Ann Pierce


Jan, the prince of the unicorns, is high-spirited, reckless – and the despair of his mighty father, Korr.

Reluctantly, Korr allows Jan to accompany the other initiate warriors on a pilgrimage. Soon Jan’s curiosity leads him, along with his friend Dagg, and their mentor, the female warrior Tek, into the greatest dangers – deadly gryphons, sly pans, wyverns, pards, and renegade unicorns.

Yet time after time they are rescued, leading Jan to wonder: Am I the heir to a special destiny?

What Do Readers Say?

Goodreads Rating: 4.14

Most Common Rating: 5

Positive Comments

Birth of the Firebringer is our next fantasy books with unicorns for adult readers. Written with lavish and evocative prose, this novel powerfully brought its story to life for readers. Readers consistently praised the book for how beautifully its mythic world, characters and plot were crafted.

Other readers enthused over the storyline. They described the book as rife with twists and an electric pacing. Once they started reading, they found themselves charging through the pages until the very end.

Negative Comments

What did critics of Birth of the Firebringer say? They had two general reasons why they didn’t enjoy the story.

The first was that Birth of the Firebringer struck them as more of a prequel to a story than the story itself. In particular, these readers mentioned that because the book ends on a cliffhanger, they felt that it didn’t have a satisfying conclusion.

Others expressed disappointment that Birth of the Firebringer portrays unicorns without magical abilities. To these readers, this strayed too far from what appealed to them about unicorns in the first place.

The Twelve Kingdoms: Sea of Shadow by Fuyumi Ono


For high-schooler Yoko Nakajima, life has been fairly ordinary – that is until Keiki, a young man with golden hair, tells Yoko they must return to their kingdom.

Once confronted by this mysterious being and whisked away to an unearthly realm, Yoko is left with only a magical sword; a gem; and a million questions about her destiny, the world she’s trapped in, and the world she desperately wants to return to.

What Do Readers Say?

Goodreads Rating: 4.20

Most Common Rating: 5

Positive Comments

Finishing off our list of fantasy books with unicorns for adult readers is The Twelve Kingdoms: Sea of Shadow. This fantasy novel stunned readers with its impressive portrayal of its protagonist’s growth.

Over the course of the story, Yoko changes from vulnerable and dependent to a brave, confident hero. Readers described this as both convincing and inspiring.

On a side note: technically, the fantasy creature in The Twelve Kingdoms: Sea of Shadow is a kirin and not a unicorn. However, due to their similarities, people have often described a kirin as an ‘Eastern unicorn’ to Western audiences.

Negative Comments

Not everyone thought that The Twelve Kingdoms: Sea of Shadow was for them, though. These readers typically said that while Yoko grew by the end of the book, her weak character lasted too long. As a protagonist, she grated on them.

Others said that the story itself became repetitive. Yoko goes through many battles, but readers suggested that they seemed too frequent and similar. As a result, instead of grabbing readers, they slowed the book down.

Top Fantasy Books With Unicorns for Adult Readers

How Do These Fantasy Novels Compare?

Top Fantasy Books With Unicorns for Adult Readers

Related: Fantasy books with fantasy creatures

N.S. Mirage

I'm Natalie, an avid fantasy reader here to help readers find exciting, otherworldly books.

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