Something is amiss in the forest, the trees whisper unheeded. In a ""tumble-down shack"" live the elf Needle, the dwarf...



Something is amiss in the forest, the trees whisper unheeded. In a ""tumble-down shack"" live the elf Needle, the dwarf Stout, and the witch-girl Twelve, with her old dog Hopeless: remnants--we will soon discover, along with the boy Nob, in this absorbing fantasy-debut. ""Nob the fool"" to the other rhymers, an orphan and lame, he has strayed into the forest on his own, stubborn Storyfind. Despite Twelve's pert ""Let's kill it,"" and Nob's own protests (""No! I don't need any help!""), Needle and Stout take him in, trusting to Kay and his Raven scouts to spy the rhymers when they return. A visit to cackling, snarling Granny Weft, whose witches'-brew of ""Loathweed!,"" ""mouse intestines,"" and such turns out to be delicious, joltingly reveals to Nob the forest's weakness, the fading of magic. . . even as, telling Grannie Weil a story after the others have failed, he begins to discover his own powers. The feeble, fulminating serpent Mester Stoor-worm is rescued, half-frozen on a rock in the pond (""We're becoming a kind of orphanage,"" grumbles Stout); Nob alone has patience for the stoor-worm's pitiful tales-of-glory, and he, listening in turn to Nob's unhappy memories, becomes (as Twelve notes, with some distaste) ""Nob's pet."" The droll-teller Rasp arrives with two presents for Twelve--a healing salamander stone from Granny Weil, and an early-blooming earlypetal from himself--and with words of further dire change. The wizard Wolly, flustered, breaks the news: ""It's--it's the yunicorne. . . he's hurt and dying!"" Can the forest creatures regain enough of their fading powers to restore the scruffy little yunicorne to unicorn splendor? Can they drive off the hunters determined to bag their elusive quarry? What of irresponsible Twelve, now armed with wonder-working charms? And Nob--returning to the rhymers, provisionally, with the knowledge he has second sight? The reader can be Twelve or Nob, or both. Needle and Stout, thin and round, testy and benign, are two faces of goodness--and, as elf and dwarf, more and less magical. (Like children, Dank appreciates and respects such distinctions.) Granny Weft and the stoorworm, poignant and gallant, are comic tragedians. The story has suspense, mystery, inevitability. Dank, if not a great stylist, has a distinctive, plain-speech voice. Altogether: an abundant foundation for a trilogy, and a splendid start for a new writer.

Pub Date: Oct. 17, 1983


Page Count: -

Publisher: Greenwillow

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 1983

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