Mariam, an Abyssinian princess, has plotted the escape of her brother, Prince Michael, imprisoned for life on a mountaintop with the other princelings in the line of succession- after the Ethiopian tradition. Just as the plot for escape is underway, the king announces Michael as his successor and the escape must be thwarted before his new position is proclaimed. Disguised as a poor boy, mounted on a dyed white donkey and followed by the tame royal lion, Mariam sets out for the mountaintop. Her hazardous ride, her introduction to the realities of poverty after the protection of the palace, and the desperate need for haste push the reader along to the crowning achievement of this tapestry. After a beginning made awkward by too many exotic names and customs all at once, the story flows along with an irresistible rhythm that profits from the magic surrounding the ancient past of the unfamiliar African kingdom. The author has the Newbery prize for The Cat Who Went To Heaven.