A tardy corrective for previous versions of the legend of the Sword in the Stone—which leave out the dog.
Rescued stray Nosewise makes the thrilling discovery that the magic Asteria stone of Morgana, preteen apprentice to human packmate Merlin, allows him to talk and maybe even perform tricks well beyond “sit” and “shake.” It comes none too soon, as wizard and apprentice are kidnapped by Oberon, Fae prince of the Summer court, to steal Excalibur. Collecting a castle “poop boy” named Arthur along the way and with help from Guinevere, daughter of a tavern keeper named Leodegrance, Nosewise loyally sets out to rescue his beloved family. The quest leads from this world to the Otherworld and thence to frozen Avalon for a desperate battle with Oberon, human minions, and insatiable magic-eating worms. But Excalibur, it turns out, can only be extracted by “a worthy soul who loves man and would never do him harm.” There is, as you might guess, but one such who truly fits that description here. Along with his other canine virtues, though, Nosewise is generous in the aftermath: “Arthur is my carrier, and he can use it too, if he wants.” The often scary Fae come in a variety of sizes and shapes; humans, and the doggy narrator, are largely white in Phillips’ occasional vignettes, though Morgana appears to have somewhat darker skin.
An ingenious and entirely credible (at least dog lovers will agree with this) twist on the familiar tale. (Fantasy. 10-13)