Young Arthur, again: Artos is the scrawny one, while Bed has the muscles and Lancelot the charm. Artos does have diligence and passion for learning; when Sir Ector's prize brachet hound runs away, gravid with young, Artos is the one who follows her through brush and fen to a black hole in the rock. There, instead of the hound, is a creaking, smoking, clawed dragon who asks for meaty stew in return for wisdom--plus a small gem, which Artos exchanges for his first sword: "a sword from a stone." Old Linn ("Merlinnus"), apothecary and druid priest, should have been the source of wisdom, but a fit brought on by age and secrets has left him a mumbling shambles. Armed with the dragon's wisdom and his new sword, Artos leads the boys; even the discovery that the dragon is just one of old Linn's shams fails to take the edge from his joy at his destiny. The Arthurian legend has attracted writers for centuries. Some, like T.H. White and Susan Cooper, weave new tapestries with old yarn; the stories of many others are, at best, irrelevant. Yolen's tale is engaging and consistent, but hardly compelling--not bad, but why deny the magic? For large collections.