THE MAGIC THREE OF SOLATIA
There can never be enough fairy tales, and anyone who can create a new one -- say, The Animal Family or Hoban's Sea-Thing Child -- has a grateful audience. The Magic Three of Solaria is a skillful and very consciously wrought cycle of tales which almost, but not quite, satisfies our expectations. Yolen gives us four "books" of tales filled with songs, sea-spells, and an imaginary geography, but the moral lessons central to the saga seem oddly out of kilter. The first secret of magic that young Sianna learns -- that every evil has a balancing good, and every good will "sow some evil in its turn" -- is far from obvious, and nothing in the story convinces us of its profundity. Later, when Sianna is menaced by the evil King Blaggard, she uses her magic powers to summon an invisible man who becomes her husband and protector. Of course when their son Lann has a problem, he goes on a quest and wins a princess -- no invisible protectress for him! In their way, these stories are like that hollow bridegroom -- shining and well crafted on the outside, but not much to hang on to.