Murky mythological allusions keep company with elemental fantasy on a circus train that runaway Jeremy Spiller joins in quest of his older brother Paul, whose letters suggest that he's met with trouble. Has it to do with Trago, master of the beasts and musician extraordinaire, a stand in for the Greek god Pan down to his goatish lower body and reed pipe? (And also to be identified perhaps with the danker parts of earth, ""like fruit that's gotten rotten inside."") Has he some fatal power over children? Jeremy and fellow traveler Charley are lulled for a time by Trego's promises of freedom and heart's desire. They do have doubts about blazing performer Pyron and clairvoyant midget Winnie--whom one is tempted to equate with water since she babbles poetry. But that would be as questionable as equating gentle giant Hugh with air because of his height, and attributing more significance to these characters than they merit. In the finale at Norwood Tor, Jeremy finds brother Paul already transformed into a replica of Torlord Trago externally, if not yet in mind and soul; Paul welcomes his own death in Pyron's conflagration, which weakens Tor and releases his animal slaves (who are not, however, changed back into children). As Winnie has forecast at the outset, ""Never a loss without a gain"": and so we find Jeremy, following Paul's suggestion, adopting orphan Charley as his surrogate brother. The symbolic creations never Come to life, however, and the whole is about as satisfying as Pyron's ashes.