First novelist Bauer has come up with an unusually attractive quest tale, a fantasy/allegory featuring not only garrulous fauna, a magic fox, and a satyr, but also, mind you, the moon and the sun. And, remarkably--thanks to lithe narration, vivid imaginings, and rich thematic overtones--it all comes off with not one droop into pretentious silliness. The evil entity here is a great horned owl, a steely and rapacious being who speaks with the controlled cool of an intelligent tyrant; with his army of ravens and corps of falcons, he awaits his ""imminent kingdom of total blackness,"" having already arranged for the moon to be captured and caged. So the world is darkening as a weakening sun searches vainly for her sister: waters, tideless, are foul and stagnant; dying vegetation swarms with slimy creatures. However, a goodly assortment of creatures ventures out to set things right: Matthew the satyr, an exuberant being, longing for vanished nymphs; his ward Derin, the boy left on Matthew's doorstep long ago by a hooded creature; Deirdre, the valiant dissident raven, activist, and wordsmith who's soon to be martyred; and Vera, the beautiful magic fox who can accelerate Matthew's pulse rate by turning into a nymph. This heroic band will pass through the Swollen River (on a bridge of reluctant, recruited fish), the Plain of Devastation, and Mountains of No Return--to the Deadwood Forest, where the moon and a poor raven named Maxwell are held captive. (Maxwell will die a horrible death amid grey ooze and hideous starfish.) And, before the moon swings aloft once more and Owl is dispatched, the aloof, lunar Queen of the Night will learn about cooperation . . . while Derin will hear of his origins and the tasks he must perform, learning that ""everyone's past is bloody, filled with tragedy,"" that one must work for the good of all. Furthermore, the final rebellion of the owl's subjects--liberal-to-conservative wings, as it were--is a model of enlightened revolution. With vigorous, supple dialogue so unlike the usual stuffy allegory chatter: a sharp, searching, and ingratiating fantasy--and what a relief from rabbits and talky trolls!