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The Unlikely Ones    by Mary Brown order for
Unlikely Ones
by Mary Brown
Order:  USA  Can
Baen, 1999 (1986)
Hardcover, Paperback
* * *   Reviewed by Theresa Ichino

Mary Brown spins an enchanting tale of magic and courage. Seven victims of a vicious witch undertake a quest, seeking release from the curses she has cast upon them. Five are her former slaves and the most unlikely candidates for a heroic adventure. The human girl-child has no other name than 'Thing'; her four companions are a crow, a toad, a kitten, and a fish. All are crippled by magic pebbles they cannot remove. Thing is hunched with pain, Corby the crow has one useless wing, Puddy the toad is afflicted with blinding headaches, Moglet cannot use one paw, and Pisky's mouth is nearly sealed by the pebble that prevents him from getting enough to eat. Worst of all, they have no memories of who they are or of their former lives. However, unknown to the witch, the pebbles create a magical bond linking the five; stronger as a group than alone, they tackle enormous obstacles together.

During their flight from the witch, they encounter a knight with a broken sword and rusted armour, and a wounded unicorn. Due to the witch's curse, the knight's sword and armour cannot be mended. Most tragic of all is the unicorn, whose attempt to defend his prince against the witch resulted in the loss of his horn, a physical wound that will not heal, just as his sorrow is inconsolable. Together the seven seek the dragon, owner of the pebbles, which are actually fabulous jewels. Only he can remove them. The ancient mage they consult believes the dragon can also mend the knight's sword, and assures the little group that a drop of dragon's blood, freely given, will heal the unicorn.

The seven face many challenges and dangers, changing and growing along the way. Brown not only creates fascinating characters, she brings to life a richly detailed mediaeval world glimmering with magic. The Unlikely Ones is a wonderful read, entertaining and moving. Brown's expertise is impressive: plot, characters, setting are beautifully developed and hold the reader until the end. I was delighted to find several other books by the same writer. Pigs Don't Fly, Master of Many Treasures, and Dragonne's Eg are all tied to The Unlikely Ones and well worth seeking out.

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