An enchanting adult fairytale. Seven victims of an evils witch questing to free themselves of her curse, and solution to their problem is the dragon from whom she stole years ago in a world similar to the Earth in the middle ages – with a few additions.
The book begins with a dragon’s sorrow at losing the hard-won treasure that would have enabled him to become a master-dragon and rejoin his kind. In a seemingly unrelated episode, a witch tries to entrap a Prince, but his unicorn intervenes; the unicorn breaks his horn and loses his magic in saving his Prince. But the prince is lost to him in any case: the witch has sealed him in a crystal and can only be released by a whole unicorn.
The third chapter tells of a knight who resists the same witch’s advances, and is cursed to wander with a broken sword and rusty armour until he asks for the hand in marriage of the ugliest, most deformed woman in the world and then will be tied to her for life.
Five of the questers are her former servants, all crippled by magic pebbles embedded in their bodies: Thing, who keeps her hideous face masked, is hunched with stomach-cramps, Corby the crow has a useless wing, Puddy the toad has headaches, Moglet is lame in one paw, and Pisky’s mouth blocked by his pebble. They have no memories of who they are or of their former lives. They are freed from bondage when the witch goes too far and kills a man from the village nearby while sating her lust.
They flee from the witch as well as the mob that comes to kill her. They’ve heard of a wise man far away, and when they meet Snowy, the wounded unicorn from the first story, who joins them, leads them in the right direction and becomes the sixth member of the questers. They soon come upon the Rusty Knight, and save him from his attackers. He joins them too, though most skeptical of Thing and her ability to communicate with the animals.
They do find the Ancient they were looking for, who in turn gives them a map to find the dragon whose stolen jewels the five bear disguised in their pebbles, and who can also reforge the knight’s sword, and heal the unicorn with a drop of his blood. But there is a price to pay, he says… they are a group, knit by their sorrow; once healed, they will drift apart, the animals no longer able to communicate with Thing and reverting to the wild. They decide to go anyway, and face seven challenges along the way – one for each – to prove themselves, and grow closer as a group.
It ends on a positive note, as might be expected, but it is neither cliched nor is it predictable. The Unlikely Ones is a swift read, full of pathos. Mary Brown’s plot, characters, and magical-medieval setting are compassionate and intriguing.
A book designer, Arati has always enjoyed books and the world of imagination that they open up. She is extremely accident-prone, due entirely to absent-mindedness caused by thinking about books and their contents, instead of paying attention to what she's actually supposed to be doing. She reads multiple books simultaneously, and her choices range from cookbooks and design manuals to fantasy, crime and Regency romances.
She lives and works in London, UK and sells her art on paper and textiles at Etsy