cover image The Lion Tamer's Daughter and Other Stories

The Lion Tamer's Daughter and Other Stories

Peter Dickinson. Delacorte Press, $15.95 (304pp) ISBN 978-0-385-32327-7

Parallel worlds, magical mirrors and doppelgangers of one sort or another are among the recurring motifs in these four highly stylized stories from English author Dickinson (Shadow of a Hero; A Bone from a Dry Sea). Mystical forces unleashed during a moonlit visit to ""The Spring"" give Derek a chance to explore two variations of the family he was born into. In ""Touch and Go,"" a fairly predictable supernatural shaggy-dog story is grafted on to an elderly London bibliophile's engrossing account of the time he spent as a WWII-era evacuee in a lonely country manor. Set in a remote and unnamed corner of Italy, ""Checkers"" is the story of an English boy who is kidnapped for ransom, and of Giovanni, the ghostly youngster who befriends him; the tale's final lines (""It was Giovanni who'd won. He won it for us, because he'd lost it for himself, long, long ago"") make it clear that this is also a pointedly Christian allegory. The title story chronicles the adventures of the aptly surnamed Perrault girls, Melanie and Melly, a pair of near-identical twins who are in fact a single person split in two, thanks to the machinations of a malevolent magician. Meticulously structured plots and complex symbolism are typical of this author's work; here, however, these traits seem to overwhelm the narrative, making this collection relatively slow going. Nevertheless, fans of the supernatural as well as Dickinson devotees should find something to enjoy in the practiced storytelling and elements of spookiness. Ages 10-up. (May)