cover image In the Palace of the Ocean King

In the Palace of the Ocean King

Marilyn Singer. Atheneum Books, $15 (1pp) ISBN 978-0-689-31755-2

A versatile and prolific author of picture books (The Maiden on the Moor, reviewed below) as well as fantasy novels (Horsemaster), Singer meshes elements of these two genres in this overly elaborate tale. Bold, clever Mariana, the daughter of a lord, fears nothing but the ocean. When her father brings her to the seaside castle of a duke, she is spellbound by his son Sylvain's story of a merman punished by the Ocean King and saved by a brave youth (who turns out to be Sylvain himself). The tale, only half-told, fills her with dread, and soon enough she realizes that she has a role to play in determining its conclusion: in love with Sylvain, she is called upon to rescue him when he is taken captive and condemned to an eternity of ""moving in the circles of a slow and endless waltz"" with the other prisoners in the Ocean King's underwater palace. Rendered in ink, bamboo pen and acrylics, Rand's dreamlike paintings handsomely serve the fanciful setting. The text is reproduced on scroll-like panels that stand out against the eerie blend of blues, greens and aqua shades used to convey the shadowy underwater world. Though rich in imagery, Singer's ultimately thin narrative lacks that magical spark found in enduring fairy tales. Ages 5-8. (Apr.)