The Plot

(Critical Survey of Science Fiction and Fantasy)

The Well of the Unicorn occurs in an imaginary quasi-medieval world. The black-haired and dark-skinned Vulkings have conquered the lands of Dalarna, inhabited by the fair-haired, fair-skinned Dalecarles. The Empire, which controls the Well of the Unicorn, whose waters are said to bring peace, is the behind-the-scenes power in Dalarna and supports Vulking rule for its stability. The Dalecarles’ secret Iron Ring movement plots rebellion against the rapacious and tyrannical Vulking rule.

As the novel opens, young Dalecarle Airar Alvarson, a novice magician, is “taxed out” of his Vastmanstad county family property by the Vulkings. Meliboë, a Vulking court wizard, has defected and hires Airar to convince the Iron Ring rebels that he wants to join them. Thus begins the long son-father, pupil-teacher relationship between Airar and Meliboë, a complex old philosopher. After Airar protects several boats from sea-demons, he is given fifty Gentebbi free-fishermen to lead against the Vulkings. So begin Airar’s adventures across the varied lands of Dalarna, striving to rally the Dalecarle counties to the Iron Ring rebellion.

As the story progresses, Airar loses and wins skirmishes, engages in philosophical and political debates, woos women, and matures. Airar falls in love with Gython, a free-fisherwoman who loves another man. He gains a fractious, spicy group of allies such as Rogai of Mariola, a reckless, fun warrior; the Star-Captains...

(The entire section is 514 words.)