The Various by Steve Augarde Robin: The Various is the first novel of the Touchstone Trilogy. It opens with a little teaser about the girl Midge meeting the Queen of the Various in the forest, for fear perhaps that you might not persist through the opening chapters otherwise. At least you have something to look forward to while the human business is going on. It starts with the familiar scenario of the city girl not wanting to go to stay with her relative in the country, then finding she quite likes it when she gets there, but it really takes off when she meets the injured tiny winged horse Pegs. The descriptions of how she rescues and looks after Pegs are very detailed and convincing—it is no easy matter and takes a lot of thought.

Meanwhile there is concern in the forest about his non-return. A big meeting of all the tribes is called, where it is revealed that Pegs was sent to investigate a distant wood, as the forest is becoming depleted and starvation looms. The characters—the eager youngster Little-Marten, the dignified general Maglin, the loopy queen Ba-betts and the arrogant archer captain Scurl, for example—are very well depicted and strongly individual. It is decided to send a rescue party of five, one from each tribe, and the adventure of this ill-assorted group out in the Gorji world is one of the best parts of the book.

Pegs’s reasons for introducing Midge to the Various seem weak, but in fact he has a deeper knowledge of the role she is destined to play than he lets on—that will be revealed in the final book, Winter Wood. In the short term it exposes her to danger as Scurl decides independently that it is too dangerous to let her live knowing their secret. His first attack, as Little-Marten leads her back to the entrance to the forest, is frustrated by the mysterious Maven-of-the-Green.

Little-Marten is so terrified by this attack and Scurl’s subsequent threats that he takes refuge with the cave-dwellers. He discovers they have a more interesting life in the caves than any of the Ickri imagine; as he is already half in love with the beautiful Tinkler maiden Henty, this has a profound effect on him. Midge is also deeply shocked, and determines to forget all about the Various, but Scurl later takes his archers to attack the farm, a thrilling episode with unexpected consequences.

The second book of the trilogy is Celandine.