Jane Yolen has been called America’s Hans Christian Anderson. It is an apt comparison. Most of her work is either for children or young adults, yet the work has that quality that can also attract adults. There is much going on there.
Magic Three of Solatia functions in part as a reply to Andersen’s Little Mermaid. Not the Disney version with its happy ending but the dark original tale. In that one, the prince is, perhaps, not truly deserving of the mermaid’s love. Yolen looks at what comes next, both above and below the surface of the sea. It isn’t a novel, but a series short novella that are interconnected. The first two involved Sianna, a young woman whose mother was loss to the sea, and the last two stories concern her son Lann.
The four stories together are an examination of the uses and the abuses of power as both mother and son struggle with questions about when it acceptable to use magic and how magic should be used. This done though the use of other fairy/folk tale themes – the struggle to kill a wizard, the noble seeking a bride, the hidden bridegroom. The last two novellas are quest tales in form of having to undo curses.
The charm of the stories isn’t so much in the characters but in terms of the style. The novella has the power and rhythm of oral tales, and it is quite easy to imagine Yolen herself reading you the tales. The lesson, if there is one, is that the greatest magic is love.