A glorious cast of animals and birds, as well as humans, relate the magical stories that form the plot of Manuel Rivas's extraordinary novel. An old lady, Misia, tells how the 300 ravens of Xallas are the warrior-poets of the last King of Galicia. A priest, Don Xil, explains to a peasant girl, Rosa, that the beautifully carved women in the local church are not saints, but represent the seven deadly sins. A mouse, Matac-ns, a poacher in his previous life, is chased by a cat, the bagpiper and anarchist, Arturo of Lousame. A bat, Gaspar, relates his own death to a lizard. In a nearby cellar, half the parish are found to have transmigrated into spiders, snails, toads-Manuel Rivas's story emerges like spirals of smoke, in a series of memorably poetic images. His characters have their roots deep in the traditions, legends and history of his beloved Galicia. Few contemporary storytellers share his power of vision and sense of cultural identity, or can narrate their tales with such tenderness and humour.