IN THE FOREST there is a deep well. The water bubbles and whirls but it is a good place for fishing. There aren't many boys from the village who dare go so far into the forest, but Robin and Meric are not afraid of anything that might be skulking behind the trees or under the bushes. Both of them are sons of lords, and the sons of noblemen are expected to be brave and face all sorts of dangers. Robin is the son of the Lord of the Dale and Meric's father is Lord Eastmarch. One day, both boys will have responsibilities and be expected to act with courage to make people look up to them. But that time is a long way off. It is fun like fishing in Saint Oswald's well that is important to Meric and Robin at the moment. Granny Shaftoe tries to warn the boys about the danger lurking at the bottom at Saint Oswald's well. She tells them of an unseen menace hiding its face under the surface of the water. Granny Shaftoe has a reputation as a witch and soothsayer, but this means little to Meric and Robin. They ignore her wisdom and go fish in the well, leaving the witch's words echoing around the greenwood. The boys do not know that their tampering with Saint Oswald's well has unleashed events that will change their lives for ever. They grow up and go off to war in the Holy Land and then return to their inheritance. But Meric disappears and Robin searches high and low for his friend. Granny Shaftoe waits and watches. Years pass and Robin, now the Lord of the Dale, tells stories about Meric to Alan, his son. Before long, Alan himself is old enough to go fishing in the well in the wood. One day, he casts his line into the water and pulls out a gigantic, slithering water-snake. Horrified, he drops his rod and the creature slides back into the well. But Alan has woken up a monster that is soon terrorising his home village and all the countryside around. William Mayne's novel The Worm in the Well is a dark and funny story set in England in the Middle Ages. But sometimes it can't make up its mind what it is. Mayne is a storyteller who likes to mix styles and times to create atmosphere and excitement. This shifting about, moving the story around, sometimes gets in the way of the narrative and leads to a bit of confusion that slows things down but The Worm in the Well is a strong story and in the end it does survive the writer's tricks of style. The Worm In The Well By William Payne Published by Hodder Children's Books ISBN 0 340 817127 John Millen can be contacted on MillenBookshelf@aol.com .