The story is set in a vaguely medieval world in which a young woman has been cursed by the evil witch who has enslaved her and caused her to lose her memory. With the aid of her talking animal friends who have also been cursed (toad has a huge stone under his tongue meaning he can't feed and a crow with a gem embedded in its wing and there's a little grey kitten too who never grows up) she sets out on a journey to break the curse for herself and her friends. Along the way she meets an injured unicorn and a horny-but-moral soldier rendered impotent by a curse after refusing the disguised witch's sexual advances.

After adventures there's a 'happy ever after' for all of the heroes and the witch meets a sticky end.

In the UK the book had a deep red cover with an illustration. I read it in either the 1990's or the early 2000's. Cracking book, definitely for adults given some of the situations, language and humour.

  • Wait -- I vaguely remember this. I'm pretty sure I've read whatever book you're looking for. May 3, 2015 at 23:35

1 Answer 1


This is Mary Brown's "The Unlikely Ones".

The plot and characters are exactly as you describe:

In a dank cottage, 5 unlikely heroes are enslaved by an evil witch through very painful pebbles embedded in their flesh. They are Thing, a twisted girl deemed so hideous that she always wears a mask, Corby, the black crow, Puddy, the toad, Moglet, the timid kitten, and Pisky, the golden fish. They have no memory of their past and have learned over time to communicate amongst themselves.

When the villagers band together to burn the witch, our heroes escape and set out to solve the mystery of how to remove the pebbles that are causing them such agony. Along the way they meet two others harmed by the witch. The first is a hornless unicorn, whose horn was destroyed and companion was slain by the witch. The second is a knight cursed by the witch because he spurned her. His curse is to have rusty armor, a blunt sword, and all desire unfulfilled until he weds the ugliest creature in the land.

Note also the the 1990 UK edition did indeed have a red cover with an illustration:

Front cover of The Unlikely Ones

  • Thank you so, so much. Didn't remember the goldfish character but that;s obviously because I have the memory of one. This has been driving me mad for months, I even went through several of old packing cases full of books that I hadn't read for at least a decade. I'm now able to get a new copy thanks to you, you lovely person!
    – Snowball
    May 4, 2015 at 21:11
  • Glad to help! If you liked this one, you'd probably like "Pigs Don't Fly" by this author, too. :)
    – Viergacht
    May 5, 2015 at 18:31
  • Thanks for the recommendation. If I can track it down in the UK I'll give it a read.
    – Snowball
    May 7, 2015 at 17:29

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