By Andre Norton
It’s been decades since I have read any Andre Norton, and I can’t remember what I have already read (outside of her collaboration in the Trillium saga), so I was basically going into this novel blind. To both the author and the story. Wow. I can see how Andre got her reputation as a master. The writing is superb and the story was done very well, especially given the restriction in page numbers (being just over 220 pages in length).
Simon Tregarth has been on the run (not criminally induced, but ethically/morally) for a while now but his luck is running out and his past is about to catch up with him in a deadly manner. He is approached by someone known to help people disappear – very successfully, none of them are ever seen again – and decides to take his chances. He discovers that the secret to this disappearance is to be sent on a one-way journey through a portal. He won’t know what world he will land in, but it is a world that he needs.
Shortly after his arrival in this new world, he sees a woman being chased down by hunters (men on horses with weapons, and dogs). He intervenes and helps her escape. Through this act, he returns with her to Estcarp, a land of the old blood where some women have power, including the one he helped, and signs up in service. Estcarp is being squeezed by “more recent” settlers in other lands that are anti-magic, and increasingly anti-old blood. But there is a more sinister power encroaching from the West. A mysterious people that are cloaked by some type of barrier. A barrier that is impervious to the power of Estcarp. Any scout who goes to the conquered city is never seen or heard from again. Any city they conquer has no survivors.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. The story kept me engaged and as I mentioned above, I loved the writing. The pacing was just right and despite the shortness of the book, I didn’t feel like there was any information lacking, or anything lacking in the character development (though, granted, that wasn’t as deep as other thicker books I have read). It was a five star read for me right up until the last few pages. It wasn’t a weak or bad ending, but there were just a couple of niggles for me which meant I had to knock half a star off.
I enjoyed the observations that Simon was making – such as peoples coming from “overseas” as opposed to the old blood. That’s all I’ll give you here as I don’t want to say anything that might spoil the enjoyment and reveals. Which is why I can’t say all that much more about this book. Instead, I’ll just say that if you haven’t read it, you should. Hopefully you can track down a copy.
Witch World is the first book in a series of the same name. Luckily, I have the next 6, so I get to enjoy this world some more.