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Witch World    by Andre Norton order for
Witch World
by Andre Norton
Order:  USA  Can
Ace, 1970 (1963)
* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Witch World is the first of Andre Norton's long-running series in my favorite of her many worlds. Colonel Simon Tregarth, an honest adventurer on the run from implacable enemies, takes a seat on the Siege Perilous. This is a menhir, a stone of power, able to 'judge a man, determine his worth, and then deliver him to his fate.' He arrives on a new world, where a fleeing woman arouses his chivalry.

Simon rescues her and takes service with the Witches of Estcarp, a powerful matriarchy who use magic as a weapon in their defense against the hatred and fear surrounding them. Their worst enemies are the grim Kolder, who are 'not as other men.' Estcarp is allied with the sea wanderers of Sulcarkeep, who ask for their help. As Simon's new friend Koris says 'If Sulcarkeep cries aid, then we loosen swords.'

So begins a magical adventure, in which Simon, Koris and the rescued Witch fight for a beleaguered small realm against powerful enemies. She warns them to 'beware the place where rocks arch high and the scream of the sea eagle sounds!' Norton does not make it easy for her heroes and heroine. There are horrors ahead, from dead enemies with the faces of friends to the vile laboratory that made them that way.

In a story that begins in parallel, colorless Loyse, the heiress of Verlaine, lives in fear of her vicious and abusive stepfather Fulk, a wrecker lord. But her fragile appearance is deceiving. Loyse rescues the Witch, captured when her ship capsized, and flees with her. They are united with Koris and Simon in Kars, where they learn more of the enemy. It turns out that Simon's own offworld origins, and powers inherited through his Cornish blood, are key to the struggle.

Witch World has it all - high fantasy, non-stop adventure and romance, with a heavy dose of imagination and invention; the best of escapist reading. This first book introduces Estcarp and its surroundings, including the legendary Falconers, whose world is as rigidly dominated by men as Estcarp is by women. It also brings together Simon and his Witch who tells him her name, Jaelithe, at the end - 'her name, that most personal possession in the realm of the Power' and so declares her love for him.
Note: This book is unfortunately out of print but is available second hand.

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