Witch World was the first volume of the Witch World series that launched several generations of teen and preteen readers into the genre of fantasy fiction. And yes, I was one of those teens. There were other fantasy novels around, but many of those were difficult to read, or aimed at adult audiences.
Witch World stories were classified as ‘juveniles’ because they didn’t contain graphic sex, objectionable language or abusive violence, and they often revolved around coming-of-age journeys. However, these novels have much broader appeal. I’ve reread my copies through the years with as much enjoyment as the first time.
Simone Tregarth is a man marked for death in the mid-20th century. The ex-colonel fell afoul of what seems to be a criminal organization. Norton leaves this a little nebulous because it doesn’t matter except that Tregarth is a hunted man, a former warrior seeking escape. However, Norton points out that Tregarth is of ancient Cornish descent, invoking times of King Arthur and Celtic magic. A stranger who considers himself a scientist, an explorer, and an experimenter promises Tregarth escape. He leads Tregarth to the Seige Perilous, a stone as old as Stonehenge, rumored to have the ability to “judge a man, determine his worth, and then deliver him to his fate.” At dawn, the Seige Perilous delivers Tregarth to Witch World, a journey with no return.
Witch World does not have the technology of Tregarth’s homeworld, but magic is abundant. There are witches, magic, telepathy, and an ongoing war between good and evil.
His first act in this strange land saves the life of a witch, who remains unnamed until the last page. She takes him to Estcarp, the “threatened, perhaps doomed” home of the witches. Of course, Tregarth doesn’t speak the language, giving the reader an excellent opportunity to learn along with him. Here we meet witches, who only keep their power while virginal, and the dwarf guardsman Koris the Misshapen. There are other races in this world: the men called Falconers; the seafaring Sulcarmen, and about the evil coming from the lands of Karsten and Alizon. We also learn of the gates, portals that deliver people from other times and places, the price of magic, and of choices between right and wrong. WITCH WORLD serves as the reader’s gate to numerous other books in this amazing, well-crafted world.
The thirty-two books of the Witch World are available used from online booksellers, but I’ve discovered them to few and far between in local used bookstores. Probably a testament to readers loving their books so much they don’t want to part with them.
Sadly, Andre Norton died in 2005 at the age of 94. The list of her published books displays her impressive accomplishment.
Witch World by Andre Norton, Copyright 1963, many editions. Mine is from ACE Science Fiction.