Saturday, June 1, 2013

Andre Norton's WITCH WORLD

You know, I actually had a paperback copy of Witch World when I was a kid, but somehow I never got around to reading it, and I couldn't begin to tell you why. I think it even had this exact same cover -- it was very old. And, well, just look at it! What's not to like? But so it languished in the teen Kate's TBR pile, ever getting buried under new Michael Moorcock and Jack Chalker and Piers Anthony and Stephen R. Donaldson Isaac Asimov and all those Star Trek novels Pocket/Timescape kept cranking out. Really, it just never made it to the top.

Time to see what I've been missing out on, eh wot?

Of course right away I could see why it never sucked me in and attained OMG GOTTA READ IT MEOW status, because the first chapter or two is not the sort of stuff that grabbed me back then. Simon Tregarth is some kind of mobster, crossed his boss, gotta hide, blah blah blah. And someone is hung up on his surname, which is an ancient Cornish one, and that someone happens to know some ancient Cornish-type magic buh buh blear. I mean, at least Thomas Covenant was dealing with something seriously unusual and dramatic in his real world, know what I mean? And angsty! But mobsters on the run? Meh.

Of course all of that has changed. I have discovered the joys of crime fiction and spy fiction and Cornwall and now those same opening chapters that put me off as a teen sucked me right in, this time, only to then quickly dump me into this other world to which the Siege Perilous sent our Mr. Tregarth when he accepted his new friend's sorcerous help out of sheer desperation (apparently Sammy, the man hunting Tregarth, is an unstoppable killing machine but I guess I'll never know firsthand, le sigh). I would probably, at this stage of life, preferred the Crime Fiction version of Tregarth's tale, alas.

Because, and truly I hate to say this, Witch World kind of bored me. I found the characters flat (and yes, that includes Loyse, who was indistinguishable from dozens of plucky young female semi-heroines I've encountered before/since), the action predictable, and the predicaments a bit old hat. Noting that none of the above would have applied had I read this at the right time of life, that being when I was about 14 and all of this would have been astonishingly new and different for me. But now, being an avid reader of real military/spy fiction, not to mention harder core fantasy fiction, not to mention science fiction in which there is actual science, well, meh.

We're just ships that passed nowhere near each other in the night wherein/at we should have met, Andre Norton and I, I think. Oh well. Onward.

1 comment:

  1. I more or less think the same as you. Andre Norton was never one of my favorite authors because her work adheres too much to typical conventions of the fantasy genre (and I understand she was one of the seminal authors who established these conventions). However, if you like romantic fantasy at all, please try Year of the Unicorn. This is the novel that changed my mind about Andre Norton. Startlingly unusual, it breaks all genre stereotypes then and now. Plot-wise, it is unique, often toeing the line between wonder and nightmare in a way that modern writers have forgotten. The best comparison I can draw is to medieval literature, such as the lais of Marie de France. The atmosphere is sublime in the gothic sense. It's still an adventure story of sorts, but if however you don't like girly fantasy as much as I do, then maybe this won't be your cup of tea.

    I just had to recommend this title to you because reading your review of Witch World, I felt like we were on the same "page" where this book is concerned, and yet Unicorn really moved me in a way no other Norton title has. I will continue trying out her work for several reasons: 1) I have great respect for her as such a long-lived and prolific writer, and want to know what I'm missing; 2) I keep thinking at least SOME of her books have to be amazing since she's so popular, and feel a little guilty that I'm not enjoying them as much as her legions of fans do; 3) I need another Year of the Unicorn. I'm not ready to give up on Andre Norton just yet. I have to believe that an author who wrote over 100 novels must have at least a few other titles in that style. I can't stand the thought of her being a one-hit wonder, really. :P



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