Andre Norton’s Witch World

witch world

I know I said I couldn’t wait to read Witch World, but I could have waited. I’m not sure  what it was about Norton’s writing in this one, but it just didn’t flow. I can’t remember having to reread sentences so many times to get their meaning! At least I know I’m not the only one who’s had this experience with it.

Witch World actually kind of reminded me of my Hiero’s Journey read. On the surface this could be because of the inclusion of weird magic/psionic powers, but I think it may have had more to do with the pacing of the stories. I mean, stuff was happening, but it just wasn’t pulling me in. This wasn’t a very long book, but it took over two months to make myself finish it!

That’s not to say it was all bad. I thought the story started strong, and I liked the implementation of the Siege Perilous. But from there it just kind of tapered off. The hawk men (not hawkmen) were kinda neat, if underutilized.

But Loyse/Briant was such an uninteresting and undeveloped character. Maybe the “princess who craves freedom above all else and so becomes a warrior” wasn’t such an overused trope when Norton wrote this, but there’s little else to Loyse beyond this. And the introduction of new perspective characters 1/3 way through the book – gah! Do it well or don’t do it.

Koris and Jaelithe were okay…I didn’t hate them…but again, they weren’t very well developed.

I didn’t really find Simon that believable or likable, honestly. 5 years is a long time, and yet one of the chapters opened by telling us that he’d been serving in Estcarp’s army for this duration and yet was still considered and felt like an outsider. I get the alien feeling of living in a foreign land with a foreign people, but 5 years is plenty long enough to develop a sense of belonging and camaraderie to overcome that.

People have commented about the genre-bend later in the book – how it goes from fantasy to scifi. If it hadn’t been pointed out to me, I don’t know that it would have particularly stood out to me. Isekai stories tend to have a lot of weird or unconventional elements to them, so par for course, I’d say.

The ending of the book was kind of abrupt and unsatisfying. It suffered from the same problem as the rest of the novel, I guess – it wasn’t meant to be a self-contained story. It was meant to lay the groundwork for the series. I guess Norton succeeded in that – there appear to be a whole bunch of Witch World books. I just don’t have much interest in reading them.

I like Norton, but I wasn’t very impressed by Witch World. 2.5/5.

7 Comments

    • I specifically name-dropped Norton, C.L. Moore, and Leigh Brackett when I started Throwback SF Thursdays, but based on what I’ve read from the three, I definitely much prefer Moore and Brackett to Norton (although I like The Beast Master a lot).

  1. I like Andre Norton’s work, but I’ve noticed a few things about her books:

    * if the book has a co-author, it was written by the co-author and Norton wrote the outline. Personally, if a Norton book has a co-author, I don’t read it.

    * Many of her books have that dreamy quality to them that has an odd pace to the writing; both the Janus books and Witch World series seem to have this so it isn’t just her fantasy. Judgement on Janus was a favorite of the critics and is SF but just as weird as Witch World, and there is a touch of this in other books as well. Contrast them to Beast Master, the Solar Queen and the Time Trader books and its almost like they’re different authors.

    *Andre Norton published books over a fifty year span, with titles that begin with every letter of the alphabet. She wrote some good and great books and some that were not. She went through phases but her work is worth a look. If a particular book isn’t working for you, then drop it and try one of her other books another time. Life is too short.

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