When I found out that Andre Norton was female (when I was a teen) I was amazed that she was able to get inside of Fors' head (who's male) so well. The mark of writing genius, if you ask me.
This book is truly is one of the classics of all of S/F. And this is the story that totally hooked me in the genre.
In this novel, Maelen has been approached by Osokun, son of Oskold, and an off-worlder, Gauk Slafid, of the Combine. They want Maelen to lure a member of the Lydis crew into a trap to gain off-world knowledge and weapons. Maelen refuses, yet is troubled by the plot. When Krip and a fellow crew member attend her beast show, she has her partner, Malec, approach the off-worlders, offer a tour of the show, and then bring them to her so that she might question them and better understand the conspiracy against the Free Traders.
After she has introduced all the animals to the Free Traders, she asks them about the possibility of a touring beast show among the stars, but then they are interrupted by a oddjob boy, who she has tasked with watching an animal dealer, Othelm of Ylt, suspected of abusing his creatures. When Maelen begs leave to go, Krip asks permission to accompany her and they go to the dealer's tent, where they find a badly abused barsk. As Maelen goes to the animal, Othelm tries to attack her with a poisoned snik-claw knife, but Krip paralyzes his hand with a stunner. Maelen provides a token payment for the beast and removes it from Othelm's custody.
Krip reports the incident to his captain. After checking the persona tape on Krip's belt, the captain absolves him of any wrong doing, but still limits him to the ship and the ship's fair booth as a precaution. Later the duty priest and fair guards come to take Krip for judgment. Since he is busy with important customers, the captain stays behind but retains Krip's stunner and sends along another crew member. The priest and guards escort Krip to the fringe of the fairgrounds, where they are attacked by another party and Krip is taken captive.
After recovering full consciousness, Krip finds himself in a pit within a Yiktor fort. Osokun has found another way to gain a captive for his plot to extort weapons and knowledge. While he is waiting for a reply to his demands, Osokun also has Krip tortured in an attempt to break the off-world conditioning. When Krip awakens again, he knows that the only way that he is going to survive is to escape his captors.
After Krip's capture, Maelen senses his condition and leaves the fair to rescue him, taking along the barsk and several other animals with useful capabilities and skills. She doesn't know where Krip is located, but follows the pull of her wand eastward.
Like some other novels by the author, this story is just barely science fiction, for it postulates powers that are much like the magic of Witch World. Some of these powers are beyond the present day speculations of psionics; switching identities between bodies, for example, is an old standby of fantasy tales, but not in the parapsychological repertoire. However, this notion has been used in a variety of SF tales, including Schmitz's "Resident Witch".
This novel also differs from most other works by the author in that the heroine initially appears less than lovable. While caring deeply for her animal friends, Maelen has little empathy for anyone who is not Thassa (and not much even for the Thassa). Moreover, she arrogantly believes that she is more capable than any other living Moon Singer, as evidenced by her belief that she will be the first to tame a wild barsk. However, these flaws of personality are quite deliberate, as the storyline takes a step beyond the coming of age tale to an account of developing maturity and wisdom.
Recommended to Norton fans and anyone who enjoys tales of personal and interpersonal growth in a space adventure setting.
Far, far into mankind's future, when humankind has spread out into the stars from the original planet of Terra and encountered other races...Young Troy Horan is a refugee/displaced person due to war, living the shadow life of an unwanted, non-citizen in the Dipple camp. His world and past life has gone forever and he has no future. The elite and powerbrokers of the galaxy, gathered on the pleasure planet of Korwar, prefer to ignore the unpleasant truth of the Dipple under their noses.
One day, Troy has the unbelievable luck to secure some temporary day work in a luxury pet shop. While there, he stumbles on a mystery that could cost him his life, and he goes on the run with the special sentient luxury pets he has discovered he can communicate with in the petshop.
Who can Troy trust? He and his Terran animal friends hold a dangerous secret, and various interested and powerful parties now set off in pursuit of Troy and his friends as they escape into the highly protected nature wilderness that comprises most of Korwar, and finally into the mysterious, forbidden and sealed ruins of a previous race which existed on Korwar. The ruins are officially sealed for a reason - can the escapees survive their pursuers and what lurks within?
Language and content are appropriate for children/young adults. In addition, the writing and plot is at an extremely high level, appealing to adult readers as well. Some themes are environmentalism, power, war, refugees and animal rights. One of my favourite SF books still, as an adult reader. Also one for cat lovers.
Despite their protection, however, Korwar isn't untouched. During the great war between the Council and Confederation governments (its aftermath appears in several books, such as _Dark Piper_), the capital city of Tikil became the site of a refugee camp. After the war, those whose worlds were gone, whether destroyed or traded away at the peace table, had nowhere else to go, so the refugee camp became the Dipple, an unofficial 3rd face of Tikil making an ugly contrast to the expensive haunts of tourists or even the working city of the spaceport and warehouse district. The Dipple is a perennial problem, and _Catseye_ follows Troy Horan, brought to this sterile warren as a youngster from the plains of Norden. There are only three options open to a Dipple-dweller: attempting to join the Thieves' Guild (as Ziantha of _Forerunner Foray_ escaped), signing on as indentured labor for a frontier world (as Niall of _Judgement on Janus_ did), or scraping by without sub-citizenship by competing in the very tight casual labor market, as Horan does. Consequently, while the protagonists of _Forerunner Foray_ and _Judgement on Janus_ also came from the Dipple, Troy Horan's story is the first to concentrate on Tikil and Korwar - the other tales leave the planet early in the story.
On the morning the story opens, Troy has incredible luck - the assigner has a job for someone with "knowledge of animals", and Troy's reply that he has that of a Norden herd rider lands him indefinite employment at Kyger's pet shop, which provides exotic pets as status symbols for the rich. Troy's initial worries about the decade separating him from any contact with animals aren't a problem - his initial work assignment to help retrieve some new acquisitions from the port lengthens when an attempted hijack en route puts a full-time Kyger employee temporarily out of action.
But why would anyone try to hijack a shipment of exotic animals bound for a life as pets - even as pets of the Gentle Fem San duk Var, rich and influential though she is? Delivering a fussel hawk and accompanying its first hunting expedition with a Ranger of Korwar (and giving us our first glimpse not only of Korwar's huge unspoiled nature preserves, but of the mysterious Forerunner ruins of Ruhkarv) leaves him with an impression that Korwar's guardians are taking an unusual interest in what is, after all, only a pet shop. After all, it's not *illegal* to convince credulous rich people that their little darlings can't survive without special diets, available from Kyger's. :)
Then the routine of delivering special pet food to a Sattor Commander's beloved kinkajou is disrupted by murder - and Troy covers the kinkajou's odd behavior with a plausible story for the police. He finds himself wondering just how intelligent these animals are - and whether he should ally himself with Kyger, who may provide a permanent escape from the Dipple, or with a certain cats-eye view of the world.
(Ruhkarv, and the disastrous fate of the last archeological team ever allowed in the place, are mentioned in some of Norton's other works - _Dread Companion_ mentions it in passing, while a Zacathan scholar in _Brother to Shadows_ attempts an experiment with a revised version of the device that brought final disaster to the Ruhkarv team - but _Catseye_ provides more information about Ruhkarv than any other story to date.)
The story alternates between Kerovan, lord-heir in Ulmsdale of High Hallack, and Joisan, high-born maid of Ithkrypt in Ithdale of High Hallack, who is wedded to Kerovan by proxy when she is only eight. At first, there are few changes to her life as she will remain with her own kin until of suitable age:
It is so easy to get caught up in Norton's fantasy world. She puts her reader right into the midst of the feasting, mayhem, and magic. It's almost like being set down into the midst of a medieval Book of Hours.
Speaking of magic, when Kerovan's mother was about to give birth to him, she was forced to take shelter in a ruin of the mysterious Old Ones. She was rumored to be of the Old Race herself, and Kerovan was born with hooves instead of normal, human feet. His eyes were the color of butter amber.
Kerovan and Joisan grow up separately, having never met although they are married, and then their world is torn asunder by a strange invasion from the sea (see the original Witch World cycle for more detail about these invaders and their crawling, flame-shooting machines). In the Year of the Moss Wife, when Joisan should have gone to Ulmsdale to take up her wifely duties, she instead learns how to wear mail and wield a light sword. She wears a tiny gryphon in a crystal globe under her mail--a gift from her unknown fiancé.
Meanwhile Kerovan has problems of his own. The keep at Ulmsdale is betrayed to the invaders and he must make his way across the war-torn Dales to Joisan, whose own home has been destroyed. When he finally finds her, she mistakes him for one of the mysterious Old Ones because of his physical peculiarities.
How Kerovan and Joisan gradually come to regard each other, and how they attempt to defeat the dark magic that is arrayed against them forms the main story-line of this wonderful, but incomplete fantasy.
There are two sequels to "The Crystal Gryphon" (1972): "Gryphon in Glory" (1981); and "Gryphon's Eyrie" (1984, written with A. C. Crispin). None of Norton's co-authored books are as good as the ones she wrote by herself, but this is a series that is well worth following to the end.
So a review of the book - If you are the sort of person who likes this sort of thing, you are the sort of person who likes this sort of thing.
And of the author - If you are the sort of person who writes this sort of thing, you are the sort of person who writes this thing.
Irredeemable, really, but five stars for trying.
Storm, with Baku, Ho, Hing and Surra, his commando team, travels to Arzor on a troop ferry and then looks for employment herding horses to the auction to be held during the Gathering at Irrawady Crossing. To prove his ability to ride, he tames a young stallion and introduces him to Surra, the dune cat. When the horse tolerates the cat breathing in his nose, Storm gets the job without further questioning. He claims the stallion as his working mount and names him Rain-On-Dust. Since the horse herd is an attraction for covetous natives as well as wild animals, Surra patrols the camp at night and Baku, the African Black Eagle, scouts the route by day as they proceed cross-country to the Gathering. On the first night, they encounter a yoris and Storm, Surra and Baku kill the lizard in a coordinated attack before it can harm the horses, but its scent and hissing causes the horses to stampede.
With the herd scattered all over the area, the drivemaster hires some Norbies, the native sentients, to track down the horses. It soon becomes evident that someone has separated the herd and stashed the small bands in out of the way places. However, even the Norbie trackers cannot determine who has done this.
While the horses are being returned to the herd, Storm spends some time gentling a few of the wild stock to replace riding animals lost in the stampede. The other men soon come to respect his skills and he gains an even closer relationship with Put Larkin, the drivemaster, and Dort Lancin, an old Arzor hand who is teaching him finger talk and other lore. However, Coll Bister has developed a hostile attitude toward Storm for some unknown reason.
Storm has also become accepted by the Norbies as a fighting man with a fighting bird totem. Gorgol, the youngest of the trackers, is drawn to storm by admiration and curiosity, providing Storm with lots of chances to practice finger talk as he answers Gorgol's questions.
At the gathering, Storm fends off a couple of attempts to kill or maim him, in which Bister seems to be involved, and meets Brad Quade, the man he has come to Arzor to see, but not quite yet. He accepts a job with the Survey Service to locate and explore the Sealed Caves within the High Peaks.
This novel is vintage Norton, but with an older protagonist than usual. However, there is the psionic bond between man and animal, natives who are strangely like his own kin, and a deadly danger that must be faced. Moreover, there is the element of hope that survives among disaster.
Recommended for Norton fans and anyone who enjoys tales of competent and talented persons, dangerous but friendly animals, and mysterious alien artifacts.
Hosteen Storm is the Beast Master, a mustered out soldier after the end of Xik war, who has managed to keep his military team of animals together - two meercats, Hing and Ho, an eagle, Baku, and a sand cat, Surra, genetically enhanced animals that Storm has a strong empathic and near telepathic bond with. Arriving on the planet Arzor that he chose as probably best for a man who prefers outdoor living, that will provide him employment opportunities for himself and his team, he quickly adds one more member to his team, a rugged, quick footed horse he names Rain-on-Dust. Hired on to help herd the native equivalent of cattle, he makes friends with the local native intelligent race, the Norbies, a people whose anatomy precludes their being able to talk and have therefore developed sign language to an art, whose culture in many ways mimics that of Storm's early life. Storm's heritage is that of the Dineh (Navajo), a name which simply means 'The People' in their own language, and he was partially raised by his medicine-man grandfather, a heritage he clings to, as Earth has been destroyed by the Xiks in one of the last acts of the war.
This is the background beginning to Storm's search for new home, one that respects his heritage and can use his talents, with a buried unsatisfied anger at the Xiks, a festering grudge against a man named Quade, and a conflicted self image. As he travels through this new planet, events lead to his discovery of a buried city of the Old Ones, a race that traveled the star-lanes long before man (note that this long vanished race appears in many of Norton's books of this period), and to discoveries and actions that will eventually help heal his hurts and provide him with a more complete, mature image of himself and the world around him.
As the above indicates, character development is quite strong in this book, applying not just to Storm but also to his animals and his Norbie friends. Also strongly in evidence is Norton's excellent look at the Native American culture, something she developed in several books and obviously cared deeply about. The story line itself is fast paced, with plenty of action, and will make you greedily keep turning pages, till you unhappily turn the last one, and realize there is no more to enjoy. Though much of Norton's prose is fairly prosaic, there is sheer magic in her bits-and-pieces revelations about the Old Ones, a magic that will fire your imagination and enter your dreams.
Thematically this book has much to say about prejudice, honor and friendship, the importance of roots, courage and self-image, and the validity of alternate cultures, all quietly slipped in amongst all the action.
This work bears almost no relation the movie of the same name, though it was supposedly based on this book.. About all the movie kept was the concept of the animal team - the rest of the plot and setting was totally changed, and in doing so completely lost the power of this story. I believe Ms. Norton had her name removed from the movie credits, quite rightly not wanting to be associated with such a poor, mangled 'interpretation' (if you could even dignify it as such) of one of her finest works. Try this book, give it to your sons and daughters, loan it to your friends - this is one of those books that the term 'sense of wonder' was invented to describe.
Among the survivors was Arturo Renzi, who had lost his entire family. He began to preach the evils of science and was welcomed as a great leader throughout the world. However, his message was too liberal for some of his followers and he was assassinated, apparently by a Free Scientist. For three days after the assassination, Renzi's followers engaged in a furious purge against scientists and techneers, hunting them down and killing them. Then Saxon Bort, one of Renzi's chief lieutenants, assumed command of the leader's forces and established the tight dictatorship of the Company of Pax.
In this novel, a decade or so later, Dard Nordis is the son of a Scientific family, living with his older brother, Lars, and his niece, Dessie. Lars and Dard, together with Lars' pregnant wife, Kathia, had fled the purge, but the escape had left Lars a twisted cripple and his wife an amnesiac. After Dessie was born, Kathia retreated into her own dream world until her death. Now Dard, Lars, and Dessie live on a farm far from any population center and the only nearby farm is Hew Folley's place. Dard doesn't trust Folley, for he wants their farm. Then one night, a Pax 'copter lands in the snow just before the house and armed Peacemen surround the building. Dard has the others gather food and supplies and sends them down into the cellar, then torches the house. Moving aside some rotting bins, he uncovers a tunnel, sends Dessie ahead, and helps Lars struggle down the passage.
After the Peacemen leave, Lars sends Dard out to leave a packet for his Scientific underground contact, but Dard hears a shot shortly after he drops the packet and runs back to find Folley clutching a squirming Dessie. Dard throws his knife and fatally injures Folley, then discovers that Lars is dead. With no other recourse remaining, Dard and Dessie return to the contact point to wait. Lotta Folley finds them there and gives them food and a scarf for Dessie; Lotta knows that her father is dead, but she recognizes that he was a man full of hate and who liked to hurt people. Besides, Lotta likes Dessie and liked her mother even more; they were the only people that ever treated her as a real person instead of an object. Lotta takes the rifle back to the barn to fool the Peacemen.
When Lars' contact arrives, Dard convinces him to take Dessie and himself back to safety. They spend the night in a cave, but a Pax 'copter is circling the area when they awake. The contact, Sach, leads the Peacemen away so Dard and Dessie can proceed to the next point in their journey. They move away from the cave along a bare ledge as far as they can and then jump into a snow drift on the edge of the woods. Their journey is fairly easy until they reach the river; the ice is too thin to support even Dessie's weight. After looking up and down river, Dard finds only one place that may support them, an arch of ice covered with snow. Dard carries Dessie across, slowly and carefully, then rests for a count of hundred on the other side. Again heading to the peak that marks their goal, Dard hears the 'copter return and throws Dessie and himself into a tangle of bushes. The men in the 'copter rake the bushes with fire. He and Dessie scoot out the other side, but find it to be a wide sweep of open ground.
This novel is another of the author's post-apocalyptic stories, but the emphasis herein is on spaceflight. Mankind had achieved interplanetary flight and was working on interstellar flight when some irrational terrorists destroyed civilization. Other fanatics then ripped up civilization into even smaller pieces and tried to ensure that ignorance would reign forever. The Scientific community, however, was working on a stardrive and that work was continued in hiding.
This story contains several of the characteristic signatures of the author's space adventures, including special talents and aliens, but does not include mutations nor symbiotic animals. This novel shows the beginning of galactic-wide human civilization and Star Rangers shows the ending of that civilization. Of course, some of the other stories may be set in a successor society. This story is definitely a little dated, but it is still a pleasure to read, as is the sequel, Star Born.
Highly recommended for Norton fans and anyone else who enjoys tales of desperate spaceflights to planets around other suns.
Kerovan is partly descended of the Dalesfolk and partly descended of the Old Ones. The Dalesfolk entered the Witch World centuries in the past, settling in the highlands along the coast of the Witch World's "western continent". They found traces of the Old Ones, an ancient and apparently indigenous group of races who had mastered the Power, what we could call "magic".
Kerovan's mother bargained with dark forces to give her a child she thought she could control for her own ends. But he proved to be other than what she expected, and these books have followed Kerovan as he has sought his true place in the world, and the right heritage. With Joisan, who gives Kerovan unconditional love and support while resolving her own conflicts, Kerovan proves to be one of the strongest fantasy characters I've ever seen.
Norton takes strong female characters and makes them appealing for wide audiences. But she succeeds with Kerovan and Joisan as with no other husband-wife team. The first book is the best in the sub-series, and Gryphon in Glory is probably better than this one.
All of Norton's collaborations leave something to be desired when compared to her own original work, but Ann Crispin was always one of the better collaborators. She seems to have a real feel for the Witch World settings and pacings Norton made legendary in the 1960s and 1970s before she started sharing her world with other writers.
Any one who loves Andre Norton must read this book, even out of the series it can stand alone.