My rating: 2 of 5 stars
It had been so many years since I read an Andre Norton book that I decided to read one I had somehow missed. I thought it would be a Witch World book but it was more a mix of SF and fantasy.
After raiders invade her home in the Craigs, Thora, the Chosen One, wanders west through strange territory and finds a wounded child size bipedal creature covered in fur. As they search for the furred one’s human partner, they travel through ruins from the Before Time and find evidence of the Dark moving across the land.
My book may be an earlier edition than the one I’m reviewing, but mine isn’t on Goodreads. The girl on the cover of my book doesn’t look capable of traveling through rough territory like Thora does, but the illustrations inside the book depict her much better. Besides, my book is oversize, not trade, and it still has quite a few errors. I had to laugh then the travelers sulked instead of skulked through enemy territory. The book actually fell apart as I was reading, maybe a sign that some other important things fell apart in the story telling.
Andre Norton was one of my favorite writers, but whether by design or not, she failed to present Thora as a sympathetic main character. While admitting she never finished her Chosen training, Thora is arrogant and judgmental of other cultures. She keeps her distance in another way too: Norton made an unfortunate choice to call Thora “the girl” too much of the time. It’s hard to identify with a character it seems even the author doesn’t care about.
For someone who lives in a post-apocalyptic world, too many of Thora’s decisions don’t make sense in terms of survival and don’t hold up to close scrutiny of the mythology either. Although Thora doesn’t call herself a witch, she’s been called to serve The Lady (in the form of the moon), and she comes from a small village where others must have had children to keep the Lady supplied with servants. Rejecting a possible mate to serve the Lady might make sense for a nun in a large city where the lack of offspring won’t affect the group’s survival, but would not be considered acceptable for a white witch in a post apocalyptic world with so few people remaining to fight the Dark.
I don’t know if I didn’t see Norton’s weaknesses before because I hadn’t started writing the last time I read one of her books or if this one wasn’t up to her usual standards. I can say this book took me weeks to read because it started slow. I didn’t have trouble putting it down until once in the middle and not again until near the end.
Mild Spoiler alert!
And then, smack, I ran into one of those stupid plot devices where the author chose to ignore the logical solution to the problem. Norton made the characters ignore their huge technological advantage and go against the Dark man to man when they literally could have rolled over the competition.
Was there character growth in a book meant for a YA audience? Well,let’s see. Given the choice of sticking around with a guy who serves essentially the same role she does for The Lady, Thora decides to skulk away. Or maybe sulk away. Yeah, let’s spurn the possibility of love so we never have to share with or answer to anybody. It makes me wonder if this book was written during the height of women’s lib.
Given the otherwise interesting mix of SF/fantasy, technology fighting alongside magic, I might consider a higher rating if not for the unlikable main character not showing any character growth by the end. That factor is too important in my book, YA or not.
I usually make books I’ve read available for giveaway, but this one is now a bunch of separate pages stuffed into the cover. Sorry about that. I have plenty of other books up for grabs in my chocolate and books contest. Just click the tab at the top of my blog. Happy reading!