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- Published on Amazon.com
Format: Kindle Edition
I first met Andre Norton's books after searching for the literary origin of the Beast Master movies. This was back before the Internet, back when some fans still did not know that "Andre" Norton was the pen name for Alice Mary Norton. Yes, that was after she received the Gandalf Grand Master award ("Grand Dame of Science Fiction, 1984), but have pity on those of us who fell for the male pen name trick; we didn't have Wikipedia.
TALES FROM HIGH HALLACK is expected to comprise three volumes. The stories are pulled from throughout her career - magazines, anthologies, and her own collections. What I liked most is that I did not have to be an expert in the author's various universes to enjoy these stories. I devoured the arthurian legend, the Witch World stories, the fantasies, science fiction tales, dystopian short, and the non-magical contemporary piece, appreciating each for its own merit. Here are my favorites from this first "Best of" collection, which comprised eighteen previously-published works.
* "That Which Overfloweth" (Grails, 1992): A shrine is attacked, but the most important treasure of all is overlooked.
* "By a Hair" (Phantom Magazine, 1958): How much can hedge magic and faith in old gods change in a Soviet-occupied valley in the lives of four people?
* "The Gifts of Asti" (Fantasy Book, 1948): Combines faith, magic, and science to renew the hope of a temple devotee and a lizard fleeing from invaders.
* "Falcon Blood" (Amazons, 1979): Witch World story resolving the mystery of the silent falcon people.
* "The Dowry of the Rag Picker's Daughter" (Arabesques, 1988): Straight-up Arabic fairy tale involving a wizard, an ungrateful (beautiful) princess, the thrifty (mean) ragpicker, and that man's shy (ugly) daughter.
* "All Cats Are Gray" (Fantastic Universe, 1953): Steena of the Spaceways and her cat, Bat, save the space expedition. Hint: The title is ironic.
* "Black Irish" (The Boy's World, 1939): A well-crafted non-magical conflict at a boys' boarding school.
* "Dream Smith" (Spell of Witch World, 1972): A new metal cripples and scars the village blacksmith, who later falls in love with a lord's handicapped daughter.
* "One Spell Wizard" (Garan the Eternal, 1972): Will the stuttering apprentice wizard be able to defeat his evil master with the one spell he was able to learn?
At the risk of being considered heretical, I find Norton's short stories surpass her novels in most standards of measurement. She includes more emotion. More input from the five senses. Her pacing flows, and the plot elements weave together, rather than seem to joust for position. I like her novels - Don't get me wrong - but they can be difficult to climb inside, difficult to walk within a character's skin. These short stories feel more human, for lack of a better term. I suppose this is exactly why some musicians sell a "Best of" collection. Their most devoted fans will hate it for what is left out, but it will please the reader who graises on many authors' works.
Here are a few more Andre Norton books to read and devour:
Beast Master's Planet: Omnibus of Beast Master and Lord of Thunder (Beastmaster)
The Gate of the Cat (Witch World Series (Estcarp Cycle), 8)