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THE GATES TO WITCH WORLD
(reprint) omnibus: 1994
A really nice hardcover omnibus of 3 "WITCH WORLD" novels by Andre Norton: The Gates to Witch World: contains WITCH WORLD (1963) + WEB OF THE WITCH WORLD (1964) + YEAR OF THE UNICORN (1965.) The first book in the series was a Hugo-nominee, featuring Simon Tregarth, a man of our world who passed through a gate to arrive on the Witch World - where magic worked. Simon's fate becomes entwined with the witch Jaelithe, and after a struggle to break the Kolder's power (the first 2 books) - they marry. The 3rd book takes place overseas, in a region known as High Halleck. The Hounds of Alizon had been supported and armed by the alien Kolder - encouraged by them to seek conquests in any weaker land. The Hounds considered the Dales of High Halleck ripe for easy plucking, but their invasion foundered when support from the Kolder stopped. (No more high-tech tanks, and the ones they had stopped working.) The Dalesmen eventually formed an alliance with the Were-Riders of the western Waste to drive off the invaders.
Witch World: Ex-colonel Simon Tregarth, cornered by his enemies on Earth, escapes via the Siege Perilous (of Arthurian lore) to the Witch World. There he saves the life of Jaelithe, one of the ruling witches of Estcarp, where only women have magic Power. Estcarp - last stronghold of the Old Race - is beset from the north by the Hounds of Alizon, from the south by Karsten - but most troubling are attacks by the Kolder: cold, implacable, possibly not native to this world - and masters of science. Their most recent conquest was the island of Gorm, formerly an ally to Estcarp. Simon throws in his lot with Estcarp and enlists in the army that protects them. The paths of Simon and Jaelithe cross again and again, climaxing in a battle against the Kolder to regain control of Gorm. This book was a Hugo nominee (in 1964, for books written in 1963.) It makes my personal "top 100" list, and I've read my copy perhaps 10 times.
Web of the Witch World - 2nd in the series. Simon Tregarth bears many of the quailties and abilities of a male Warlock, in addition to his experience with technology. He has won a place in Estcarp, as March Warder of the South. Jaelithe, now married to Simon, finds she retains her sorceress powers. Normally, the Witches of Estcarp have to choose between wielding magical power and bearing children - one reason for the slow decline of the Old Race. To those of Witch blood, the Kolder were a void - noticeable in its presence because of that void. Only the Old Race cannot accept the Kolder taint and know it instantly for what it was. Thwarted in Gorm, the Kolder have come up with new ways to bend minds to their will. As always, they sought pawns to do their work for them, since the Kolder were few in number. They have fingers in every pie - inciting Alizon to make war on its southern neighbor and elsewhere; and in the Tor Fens, persuading them to turn over Simon and the Kolder controlees escaped from Kars. The Council of Es had discounted Jaelithe's retention of her powers as fleeting, but she has truly found another way of power - in combination with Simon. Jaelithe convinces the Council to let her hire a Sulcar ship to follow Simon... so that her link to Simon can act as a way to track the Kolder to their overseas lair and lead a fleet to shut down the gate that brought them here - to win the war against the Kolder instead of fighting an endless series of skirmishes.
Year of the Unicorn - 4th to appear in the "Witch World" series, but it takes place outside of the main Simon Tregarth and children sequence - the first to be set across the ocean to the west, in High Halleck. This takes place somewhat later in the series, after the men of the Dales made a pact with the Were-Riders of the Waste to drive out the Hounds of Alizon. The price of that alliance was 13 brides for the were-riders. Not all of the brides were willing, and at the last moment a secret substitution was made. Gillan, an orphan from Estcarp, disguises herself and takes the place of the least willing - to go forth with high heart to wed a shape-changer and sorcerer. She finds wonder, unexpected divisions amongst the Were-Riders, a journey to a lost land, and a greater destiny than she could have imagined.
I recommend reading this as third in the series, and the 3 that feature the children of Simon and Jaelithe as a set (even though Three Against the Witch World actually came out earlier in 1965.) Since Spell of the Witch World and The Crystal Gryphon cover events that take place before and during the war with Alizon, it might make sense to read them before this title, if you are seeking to read by internal chronology.
This is not the first hardcover appearance for the books in this volume - the first hardcover editions were from Gregg Press in the late Seventies, and these 3 titles were previously collected as a Science Fiction Book Club omnibus titled Annals of the Witch World in 1994. No matter. This is the nicest looking edition you can get in hardcover. The Gregg editions used (the same) adequate but uninspired cover by Gaughan for all 7 of their WITCH WORLD hardcovers, and text was photo-reproduced from the original paperbacks (and thus a little fuzzy.) The SFBC hardcover had an even less inspired cover, and acceptable typesetting. I know most people won't notice or be impressed by good typography, but this makes an excellent impression - a handsome, well-made book, that will obviously hold up for many readings. I sold my Gregg editions of the set and kept a copy of this for myself.
Witch World + Web of the Witch World - the first book in the series was a Hugo-nominee, featuring Simon Tregarth, a man of our world who passed through a gate to arrive on the Witch World, where magic worked. There an ancient nation of witches (Estcarp) is beset by Alizon to the north, and Karsten to the souith, with the worst threat coming from the Kolder - who do not seem to be native to this world. Simon's fate becomes entwined with the witch Jaelithe, and after a struggle to break the Kolder's power (the first 2 books) - they marry.
Three books feature their 3 children: one centering on each: Three Against the Witch World, Warlock of the Witch World, and Sorceress of the Witch World.
Then there are 4 books taking place overseas, in a region known as High Halleck. The Hounds of Alizon had been supported and armed by the Kolder - encouraged by them to seek conquests in any weaker land. The Hounds considered the Dales of High Halleck ripe for easy plucking, but their invasion foundered when support from the Kolder stopped. (No more high-tech tanks, and the ones they had stopped working.) The Dalesmen formed an alliance with the Were-Riders of the western Waste to drive off the invaders. Year of the Unicorn, Spell of the Witch World, The Crystal Gryphon, and The Jargoon Pard.
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