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High sorcery by Andre Norton

High sorcery (1970)

by Andre Norton

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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Five stories, only "Ully the Piper" pertains to the Witch World, but all entail some degree of magic (and disability, I am just now realizing). The first, the novella "Wizard's World" (previously published and broken into 9 chapters) is very similar to the original Witch World in terms of plot: hunted man manages to flee his pursuers into another world where magic apparently works. In his own world, his esper talents made him a hated minority trying to escape genocide or slavery, but here they make him a person with the Power. He finds a woman being hunted and saves her, then joins forces with others to carve out a place for himself. Second, "Through the Needle's Eye" is set in the modern world. A disabled girl is drawn to a disabled old woman who is the last of a family famous for embroidery. The old woman's tragic past and mysterious future are tangled up with the devil's bargain (well, the other party is left unclear) made by the first of her line and the magical needles passed down from one talented woman to another through the generations. "By a Hair" is set in an unnamed location of eastern Europe(?) in the wake of WWII and the rise Stalinism and the Soviet Union. Politics and personal desire and old powers collide in the machinations of 4 people to devastating and unexplainable effect. Fourth, "Ully the Piper" features Ully, a disabled boy who can't participate in the spring dances with the other youth of their remote dale that escaped the ravages of war. The popular kids bully him and push his cart down the hill to get lost in the woods at night, where he happens upon a faery ring. Faery gifts, envy, greed, and the rewards for ill intent are all there in a classic folktale plot.

Finally, "Toys of Tamisan" (8 chapters) is a blend of science fiction and fantasy. This novella was expanded into the full-length novel Perilous Dreams 7 years later by the addition of 3 other sections following this part. It opens with a science fiction story of a bored, disabled rich man (former space explorer or other man of action) who at the urging of his oh-so-solicitous cousin buys a telepathic dreamer (an organic form of virtual reality) who specializes in action dreams for her clients. Challenged by her client's ennui, Tamisan decides to create a dream based on possible alternate trajectory of their city and planet if 3 critical decision points in history had gone differently. Stunned to find herself trapped within the dream world and apparently gifted with magical oracular power, she struggles to find her client and his cousin and free them all before any of them dies in a reality she can't control.

Tangentially, I have always loved the cover by Steve Hickman, although it has nothing to do with any of the stories in the book. Not so much the female nudity (yawn, the usual SF/fantasy sexism on display--but it's a product of its times, 1970--I hear the apologists' cry already). But I very much enjoy all of the curves and spirals and how they intersect: the arms of the chair and draped fabric, the curve of the horns and the satyr-like leg, in addition to the curves of the feminine torso, the spirals of the hair, the circular pedestal, the colonnades in the background, etc. And I enjoy the study in red--all of the colors from the same palette range.

I still enjoy the stories after all these years (admittedly, to varying degrees). This book's a keeper. ( )
  justchris | Jan 2, 2017 |
REVIEW INSIDE COVER: CRAKIE, MISS RUTHEVEN, DAGMAR, ULLY, TAMISAN. These, and others unlike them, inhabit Andre Norton's world of High Sorcery, where the primeval desires and fears of man - his loving and loathing - are merged with his dreams of future knowledge and technological power. Those who have enjoyed the alchemy of Norton's other mind-bending tales should enjoy these!
  xenacick | Nov 15, 2016 |
This is the first of Andre Norton's work which I've read. Whilst some of the stories were initially engaging, I felt disappointed as her reputation had led me to expect more.

Wizard's World and Through the Needle's Eye were ok, but nothing special.

I simply didn't like By a hair, and Toys of Tamisan was frustrating as I would either have like to see it extended, or wrapped up better at the end.

That said, I really enjoyed Ully the Piper and on the strength of this, I may well give Norton another try in the future. ( )
  bigcurlyloz | Jan 14, 2009 |
I particularly liked "Through the Needle's Eye". ( )
  TadAD | Aug 23, 2008 |
Short story collection by a great sorceress of fantasy, March 31, 2005
Reviewer: E. A. Lovitt "starmoth" (Gladwin, MI USA) - See all my reviews

"High Sorcery" (1970) is a collection of four short stories and a novelette by Lifetime Grand Master of Fantasy, Andre Norton (Alice Mary North), who passed away on March 17, 2005 after a long and extremely fruitful career. Her first novel was published in 1934, her last in 2005. Her unusual, detailed world-building skills will be sorely missed.

One of the stories in "High Sorcery," "Ully the Piper" takes place in the Dales of High Hallack, one of Norton's famous Witch World settings. Her Witch World will be remembered with the same sense of mystery and delight as Ursula K. Le Guin's Earthsea and Tolkein's Middle Earth, if history is fair to this prolific author.

Ully of Coomb Brackett in the Dales was crippled falling out of a tree as a boy (many of Norton's major characters are physically handicapped). He is asked to pipe for a dance on Midsummer's Eve, but a bully steals his musical instrument and drives him away. Ully is then given the opportunity to offer up his music to another, much stranger group of dancers.

Three of this collection's stories are complete stand-alones as far as setting, although "Wizard's World" comes very close to being a Witch World novelette. The hero, Craike tries to commit suicide when he is hunted down on our future Earth because of his Esper talents. He leaps from a cliff--and instead of dying, finds himself transported to an alternate world where unusual mental abilities are a bit more commonplace. Still there are the hunters and the hunted, and Craike automatically sides with a shape-changed sorceress when she is being driven to her death by the notorious Black Hoods.

"Through the Needle's Eye" matches a lonely teenager who has been lamed by polio with old Miss Ruthevan, who was crippled in a driving accident in her long-ago youth. Miss Ruthevan possesses wondrous skills with her embroidery needle. Her finished works look disturbingly real. She offers to teach young Ernestine how to embroider, but warns her that such gifts come with a price. Ernestine must decide whether she is willing to pay that price.

"By a Hair" is the least successful story in this collection. It takes place in an unnamed Baltic country during and after World War II, when the Nazi invaders are replaced by Russian troops. Countess Ana returns from a Nazi concentration camp, her body deformed and her youth fled, to discover that "where the Nazi had strutted in his pride, the Bear of the north shambled, and stamped into red dust those who defied him." When the beautiful Dagmar betrays her partisan lover to the Russian Colonel, Countess Ana and the midwife, Mald quietly seek revenge.

The novelette, "Toys of Tamisan" also appears in Norton's "Perilous Dreams" (1976). It takes place in a future where humanity had long ago reached the stars and scattered itself across thousands of planets. The heroine, Tamisan is a 'true action dreamer to the tenth power' and she can share her dreams (for a certain fee) with others. Lord Starrex is a former space voyager who now lies crippled in the midst of luxury. He can afford the very best Tamisan has to offer and she wants to create a unique fantasy world for him because she senses that he has been everywhere, seen everything, and will not be satisfied with her usual fare. She hits upon the idea of creating an alternate history of their world, where certain key events can be altered by Tamisan to yield a different present.

Unfortunately, once Tamisan and Lord Starrex are plunged into her dream of an alternate history, Tamisan discovers she has lost her ability to manipulate events in her fantasy world. Furthermore, she seems to have misplaced her client.

Magic is alive and well in Tamisan's alternate history, and she herself is one of its practitioners!

"Perilous Dreams" continues the adventures of Tamisan and Lord Starrex in "Ship of Mist."

It is easy to get caught up in Norton's stories. She conjures her reader right into the midst of the hunt, the mayhem, and the magic. She was indeed a high sorceress of fantasy. ( )
1 vote nealdowns | Dec 27, 2006 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Andre Nortonprimary authorall editionscalculated
Gaughan,JackIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Morrow, GrayCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Morrow,GrayCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Wizard's World:

Craike's swollen feet were agony, every breath he drew fought a hot band imprisoning his laboring lungs.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
Disambiguation notice
This book consists of 5 short stories. These should not be combined either with the original magazine publications, nor with the stand-alone novel when and if it is published.

Wizard's World - If c 1967, Galaxy Publishig

Toys of Tamisan - If, c1969, Galaxy Publising

Through the Needle's Eye -

By a Hair

Ully the Piper
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Book description

a man hunted on two worlds...

Miss Rutheven,

whose needled pointed to secrete kingdoms...


with the fatal fascination of Helen of Troy...


whose music touched the powers before mankind...


The sorceress who found herself the victim of her toys...

These, and other s unlike them, inhabit Andre Norton's world of High Sorcery, where the primeval desires and fears of man - his loving and loathing - are merged with his dreams of future knowledge and technological power.

Those who have enjoyed the alchemy of Norton's other mind-bending tales should enjoy these!
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