Witch World - Andre Norton Reread: Sept 2012
There's nothing better than a dose of Norton when in need of a comfort read.

When I was a lad growing up in St. Charles, MO, the library we frequented (a converted shop near the freeway exit, long since sacrificed to the country's love affair with shopping malls [sigh]) had two floors. The top floor catered to "adult" literature and I didn't often go there. The basement contained the YA and SF stuff, and it was there that I received my first exposure to the genre that I love to this day. Andre Norton was one of the earliest authors I read. The library had two five-book collections of her work. The first were SF titles - the first two or three "Solar Queen" novels and a few more set in her future history. The second collection were the first five "Witch World" novels - the setting for much of Norton's most inspired and best work.

What makes Norton such a wonderful author - something I only recognize in hindsight but that I'd like to think my adolescent subconscious picked up on - is that she never allows her fantastical settings to obscure what really matters: the people who live in her stories. The story of Simon Tregarth's adventures in the service of Estcarp made a powerful impression on me, and Jaelithe was probably my first literary crush. For a long time, it was Norton and Tolkien by which I measured other authors.

My recommendation below still stands. For decent stories with interesting and admirable characters, you can do far worse.
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Andre Norton is probably one of the best authors to introduce young readers to both SF and fantasy. You can't go far wrong with either the Solar Queen or the Witch World.

* For my birthday, I picked up the first seven "Witch World" novels from my local used-book store, which prompted this particular round of rereading.