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This is a "stand-alone" novel from an author perhaps best known for her Witch World series of novels. The Hands of Lyr is set in a desolate world trying to recover from ancient ravages caused by dark, evil sorceries. Into the most desolate of these places comes a young girl, Alnosha. Nosh is saved from certain death by a mysterious woman, who raises her and teaches her many skills. During this time, it is found that Nosh has a Talent. Her skillful hands are adept at finding gemstones, no matter how well disguised they may be. Not only can Nosh discern the worth of such stones, with some she is also able to determine good and evil sources, as well as their history.
While Nosh is developing her new skills, anotherís life is abruptly changing. Kryn, House Heir of Qunion, secretly watches as his familyís fortune and honor turn to dust at the hands of the leader of a new religion. Outlawed for his refusal to meekly comply with the Templeís wishes, Kryn is forced to journey far from home, hoping for an opportunity to avenge his familyís honor.
As with many of Nortonís books, the basic concept is sword and sorcery. The tale of Nosh and Kryn is told in alternating chapters. When Noshís Talent sets her on a mystical quest, Kryn becomes her unwilling protector. Throughout their journey they are beset by evil foes, some human, some supernatural. The groundwork for a battle between Good and Evil is laid out but never fully develops. The major part of this tale revolves around the events occurring on the journey and the changing relationship between Nosh and Kryn. When the final confrontation does occur, it is over almost before it begins.
Norton deftly describes a forbidding, strife-torn world. The journey segment of the book is interesting and many of the secondary characters met along the way are worth further development. Unfortunately, they seem to only appear long enough to move the story along and then are quickly dropped. I donít believe this is one of Nortonís best efforts, but the story did move quickly and had some entertaining moments.
Reviewed by: Diane
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By the Kingís order, young Twilla is forced from the only home she has ever known, to be sent across the mountains to a strange new land as an unwilling bride. However, Twilla has been trained in the ancient lore as a Healer, and carries among her meager possessions a mirror of uncertain powers. Travelling in a caravan of other unlucky women, rumors of the ominous fate that awaits them abound. Most frightening are stories of green demons of the forest who strike down the unmarried men of the new land, rendering them blind and witless. Twilla harbors hopes of avoiding an unwanted marriage by proving her usefulness as a Healer, but such ideas are quickly dashed ó at first by the caravan guards and then later upon her arrival at the settlement by the commander, Lord Harmond.
A series of unexpected and unpleasant events throws Twilla together with Ylon, the outcast son of Lord Harmond. Ylon had been captured by the green demons, but escaped. Found wandering witless and blind, he eventually regained his sanity, but not his sight. Ylon rescues Twilla from an evil plot and both are forced to flee for their lives. Their flight leads them into the same forest that is home to the green demons and directly into the path of the beautiful Lotis, the original captor of Ylon.
This encounter leads both Twilla and Ylon onto several difficult and dangerous paths. Twilla searches for a way to free Ylon from his blindness. In the process, she learns a great deal about her untested powers and the truth about the forest people. Meanwhile, Ylon must fight the enchantment which Lotis still wields over him and Lotis delves ever more deeply into black, forbidden mysteries.
Norton has written an absorbing, well-developed story this time around. She addresses manís instinctive wariness of those who are different, showing that there is often more than one interpretation of another's actions. In addition to some interesting characters, there is a strong nature conservation theme running through this novel. The story moves along fairly quickly, reaching a satisfying finale that brings together all the various plotlines and wraps them up neatly.
Reviewed by: Diane
Scent of Magic is yet another sword and sorcery novel from Andre Norton. In a dukedom decimated by plague, the orphaned young Willadene was assigned to the care of a distant cousin and compelled to become a scullery maid in the cousinís second-rate inn. As with many of Nortonís heroines, Willadene has a hidden talent ó she has the ability to analyze scents, a talent highly useful to the Herbmistress Halwice. When Willadene runs away to escape a forced marriage to an unsavory lout, she goes to the Herbmistress hoping to find an ally and a new position. She finds both, but also is thrown into a vast intrigue extending to the highest reaches of the land. Dark forces are at work and it quickly becomes apparent that Willadeneís highly sensitive nose is useful for more than perfumes and seasonings. She is able to scent magic, within both people and objects. Because of this ability, Willadeneís destiny becomes entwined with the Dukeís daughter, Mahart, and a highly placed spy known as the Bat.
Norton gives almost equal time to Mahart. The Dukeís hold on the realm is none too firm. Finally of marriageable age, Mahartís usefulness as a pawn has been discovered. In the blink of an eye, she is thrown from virtual seclusion into the intricacies of court life. Intelligent and intuitive, Mahart soon realizes that there are devious undercurrents swirling through the already turbulent court. Unseen enemies are quick to recognize Mahart as a threat to well-laid plans. Their sinister response sends Willadene, Mahart and the Bat on separate quests all leading to the same destination and a final confrontation with an ancient Evil.
Scent of Magic is one of Nortonís more recent works (1998). The novel is well written and maintains a steady pace. The idea of having a "nose" for magic was just offbeat enough to be interesting. Nortonís characters are likeable and well defined, and there was enough action and intrigue to keep the pages turning, although the final outcome was fairly evident by the later stages. I still think Norton has a tendency to wrap things up too quickly at the end, but the conclusion was satisfactory and in keeping with the rest of the novel.
Reviewed by: Diane
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Long ago, the forces of Light and Darkness struggled over the fate of humanity. The Wind, a champion of the Light and filled with strong magic, was able to defeat the minions of Darkness and banish them from the world. However, as the centuries passed, the people of the Valley became complacent and forgot how to listen to the messages brought by the Wind. Eventually, Darkness was able to stage a comeback.
A warped student mage, Irasmus, is seduced by the lure of powers he can barely understand. He seeks to enslave the people of the Valley and bring forth evil horrors from other realms. As part of his plot, he has divided a family. He forces a mother and her daughter to seek refuge in the Forest, last refuge of the Wind and the wild magic it wields. Meanwhile, he holds the motherís twin son captive, training him as his apprentice. Irasmus will use the boy to attain a secret, evil goal to further his hold over the people of the Valley.
After fleeing into the Forest, the young girl is raised by creatures of ancient magic that dwell within the Forest. She hones a skill that her ancestors had all but forgotten Ė the ability to hear the sounds of the Wind and the world about her. It will be up to her, secretly aided by other champions of the Light to discover Irasmusí nefarious plots and derail them. But will she be able to defeat Irasmusí apprentice, her own brother, whose powers could be as great as her own?
Norton has crafted a relatively short (280 page) story with her usual precision. The prose is obviously carefully crafted. However, I found the phrasing to be somewhat uneven which made for difficult reading at the beginning. Fortunately, once I got used to the rhythm of the phraseology, the book moved along smoothly.
The first half of the novel is mainly set-up for the remaining story (Irasmus conquering the people of the Valley). I felt this part of the story moved rather slowly. However, once the twins are born and forced apart, the plot picks up speed and progresses towards an interesting conclusion. The character development, while not deep, is sufficient for a novel of this length. I found some of the peripheral characters (other champions of the Light) to be somewhat annoying. I wanted them to lend more direct assistance to the main characters in their fight against the Darkness. But despite my feelings, they preferred to stay in the background and assist by providing information within dreams. Still, overall, this is a pleasant, short novel that would provide a nice break in between the 500 page novels of the latest trilogy you are reading.
Reviewed by: Alan
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