Monday, 1 September 2014

REVIEW Tales from High Hallack, Volume 2: the collected short stories of Andre Norton


I’m a longtime fan of Andre Norton. So long a time that I picked up many of her novels as first editions. Despite this, like the first volume in this series the editor(s) managed to track down many stories and poems I have never read. 

The first entries are short poems:
Omniumgathum Poems
Song of the Barbarian Swordsman
The Last Cohort

And the remainder are short stories – several of which were originally published in the Catfantastic anthologies.

·        Swamp Dweller [Magic in Ithkar (1985) TOR]
This is a lovely high fantasy piece where good confronts evil and the players call upon Powers – and are used in turn by those Powers.

Get Out of My Dream! [Perilous Dreams (1976) DAW]
This is an elegant SF story set in the same universe as her Toys of Tamisan – the planet Ty-Kry and the Hive of the Dreamers who can create shared dreams. The plot line plays with a concept that Norton explored frequently; that of multiple realities and effecting changes via the actions of the protagonists. In the words of the hero: “There are dimensions upon dimensions, worlds upon worlds. Belief can add to their reality. I say that this is the Benold which foreshadows the Benold that is now.”

Of the Shaping of Ulm’s Heir [Tales of the Witch World (1987) TOR]
This is a High Hallack story and is the precursor to her Crystal Gryphon novel. It works as a stand-alone story but I do recommend the novel [and the association books as well.]

Rider on a Mountain [Friends of the Horseclans (1987) Signet]
This story is set in the post-apocalyptic world of Robert Adams’ Horseclans books. It comes complete with a brave heroine aided by mind-speaking horse and a hunting cat with attitude. Norton does excellent justice to the world while still writing very much in her own style. You don’t have to have read any of the Horseclans books to appreciate the story.

The Silent One [Chilled to the Bone (1991) Mayfair Games]
A stand alone ghost story with a creepiness level similar to her ‘By A Hair’ [available in the first Tales of High Hallack volume.]

The Nabob’s Gift [Hallows Eve: Tales of Love and the Supernatural (1992) Walker]
The Halloween version of a Regency Romance and surprising successful.

Nine Threads of Gold [After the King (1992) TOR]
Another truly excellent high fantasy story of nine children, the flotsam of war, come together in old safe-place and woman of power they draw to themselves. A woman of powers who weaves the potential of the small band into a power for good.

A Very Dickensy Christmas [The Magic of Christmas (1992) Penguin/Roc]
A Christmas ghost story with a touch of romance.

Noble Warrior [Catfantastic (1989) DAW]
The remaining stories all concern the adventures of Noble Warrior [Thragun Neklop], a beautiful Siamese cat raised in the palaces and temples of Siam to be both protector and defender. Thragun is sent to Emmy by her distant father. Things are not good for Emmy. She is subjugated and crushed by the oppressive Miss Wyker who has taken over the household by taking advantage of her great-aunt’s illness. Thragun, who the evil Miss Wyker tries to have killed immediately after his arrival, is hard put to protect his Emmy – but protection is what he learned at his mother’s side and protect her he will.

Hob’s Pot [Catfantastic II (1991) DAW]
The adventures continue with the return of Emmy’s father and the discovery of a cursed teapot. Of course the silly humans don’t realize the depths of its evil so it is left to Thragun to deal with the threat. After all, he thought, this was his palace; he was the guard…

Noble Warrior Meets with a Ghost [Catfantastic III (1994) DAW]
Thragun is kidnapped and must fight to free himself from a mad wizard. His efforts are aided by a feline ghost…

Noble Warrior, Teller of Fortunes [Catfantastic IV (1996) DAW]
Thragun’s journey to return to his own Princess Emmy takes him to a group of gypsies who recognize his powers.

Noble Warrior and the “Gentleman” [Catfantastic V (1999) DAW]
When Emmy’s father inherits a title, the family moves to a new estate – one complete with its own ghost with his own agenda. The story is very short, more a vignette than a true short story. When set in the context of all five stories it reads very well.

Copy received from Netgalley and publisher for an honest review.

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