How many times have you fallen asleep and dreamt you were in the fantasy world created by your favorite author? I've only had that experience once in my life and my dream took place in Andre Norton's Witch World.
This author kept me turning the pages, not only for the cliff-hangers that the hero, Simon Tregarth gets himself into, but also for glimpses of a strange new, magical landscape. She doesn't pile on the adjectives, either. Her prose is remarkably clean. Just read the lead sentence of "Witch World," which introduces us to ex-soldier, Simon Tregarth:
"The rain was a slantwise curtain across the dingy street, washing soot from city walls, the taste of it metallic on the lips of the tall, thin man who walked with a loping stride close to the buildings, watching the mouths of doorways, the gaps of alleys with a narrow-eyed intentness."
He is a hunted man, unjustly cashiered from the U.S. Army for dealing in the post-war blackmarket. Since Simon had been labeled as a crook, he figured he might as well play the game.
After seven years in the underworld, surrounded by his enemies and a gunshot away from death, Simon treats himself to a decent last meal (Andre Norton heroes and heroines NEVER whine. They assess the odds, then keep on slogging). Enter the mysterious Doctor Petronius who persuades Simon that he has nothing to lose by vanishing from his enemies' gunsights through the Siege Perilous, a Cornish megalith that is rumored to be a gate to other worlds. Simon leaves the restaurant with Petronius, almost positive that he is walking into a trap. Instead of the bullet he is expecting, our hero is transported to the foggy moors of a new world.
The action doesn't let up. The first thing Simon does is rescue a witch from a nasty bunch of snake-headed dogs and hunters (we don't learn the witch's name until the very end of the book). The next thing he knows, he's embroiled in a war where the good guys appear to be losing.
Simon allies himself with "a tall, proud-walking race with...the carriage of rulers and an odd weight of years upon them." His new home, medieval Estcarp is a matriarchate, ruled by witches, whose powers depend on their continuing virginity. Nevertheless, Simon falls in love with the witch he rescued.
The enemies that he and Estcarp must confront have invaded Witch World via a gate similar to the Siege Perilous. The alien Kolder are technically advanced, with submarines and mind-control devices that they use to command their zombie soldiers.
Estcarp's only allies are the Sulcarmen, seafaring warriors and traders who lose their main port of Gorm to the Kolder. Simon, his friend Koris of Gorm, the witch he rescued from the Hounds of Alizon, and a youthful soldier called 'Briant' tread the mysterious byways of Estcarp and its warring neighbors, in an attempt to track down and destroy the technically superior aliens.
Lifetime Grand Master of Fantasy, Andre Norton built well. There are 35 Witch World (WW) fantasies, and the count is probably still rising even though this author passed away on March 17, 2005. Many of the later WW novels were collaborations, and it wouldn't surprise me if her co-authors attempt to live on in the world that the Grand Master created. I wish them well, but so far they have not managed to penetrate the brilliantly weird landscapes of Andre Norton's imagination.