Silver May Tarnish by Andre Norton and Lyn McConchie (a Witch World novel) (book review).

December 2, 2013 | By | Reply More

Set in the ‘Witch World’ environment created by Andre Norton, this novel written by Lyn McConchie tells the tale of Meive and Lorcan. Both characters have become homeless orphans in the turmoil of the war and its aftermath. In the Witch World, the good citizens live in local fiefdoms called Dales with each one ruled by a Lord. There is a hierarchy of Dales with some being greater or at least wealthier than others. Lorcan’s Dale is overrun and destroyed during the war with all his family killed. Meive suffers a similar fate, but it is in the aftermath of the war when ex-soldiers who have become brigands roam the land looting at will.

Silver May Tarnish by Andre Norton and Lyn McConchie (a Witch World novel) (book review).

Silver May Tarnish by Andre Norton and Lyn McConchie (a Witch World novel) (book review).

Before the ransacking of her Dale, Meive was taken in by the local witch as an apprentice as she has the power of communing with the bee colonies her dale is renowned for. This is a power exclusive to the women folk and has helped turn Landale into a place so noted for its excellent honey that it is also known as Honeycoombe. I think this is possibly an attempt at an old English spelling as in the modern times it should be Honeycomb. Anyway, guided by the bees, Meive is able to rescue Lorcan from almost certain death at the hands of brigands who have captured him.

Having escaped and killed the brigands ,the pair travel back to Landale with the plan or rebuilding the dale and that’s about it really. Yes, they deal with bandits and another dale lord, Hogarth, who has a real disliking for Lorcan; but there are no plot twists, sub-plots or surprises. It’s not a very long book but some events are told first from one character’s perspective and then from the others.

While reading the book I was reminded of the BBC series ‘Robin Hood’, ‘Merlin’ and lately, ‘Atlantis’. They are shown in the early evening to a family audience so are carefully tailored to show implied ‘adult’ situations…simulated violence, non-gruesome deaths and mostly happy endings. This book appears to be written for that very same audience as it has been sanitised to the point where everything is bland with one exception, all men are potential brutal rapists, but even this is strongly implied without actually being said.

In a discussion with Uncle Geoff, he used the expression ‘writing by numbers’ and with this book I can see exactly what he means by it. There seems to be a checklist of essential elements for any fantasy book: orphaned son of a lord – check; young girl with powers – check; etc.). Unfortunately, this doesn’t make up for a rather weak plot. The characters speak in a version of old English (‘I will bespeak the bees.’) which gets rather tiring after a while. If the book had been aimed at a young audience, then I would have understood the sanitised writing, but it’s not as far as I can tell. It ends up being at best a fairly mediocre love story in a fantasy setting.

One last gripe. I do take exception to the way the book is attributed. It is clear from the introduction that the story was written by Lyn McConchie, but on the cover it is also attributed to Andre Norton as though it was co-authored, which it isn’t.

Andy Whitaker

December 2013

(pub: TOR/Forge. 284 page small hardback. Price: $24.95 (US), $33.95 (CAN). ISBN: 0-765-30637-9)

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Category: Books, Fantasy, MEDIA

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About AndyWhitaker

I live in deepest darkest Essex where I enjoy photography, real ales, walking my dog, cooking and a really good book. I own an e-book reader which goes with me everywhere but still enjoy the traditional paper based varieties.

My oriental studies have earned me a black belt in Suduko and I'm considered a master in deadly Bonsai (there are very few survivors).

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