Moon of Three Rings introduced the Moon of Three Rings series, also known as the Moonsinger sequence, which includes Exiles of the Stars (1971), Flight in Yiktor (1986), and Dare to Go A-Hunting (1990). Vorlund and Maelen continue to experience the effects of their first adventure on Yiktor, but subsequent novels are set on other planets as well. Vorlund and Maelen continue to grow as individuals and friends while they search for a home in a largely hostile universe. They hope to change the dominant human behavior, enacted throughout the galaxy, of controlling and abusing animals.
This series uses several background ideas that are part of a number of other series by Andre Norton comprising more than thirty books (for example, the Solar Queen series). The government of this interplanetary civilization is enforced by the Stellar Patrol. It has a capitalist system called the Combine, small entrepreneurs called the Free Traders, and organized criminals in the Thieves Guild. Far-flung planets were once visited by the Forerunners, an ancient multispecies civilization that continues to affect life millennia after its passing. All the books can be read independently, but they tell a more complex, galaxywide saga when read together.
Moon of Three Rings originally was marketed to a juvenile audience and was a Junior Literary Guild selection in 1966. Norton, however, pushes beyond the boundaries of typical adolescent stories. Vorlund and Maelen, for example, must accept things they cannot change and be grateful for the beneficial opportunities and hope that remain. This book examines one of the greatest themes of human storytelling: the essence of a person independent of the body. Another important theme is the need for humans to forge new relationships with others who are different—in this case, animals and Thassa. The book also explores death, faith, magic, and friendship.
Moon of Three Rings is a mythological, moral story about finding a place in a vast, largely uncaring universe. Relations between humans and other intelligent beings, especially animals, must change or all life and goodness will be destroyed. Individuals, moreover, have the power to know themselves and trust others. They can change the world, or worlds. Vorlund’s unfolding discovery of his strengths as a person with magical powers and animal desires is a story of personal growth. He forges a sense of self that transcends the body. This is an optimistic but not a simplistic story in which good triumphs over evil, often with a high price that is worth paying.
Norton’s recognition as a serious or adult writer of epic themes has come more slowly than have her awards as an author of juvenile stories. In 1977, she was the first woman to be awarded the Gandalf Award for Grand Master of Fantasy, a special Hugo Award for fantasy writers previously given to J. R. R. Tolkien, Fritz Leiber, and L. Sprague de Camp. This was followed by many other awards. Her recognition as an outstanding leader in both science fiction and fantasy was ensured with her receipt in 1984 of the Nebula Grand Master Award for lifetime achievement.
Norton has had a tremendous impact on many famous science-fiction writers. Anne McCaffrey, C. J. Cherryh, Marion Zimmer Bradley, Tanith Lee, Judith Tarr, and Poul Anderson are only a few notable authors who acknowledge Norton’s influence on their work and lives. Norton’s personal strengths and word magic reflect Maelen’s characteristics, and Norton’s friends have fondly nicknamed her “Moonsinger” in recognition of her interplanetary imagination.
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