(Critical Survey of Science Fiction and Fantasy)

Andre Norton has written more than 125 books, most of them adventure stories for young adults. Witch World is among the first of her novels to be marketed as a fantasy for adult readers. Although its simple narrative style is reminiscent of young adult novels, the inclusion of mature themes such as the witches’ vulnerability to rape marks this book as a distinct departure for Norton. Although Witch World is not the first of Norton’s books to give strong roles to women, at the time she wrote the novel she rarely used female narrators; Loyse of Verlaine narrates several chapters of Witch World. This book also marks the entrance of strong, unstereotyped female leads into action-adventure genre literature.

Later books in the Witch World series emphasize the conflict between women’s sexual identities and their retention of magical power. Norton suggests that when sexual relations are forced upon women or are unwanted, women’s power is lost. When sexual attraction is allied to respect and love, however, her witches lose none of their magical talent but instead gain a comrade as well as a lover. This theme appears in Web of the Witch World (1964), a sequel to Witch World that begins in Simon Tregarth’s wedding bed as his witch-wife Jaelithe discovers that their sexual union has not destroyed her powers. It surfaces again in Sorceress of the Witch World (1968), in which a powerful young...

(The entire section is 421 words.)