Old Favorites: The Witches of Karres

It’s not often that you see a sequel to a book come out 45 years later. When you do, you know it’s a book that had a special place in readers’ lives. That’s definitely the case with The Witches of Karres, by James H. Schmitz.

Now, the sequel usually ends up in the adult science fiction section, but that doesn’t mean that the origins of the book changes!

* * *

Piloting his ship Venture through the galaxy, Captain Pausert is sure that he’s about to win big. Not only will the cargo he’s collected impress his future father-in-law, but he’s gotten rid of all the old cargo that no one thought he’d ever unload. All he has to do is make one stop at the spaceport of Porlumma, then set out a course and get back to Nikkeldepain.

Then he happens across a greedy merchant terrorizing a young girl. It does seem a bit odd that she’s on top of a pile of boxes, but it’s no mistake that she’s trying to get away from the man who’s threatening to hurt her. Captain Pausert comes to her rescue, and soon finds himself owner of Maleen of Karres, who had evidently been the man’s new slave.  Once safe, Maleen bursts into tears and tells the captain that she has two sisters…who are also slaves on Porlumma.

Captain Pausert sees no way around it, if the younger sisters are also in danger, he has to help them. Suddenly, he’s grudgingly the guardian of teenage Maleen, her twelve-year-old sister Goth, and six-year-old the Leewit.  All three girls seem to have caused havoc in their previous positions; Maleen apparently causes stomach-aches, Goth teleports and the Leewit whistles…and destroys things.  Making a narrow escape by the skin of their teeth, the Captain is resigned to bringing the girls with him to Nikkeldepain.

But their welcome isn’t quite what any of them expected, and soon Captain Pausert and his three young witches are back in space, looking over their shoulders and searching for the girl’s home planet.  With the mysterious Sheewash Drive put into place by the three sisters, the Valiant is soon moving through the galaxy faster than any known ship, looking for Karres. Unfortunately, they’ve attracted attention…and lots of it! They have the combined forces of the Empire, a bunch of aliens, space pirates and the dreaded Worm World–the biggest threat to the galaxy ever seen–all chasing them. Can they complete their perilous journey and find their galactic goal? That’s up to The Witches of Karres!

* * *

First published in 1966  as a book (with an earlier version published in 1949!), I found The Witches of Karres in my elementary school library, although I later learned that is was considered a YA book. It does have lots of action, some rather villainous aliens, and a bit of violence, but my fifth-grade brain found it very exciting.  In 2004, The Witches of Karres was edited a bit, and re-released for a generation of new readers. For some reason, it was marketed then as an adult book. Although Captain Pausert is an adult, the girls run the first adventure just as much as he does, and it’s definitely accessible to fifth grade fans of science fiction.

The Witches of Karres obviously had a lot of fans, because although James Schmitz died in 1981, the first sequel The Wizard of Karres, came out in 2004, written by Mercedes Lackey, Eric Flint and Dave Freer, three quite well-known fantasy/science fiction authors in their own right. All three had loved the book as younger readers, and wanted to continue the story of Goth, the Leewit, Maleen and Captain Pausert. A third book, The Sorceress of Karres, just came out this month. Both of the later books are marketed as adult science fiction, but would be appropriate for young adult fans.

So if you have a Star Wars  or Percy Jackson fan who is looking for a science fiction adventure, try The Witches of Karres. See if you think you’d want to join the crew of the Venture and fight Vatches, Sirians, Uldanians and the Evil Empire!




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