Thursday, June 11, 2015

Enchantress From the Stars (1970)

Enchantress from the Stars. Sylvia Louise Engdahl. 1970/2003. Penguin. 304 pages. [Source: Review copy]

From the prologue: The planet shines below us, cloud-flecked, dazzling against the dark backdrop of space. Down there it is cool and green and peaceful. In a little while we will take the ship out of orbit and leave this world behind, a mere speck in the vast currents of the universe. This world, which we call Andrecia--the third planet of a quite ordinary yellow sun...but that's just coincidence, of course. What difference does it make that just such a planet was my own people's ancestral home?

From chapter one: At the edge of the Enchanted Forest there lived a poor woodcutter who had four sons, the youngest of whom was named Georyn. They were able to earn a meager living by selling wood to the folk of the village, and although there was seldom more than dry bread or thin gruel on their table, they were not miserable.

I'm so glad I decided to reread Sylvia Engdahl's Enchantress from the Stars for my Newbery reading challenge. (It was a Newbery Honor book in 1971). I loved, loved, loved it the first time I read it. I loved it just as much the second time. (I love it when a book rereads well. Not all books do. That's one way you can distinguish between a good book and a great book.) I would definitely say it's a premise-driven book, but, that being said there is plenty of action and plenty of characterization. So it has many strengths.

Enchantress from the Stars is narrated, primarily, by a young woman named Elana. The novel is reflective, in a way, because the novel is an account of her first 'adventure' on another planet. She's writing her report, giving her side of the story. But this novel is more than just her side of the story. It ventures to include the perspectives of two others--a young man, the woodcutter's youngest son, Georyn, and a young medical officer named Jarel. Both Georyn and Jarel are from Youngling cultures. Georyn is a native to Andrecia; Jarel is from another planet, a planet in a different stage than Georyn's, but a great deal less advanced than Elana's. (He is with the Imperial Exploration Corps). Jarel is just one of many in the first ship sent to "colonize" this planet.

Elana is on a ship with several other agents--including her father--when they learn that Andrecia is being invaded, and a Youngling culture/civilization is being threatened. They can't directly intervene. And they definitely can't reveal themselves. But they can try to influence things subtly, indirectly. Elana is chosen--with some reluctance--to interact with the natives. Well, she's to interact with two brothers--Terwyn and Georyn. These two are on a quest--along with their older brothers--to KILL A DRAGON. Yes, they are on their way to get the king's blessing, the king's permission to enter the Enchanted Forest. They don't know what dangers they'll face, but they know the fiery dragon must be stopped. These brothers see Elana an an enchantress, a faery perhaps. They see her as having great power, great wisdom, great magic.

So Enchantress from the Stars reads as a fantasy novel--a fantasy novel in the style of a fairy tale. But. Of course it also reads as a great science fiction novel with space ships, etc.

What did I love about this one? Everything! I loved the premise. Just loved it! I loved the world-building, the setting, the atmosphere. I loved the storytelling. I loved the characterization!!! I loved Elana. I loved Georyn. I loved Jarel. I even cared a great deal about the Starwatcher and Evrek. I thought this book was just so well written.

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

1 comment:

lee wardlaw said...

I read this book in a children's lit class I took back in the mid-1970's. Still love it today. Did you know there's a sequel?