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The Sorceress of Karres
Witches of Karres #3
by Eric Flint and Dave Freer
Baen, $7.99, 307pp
Published: May 2011

“Witches of Karres” has always been a reread favorite of mine but I never thought of how a sequel might be.  And there were actually two.  “The Wizard of Karres” came out in 2004 (see link at bottom for that review) and then this one.

In this world, there is a race of powerful people called Witches who live on Karres.  Their abilities appear to be unlimited in scope, limited in use by age and experience.  And the condition of being a witch of Karres doesn’t preclude people born on other planets; it’s more a question of mindset and ability.  When Captain Pausert first encountered the witches, there were three of them and all seemed to be young, vulnerable children.  The oldest, Maleen, didn’t have much of a story in the first book and was all but absent from the two sequels.  Goth, the middle child, announced early on that she intended to marry Pausert as soon as she was of age.  The youngest, the Leewit, was a tantrum-prone little girl with powerful and destructive skills; mostly used for comic relief in the first and second books.

For reasons peculiar to the Karres mindset, the two youngest children were allowed – even encouraged – to travel about the universe with Captain Pausert foiling universe-spanning catastrophes.  And this plot is no different. 

Karres have those who practice pre-cognition and for this story, their precogs have seen that something or someone is out to kill the Captain but the twist is that his fourteen-year-old self is the one in danger.  Apparently, someone thinks killing him before he develops his impressive klatha skills is the way to go.  They also precog that Goth has to go back in time to prevent it…and she’ll have to pretend to be someone else. And, for maximum fun, the circus lattice ship is integral to the story.

When Schmitz wrote the first book and had Goth declare – when she was but twelve, I think – that she intended to marry the Captain, it didn’t seem much more than the usual young crush that typically dissipates. But the sequel “The Wizard of Karres” continued to make much of it and was tending to make the Captain somewhat uncomfortable.  It’s a slippery slope, the affection for a young girl who continues to insist they will marry.  It's enough to make any well-mannered man shy away; but he struggles with his growing attachment and regard for Goth. 

So when Goth meets Pausert as a fourteen-year-old, her peer now, it just reinforces her crush.  She has to work to keep a distance from him, guide him through the dangerous events without giving away too much information that might change the course of his life.  She comes away from the encounter a great deal more wiser of her Captain’s motivations due, in no small part, to her actions. 

But foiling the planned kidnapping and preventing young Pausert from being killed was just a temporary solution to a much larger problem.  Something is trying to take over the whole universe and Pausert had something it wanted.  Goth has it now, and she’s the only one who knows where it’s hidden.  And it stays safely hidden until she returns to her rightful time.  By then, Pausert has puzzled out that Goth was the girl Vala who led him on so many extraordinary adventures when he was a boy, a girl on whom he secretly had a crush.  The creature has never stopped looking for Vala and it becomes quickly apparently that the creature has finally figured out that Vala is really Goth so The Venture is once again on the run while trying to stop another universe-wide destruction.

There are plenty of vatches to go around, the Megair Cannibals have their role to play, and everyone advances their power and abilities a bit more.  The Leewit feels the weight of responsibility while Goth is absent and begins to show the type of woman she will eventually become.  Goth becomes a bit more grounded and is, I’m sure, the subject of the book title.  In “The Wizard of Karres” it was about the Captain and his burgeoning klatha skills that were becoming more powerful than most witches; and of a very different nature, as well, earning him the title of Wizard.  So, I was sure – before cracking the first page – that this story would equally advance Goth’s skills so that she would be a appropriate match for the Wizard.  And that is what the authors tried to do.  I just don’t think they succeeded very well.  She did have some extraordinary adventures that matured her character and she picked up some clever tricks along the way, but she didn’t develop any particular skill to match the Captain’s vatch-handling skill as something extraordinary.  So, a little disappointing there.  I did think, though, that they handled the non-romance of Pausert and Goth quite well, skating well away from the edge of inappropriateness.

Overall, this was the weakest story of the three but enjoyable only for the continued opportunity to visit with the Karres witches, Captain Pausert, and the manipulative little vatches.  ~~ Catherine Book

For other titles in this series click here
For other titles by Eric Flint click here
For other titles by Dave Freer click here

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