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    Review of THREE HANDS FOR SCORPIO by Andre Norton

    TOR, April 2005

    Three young women share a magical bond. Daughters of a borderland lord and his enchantress-wife, Drucilla, Sabina, and Tamara learn their magics while the nation north of their own is torn in dissention. The true king of that northern land vanished as a boy and now a priest seems to have taken control, his harsh religion spreading fear and distrust through the country. The young women's father wants to preserve the peace and rides out to a peace meeting--which is when the enemy strikes, kidnapping the three.

    Thrown into a magical land, the three discover a handsome but strange man, his tiger-sized pet cat, and a host of forgotten world-type entities--giant bugs, weird fliers, and huge snakes. The man, Zolan, claims that there is no route free of 'the dismals,' yet they know they must return to their own land--in order to save their family. Although they do not trust Zolan (and immediately suspect he is the missing King), the three, along with Zolan and the climber the cat, struggle to find their way through the Dismals and back to the normal land. Once there, though, they must face an alien power so ancient and vast it seems there can be no possible victory.

    THREE HANDS FOR SCORPIO is author Andre Norton's last novel written before her recent death. (See more reviews of novels by Andre Norton.) and her first novel in a long time written without a collaborator. In many respects, THREE HANDS is vintage Norton. The tightly coupled triplets recall the three siblings in THREE AGAINST WITCH WORLD. The suspicious but powerful Zolan is also reminiscent of earlier Norton. And Norton's setting recalls the ever-fascinating border between England and Scotland--where cattle raids and war kept life interesting for centuries.

    For me, THREE HANDS lacked much of the compelling emotional impact of earlier Norton, however. The three sisters were too similar--to the point where I never really knew which point of view I was sharing. It is sad to see the decline in talents of one of the great authors of the past century--and a joy when occasional sentences and paragraphs shine with Norton's earlier talent. THREE HANDS falls short of Norton's earlier work but it's certainly worth the read.

    Two Stars

    Reviewed 2/28/05

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