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    THE WITCHES OF KARRES by James H. Schmitz

    Baen, 1966

    While on a trading missing trying to earn enough money to pay off his debts and earn the hand of IIlyla, Captain Pausert stumbles onto a man abusing a young female slave. Being the hero type, he has to intervein. Before he knows what hit him, he has gained custody of three young slaves kidnapped from their native world of Karres. He can't abandon them on Porlumma and he certainly can't take them back to Illyla, but returning them to their own planet will cost him the bulk of his profits. Losses or no, he decides to take them home. Who knows, maybe their parents will be grateful and he can even make a profit on the thing.

    Pausert's life gets complicated in a hurry. The three girls are witches. The youngest, Leewitt, resolves to help Pausert--by stealing from nearby ships. Pausert nearly gets blown up for piracy and runs low on fuel escaping. He finally drops off the girls and returns home, only to find Illyla has married someone else and his visit to Karres violated the law. He, together with Goth, the middle witch sister, escape but only into more trouble. Goth's Shewash drive carries him across the galaxy to a world one generation distant from its pirate past. Pausert is threatened by a beautiful spy, a planet-lord who wonders if he should turn pirate, and extra-dimensional invaders who are taking on, and beating, the entire galaxy including a planet-full of Karres witches. That and a Vatch--a creature who believes Pausert's life is his dream and who seeks amusement from it. All he has is a battered spaceship and a twelve-year old witch girl who has decided she is going to marry him in a few years when she'd old enough.

    This is a fantastic novel. Schmitz mixes space-opera heroics with personal drama. He handles the relationship between Goth and Pausert with just the right touch allowing both to mature and learn to trust one another. Schmitz mixes just enough humor into the plot to give the reader a break, then throws him (and Pausert) back into a new crisis.

    THE WITCHES OF KARRES now has a sequel. Check out our review of THE WIZARD OF KARRES by Mercedes Lackey, Eric Flint, and Dave Freer.

    Five Stars

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