Review: Silver May Tarnish (Witch World Series 2: High Hallack Cycle #10) by Andre Norton & Lyn McConchie

silver may tarnish

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The Dales of Andre Norton’s Witch World have endured wars, natural disasters, the predations of strange creatures, and treachery. None loves the land as well as Lorcan, orphaned at birth, who has sought his birthright for as long as he can remember. Exiled from his native land when it was invaded by Alizon, he spent his youth in Paltendale where he was treated as an outsider, especially by Hogeth, an heir of that dale, who resented Lorcan’s presence when both were still young men.

When he came of age, Lorcan left to seek his own destiny. Since then, he has fought valiantly to rid the Dales of the Alizon invaders, but not even his efforts can prevent the deaths of many people, and the destruction of many keeps and garths. The war now over, he has survived, but so have those who would plunder the lands of the survivors. And among the plundering bandits is his nemesis from Paltendale, now more bitter and determined to vanquish Lorcan.

During his travels Lorcan has joined with five blank shields, who, fighting together for common cause, become his boon companions. Then he meets a young noble lass, from a dale known as Honeycoombe for its beekeeping. Her dale has been decimated by the war, but with Lorcan and his band, she will try to rebuild a home where they all can live in peace. Lorcan feels that he might at last find happiness with the valiant fair maiden. But Hogeth now leads marauders across the dales, destroying what they cannot rightfully have, and there will be no peace in the dales until Lorcan and Hogeth settle their old, bitter score.

This isn’t going to be the best review ever. I’ve read the book too many times. I love this book and this series too much.

This book is several books into the Witch World series but it is a stand alone. While it can be read without prior knowledge of the Witch World…Norton writes with the assumption that you know what she’s talking about.

Some Background
Silver May Tarnish is set in the Dales of High Hallack, a country in the Witch World. It occurs after a long and very destructive war has happened on that land. Invaders came to the Dales from a country named Alizon. The Alizoners despise magic in all forms and thus allied themselves with a technologically advanced group of outworlder invaders named the Kolder. The Kolder gave the armies of Alizon “war machines” that read very much like modern day tanks. With these machines – technology unknown to the Witch World (a low tech world) – the armies of Alizon were able to batter down the walls of many keeps as they invaded the dales. They destroyed the land as well – seemingly sowing it with salt – so lots of Dales men and women starved to death if they were not killed by the Alizon.

Eventually the armies of the Dales won but the price they paid was very high. Most dales were stripped of all their able bodied men of all ages, leaving only untrained women and children for the defense the entire dale. Keeps destroyed by the Alizon were expensive or impossible to rebuild, leaving people homeless and displaced. Crops were destroyed so people starved. Lines of authority were destroyed or disrupted and thus the rule of law was broken. Men turned to banditry to survive: stealing from those who had little, raping, killing and destroying Dales that were still somewhat whole.

Silver May Tarnish
Silver May Tarnish was originally a short story written by Lyn McConchie and sent to Andre Norton. The short story told the tale of the murders of the people of Honeycoombe (home of the heroine) and of the death and destruction of Erondale (the hero’s home). It also showed the meeting of the heroine and hero. When Andre Norton read the story she contacted Ms McConchie and instructed her to finish the rest of the book.

I really love this book but it is not your typical fantasy book. It tells of death and destruction and then rebirth and renewal. It details the simple things that simple people do to survive extreme hardship…and how even the darkest cloud has a silver lining. One of my good friends would call this a “slice of life” story.

Lorcan was born to a noble household and raised to be a Lord who takes care of his people. Upon his birth his parents had his fortune read. They were told that three sorrows would befall him before he would wander. But in his wandering he would find treasure unlooked for, heart to his heart. And then his wandering would be no more. The sorrows that Lorcan dealt with were many: his mother dies in childbirth, then the child she bore died a few years later. Years after that the Alizon came and his keep and Dale were destroyed, his father and brothers killed along with the majority of his people. He spent the rest of his childhood years in Paltendale, home of his kin. There he meets Hogeth, his cousin and enemy. Lorcan wandered for some years after leaving Paltendale, until he meets Meive.

Meive lived in a very small and hard to locate Dale named Honeycoombe. The wars never touched Honeycoombe and they lived happily. They made the majority of their money and additional food by keeping bees, led by a wise woman of the bees. One day the wise woman has a young boy, Neeco, ejected from the dale – the bees had rejected him, telling her he would bring death and destruction to the dale. Angry that he had to leave, he threatened to make all of them pay. He does this by leading a gang of bandits to Honeycoombe. The bandits kill everyone and steal all the useful goods. But Neeco realizes he missed someone: the bees and Meive were outside of the dale. Meive – with the help of the bees – manages to kill the bandits then goes to shelter at a magical shrine. Years later she meets Lorcan. Together they decide to revive her dale.

The book follows Meive and Lorcan as they slowly rebuild and that’s why I call it a “slice of life.” While the book includes the story of Lorcan and Meive defending their dale from Lorcan’s enemy and cousin – Hogeth, who is little better than a bandit – the story mostly focuses on the struggles and small triumphs as they rebuild their lives after death and destruction. The book tells how they take in others who are displaced and homeless but it is also a story of family, of magic and of love. Bees are in the forefront of this book as Meive’s magic allows her to speak and bond with them. The bees serve as both friends and protectors in Honeycoombe.

Silver May Tarnish
Silver may tarnish, gold may be stolen,
Years may flow by like – wind in the grass.
Nothing else matters but you beside me.
Never alone again, love of my heart.

Morning awakes me, the night is behind me,
Sweet is the daylight on this, my land.
Beside me beloved, you still are sleeping;
I kiss your eyelids, I touch your hand.

Beyond expectation, into love’s dawning,
I found you waiting, heart of my heart.
Once I walked lonely, no one beside me,
Now I have found you, never to part.

Silver may tarnish, gold may be stolen,
Years may flow by like – wind in the grass.
Nothing else matters but you beside me.
Never alone again, love of my heart.

This a rather wonderful little book that puts the spotlight on life’s simple pleasures. I read this book often as it helps to remind me to slow down and appreciate the small things that life has to offer. Unlike the majority of Witch World books, there is no great evil here – just the evil of man. There’s no decision to be made that impacts the world or a land as a whole. This book is about simple people doing their best to live and thrive and love.

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