Moon of Three Rings by Andre Norton
Krip Vorlund, an assistant cargo master on a trade ship, is visiting a beast show with some of his crewmates on a frontier planet called Yiktor. There he meets a woman named Maelen who takes care of the little furry creatures that perform in the show. It’s obvious that she controls them, yet they seem more like children than slaves. In fact, when a messenger arrives and tells her that a man is abusing a creature somewhere in the town, she gets angry and goes to intervene.
Krip, concerned about the beautiful young woman’s safety, accompanies Maelen and promptly gets in trouble when he uses an illegal weapon to protect her. Then he finds out that he had actually been unknowingly lured to the beast show by a political faction on Yiktor that wants to get their hands on his off-world weapons. They were forcing Maelen to entice Krip, threatening to out her as a moonsinger if she doesn’t comply. Moonsingers have some abilities to see into the future and, by communicating with animals, can perceive things that other humans can’t. Moonsingers are feared, so if anyone finds out that Maelen has that magic, she and the animals she protects will be in danger.
When Maelen and Krip decide to team up against those who threaten them, Krip gets injured. Maelen insists that the only way to save him is for her to use her magic to put Krip’s mind into the body of a beast. According to the moonsingers, this is an unethical use of her powers, but Maelen feels responsible for what happened to Krip and this is the only way to save him.
Now Krip is trapped in the body of a large dangerous animal and is starting to wonder if this is how Maelen gets all of her trained animal companions. Supposedly, his body is still alive somewhere. Can he find it and, if he does, how is he going to get his mind back in it? Can he trust Maelen to help him?
Moon of Three Rings, originally published in 1966, is the first novel in Andre Norton’s MOONSINGER or MOON MAGIC saga. In 2013, it was combined with its first sequel Exile of the Stars (1971) to create an omnibus edition called Moonsinger which was published by Baen Books. Two more sequels, Flight in Yiktor (1986) and Dare to Go A-Hunting (1990) were combined in another Baen omnibus called Moonsinger’s Quest (2013). Moonsinger and Moonsinger’s Quest were released in audio editions this year by Tantor Audio. They’re narrated by Chris Abernathy and Chelsea Stephens who both give first-rate performances. I’ll be reviewing all of these novels.
Though the language of Moon of Three Rings is a bit wooden, and the story drags at times, there is much to recommend this story. The animal companions are endearing and it’s thought-provoking to consider a human mind trapped in an animal’s body. Norton handles this deftly, making me think about issues such as whether I would be the same person if I inhabited a different body (almost certainly not, I think). This is likely to be a question our society will deal with someday as we consider possibilities such as cyborg technologies or uploading our consciousness into a different body.
Another strength of Moon of Three Rings is, at the beginning of the story, the many background details Norton gives about this civilization, especially about the free traders (for whom Krip is an assistant cargo master). In the exposition, there are so many interesting facts about how the free traders go about their business, visiting planets with different forms of government, choosing cargo, having particular areas of expertise, etc. This kind of set up is what, in my opinion, Norton does best. Unfortunately, these facts are all dumped at the beginning of the story and hardly referred to or even needed again. This is something I’ve complained about in several of my reviews of her novels – the world-building is intricate and intriguing, but the story itself rarely takes advantage of its breadth.
Moon of Three Rings is a promising start to the MOONSINGER saga. Things are not satisfyingly resolved at the end, so I’m looking forward to finding out what happens next in Exile of the Stars.
Yep, which is why I'm willing to give a sequel a shot
Thanks for the reviews you two. I put the book on my TBR as soon as I saw ads for…
We seem to be on the same page. Yeah, the depiction of some (at least two) of the women characters…
The correct and more accurate term for the book thing is "challenged," I think. Frankly, the intentional removal of books…
Not sure I can be persuaded on two of these articles. When I was young book-banning meant you couldn't sell…