The Witches of Karres by James Schmitz is classic, old school science fantasy. Originally published in 1966, this is the story of Captain Pausert of Nikkeldepain, who rescues three young slaves on a foreign world only to find that they are actually three witches from the interdicted planet of Karres. With magical abilities to see the future, teleport objects over long distances, and destroy objects with just a whistle, these three young ladies turn Pausert’s life completely upside down. And that’s before a vatch gets involved.
A fun space-opera fantasy, The Witches of Karres is written for pure entertainment. With a cast of characters that leaps off the page as fully realized as a detailed drawing in a comic book, this is a breakneck romp across a galaxy and out the other side. When the planet that they are stopped on for repairs is beset by the mysterious Worm Weather, Pausert is sucked into intergalactic politics to stop the source of the Worm Weather, the mysterious Moander of a Thousand Voices.
This is not serious fiction. Rather, Schmitz is interested in telling a fun story, one that is also quite intense in places — I still have nightmares from the spider scene — and takes the reader along on a fantastic and fantastical journey. When he writes himself into a corner, some bizarre phenomenon comes along to shake up the story, sometimes literally. He invents language like no one since Tolkien — relled a vatch recently, anyone? — and with a lightheartedness that belies his perfect pacing, highly detailed characters, and impeccable plotting. What may seem like little random bits of information all come together to set up a flawlessly executed climax. My only complaint about this book is that it is set up at the end for sequels to be written, which Schmitz never did. I recently reread this book (for about the eighth time) because other authors have now written sequels, and I wanted a refresher before reading them.
I highly recommend The Witches of Karres for anyone who doesn’t mind a spaceship mixed into their daily dose of magic. Schmitz excels at light, action-packed space opera that is pure fun. You will not be disappointed in this fantastic book.