And Then I Read: ENCHANTRESS FROM THE STARS by Sylvia Louise Engdahl

Cover and illustrations by Leo & Diane Dillon

This book was first published in 1970, I somehow managed to miss reading it until now.

Elana’s father and a young man and woman in his crew have been sent on a mission by the Federation’s Anthropological Corps to the primitive planet Andrecia, where the inhabitants, who are at the civilization level of medieval Earth, are threatened by a more advanced high-tech civilization, the Imperials, who have space travel and plan to colonize Andrecia and put the local inhabitants, any who survive their takeover, in a small reserve. The Imperials don’t consider the Andrecians human because they are primitive. Elana is still studying to become a member of the Corps, but she stows away aboard the landing craft with her father and his crew. Once on the ground, Elana finds herself drawn into the plans to save the Andrecians from the Imperials. To do that she must play the “Enchantress from the Stars,” and convince a local man, Georyn, to be come a hero and save his people using the “magic” she can teach him. This plan will be perilous to Georyn, but it’s the only way Elana and the others can save the Andrecians without revealing themselves to the Imperials. That group is carving out a base in the Andrecian forest with a massive earth-mover the Andrecians see as a dragon.

As the story unfolds, mostly narrated by Elana, but also by one of the Imperials, we follow Georyn and his brother through their trials and quests to become heroes, and we see Elana and Georyn becoming more than just teacher and pupil. What began as a fun adventure for Elana becomes a difficult test for her as well, and a dangerous one.

At first I didn’t care for the way the different levels and viewpoints of this story were handled, but over time I was drawn into it and in the end found it a rewarding read. The Federation of the story is a bit like that of Star Trek, but they must keep themselves hidden from more primitive peoples to avoid interfering with their normal evolution. Science posing as magic is not a new idea, but it’s handled well here, and gives the fantasy aspects a fresh feel.

Recommended.

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