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Enchantress from the Stars

Enchantress from the Stars

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Enchantress from the Stars

3/5 (6 peringkat)
317 pages
6 hours
Apr 10, 2018


Rediscover this beloved Newbery Honor-winning classic, Featuring a brand-new cover and a foreword by Lois Lowry!

Elana, a member of an interstellar civilization on a mission to a medieval planet, becomes the key to a dangerous plan to turn back an invasion. How can she help the Andrecians, who still believe in magic and superstition, without revealing her own alien powers? At the same time, Georyn, the son of an Andrecian woodcutter, knows only that there is a dragon in the enchanted forest, and he must defeat it. He sees Elana as the Enchantress from the Stars who has come to test him, to prove he is worthy.

One of the few science fiction books to win a Newbery Honor, this novel continues to enthrall readers of all ages.

Critical acclaim for Enchantress from the Stars:
A Newbery Honor Book
A Junior Library Guild selection
An ALA Notable pick
Winner of the Phoenix Award
Finalist for the Book Sense Book of the Year Award
Apr 10, 2018

Tentang penulis

Sylvia Louise Engdahl is the author of six novels published between 1970 and 1981, of which Enchantress from the Stars was the first. It was awarded a Newbery Honor in 1971, and the "Phoenix Award" in 1990. Ms. Engdahl currently resides in Eugene, Oregon.

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Enchantress from the Stars - Sylvia Engdahl



The locale of this story can be fixed neither in space nor in time. Perhaps it is the planet Earth—but then again, perhaps not, for whether this is a tale of the past or of the future is anybody’s guess. Scientists now believe that the universe may contain countless worlds upon which life has evolved; who is to say how many such worlds happen to be third planets of medium-sized yellow stars? And who can predict how far the sons and daughters of Earth may someday travel?

Three peoples of different levels of advancement appear here; whether any of them are our ancestors or our descendants is not really very important. If other peoples exist, their symbols are not ours; yet a story must be told in familiar terms. Thus, the elements of this one may seem commonplace: as magical charms and fearsome dragons are the traditional ingredients of yesterday’s legends, so ray guns and interplanetary invasions are those of today’s. All such legends are unrealistic in a literal sense. This narrative is no more a prophecy than a history. Yet this, within the limits of its form, is how things may have been … or how they will be … or how they now are, somewhere beyond the Earth we know.


The planet shines below us, cloud-flecked, dazzling against the dark backdrop of space. Down there it is cool and green and peaceful. In a little while we will take the ship out of orbit and leave this world behind, a mere speck in the vast currents of the universe. This world, which we call Andrecia—the third planet of a quite ordinary yellow sun … but that’s just coincidence, of course. What difference does it make that just such a planet was my own people’s ancestral home?

I am not supposed to cry. I am not supposed to let my personal feelings get involved. How could a girl ever become a field agent if it affected her this way every time? Maybe I’m upset now only because of Georyn. Or maybe I should never have joined the Anthropological Service at all, though it’s a little late to decide that now. I’ve been warned often enough that an agent’s life is not easy. I used to think people meant simply that you had to study hard and work hard, and that you were sometimes in danger; but I guess that’s not the point …

Last night when we got back to the ship, Father said that he hoped I saw now why people as young as I (I’m still a First Phase student) are not normally allowed to make contact with Younglings. But Father’s a compassionate person, and he’s well aware that I’m not sorry I got myself into this. Pretty soon he took me in his arms and smoothed my hair and said that it was his fault as much as mine for allowing it to happen. He admitted that he’d used me, and that he had had no right to because I wasn’t ready. Yet we did accomplish something on Andrecia … without me, perhaps we couldn’t have. And in the end I didn’t cause any of the disasters untrained people can cause; there’s been no harmful disclosure, and if Georyn and Jarel were hurt by their contact with us, it was only because they had to be. Anyway, I keep telling myself that.

But I wish I could know, really know, how it was down there. Was it only a hoax, a sham? Or was there real magic after all? I’m afraid I haven’t much of the empathy that Father says an agent needs most of all. (He says I do have it, perhaps too much, only I’m too young to channel it properly.) All the same, I’ve got to try to put together the pieces, not only to prepare my report but because it’s important to me. There’s a lot I don’t understand yet. The things Younglings take seriously—are they all real underneath, as a tree is real no matter what language you describe it in? Was Georyn not deluded, but only attuned to another kind of truth? Can believing something make it a fact? Is the Stone more than a stone, really?

That’s one set of questions, the ones I may be able to answer. I’ll try not to get bogged down with the others. The ones like why are even the wisest Younglings so limited by the age of their species? Why, for instance, must Georyn be capable of wanting something that he’ll never be able to reach? Why must a man like Jarel, a good man, have clearer sight for the dark side of human progress than for the bright? And why should a person be stuck in the wrong age, anyway?

Well, I’ll never get anywhere worrying over those things.

Because the starship was diverted to Andrecia, Father and I won’t be coming to the family reunion, and it’s just as well for I’m no longer in any mood for a vacation. You’ll see why; I am going to record the whole story and send it to you, since we are not only cousins but friends, I think, although we’ve never met. You asked me what the Service is like, and I can’t think of any better way to tell you. This account may help you make up your mind about applying to the Academy, but I honestly don’t know which way you’re likely to be swayed.

Since I’ll be putting in a lot of detail, I’ll keep a copy of the recording and edit it later for my report. The report won’t be a formal, official one. Father will write that. It’ll be simply the personal account required from every agent who’s involved in a mission. I’ve been asked to cover the views of the Andrecians and the Imperials as well as my own reactions; the Service often requests this because they want you to learn to look at things the way Younglings do. (They demand that you be totally objective about the picture anyone you contacted got of you, even if this causes you to make yourself sound better, sometimes, than you really were. So please forgive what may seem like distortions in my favor!) It’s easy now for me to see through Georyn’s eyes and to speak in the words appropriate to his view of the world. With Jarel it is harder, since I didn’t know him well; still, I can try to imagine how he must have felt. This, then, is the way I think it was: for Georyn’s people, for Jarel’s, and for us.


At the edge of the Enchanted Forest there lived a poor woodcutter who had four sons, the youngest of whom was named Georyn. They were able to earn a meager living by selling wood to the folk of the village, and although there was seldom more than dry bread or thin gruel on their table, they were not miserable.

Yet the brothers, as they grew to manhood, found little satisfaction in their lot. Often, as they toiled at the hewing of a tree on the outskirts of the wood, they stopped to watch the huntsmen of the King ride by to hunt in the Enchanted Forest, which their father had forbidden them to enter. And the eldest son would say, Ah, if I but had the power of the King and a hundred servants to do my bidding! And the next brother would laugh and reply, Myself, I would settle for the King’s treasure, for gold buys all that a man could wish for. And the next would tell them, You are both fools, but if a man could win a fair bride such as the King’s daughter, he would be well content.

Georyn, the youngest, would say nothing; yet in his own heart he would whisper, Had I the wisdom of the King and his councillors, I would not be merely a woodcutter, and indeed I would not be hungry, nor would the villagers. And I would know the secret of the Enchanted Forest and be free to hunt there, and someday I might go even beyond it!

Now to that country there came a time of great sorrow, for on the far side of the Enchanted Forest there appeared a monstrous Dragon that breathed fire, and its roaring could be heard far and wide over the land; and many folk fled in terror, fearing that their homes would be laid waste. Many of the King’s huntsmen went to fight the Dragon, yet the Dragon remained and no men returned.

At last the King sent forth a decree, and in every village it was proclaimed: whosoever should free the land of the terrible Dragon would be given whatever reward his heart should desire, even to a half of the kingdom. Yet the people were afraid. If the King’s own huntsmen had failed, how could mere villagers face the monster and kill it? And few men entertained thoughts of the King’s reward.

But the woodcutter’s sons had dreamed long of possessing such as the King could give, and they begged their father for permission to travel to the King and ask his blessing in the quest. The woodcutter himself, however, opposed them. Even to enter the Enchanted Forest is death for such as you! he cried. Yet you talk of dragons! I forbid it; you shall not go.

The three elder brothers went angrily to their beds and whispered far into the night, making plans to disobey their father and set out together at first light, for they believed their valor equal to that of nobles and huntsmen. But Georyn talked further with the woodcutter, asking, Why should it be death to enter the Forest, when the King and his followers have hunted there since before I was born?

As I have often told you, replied the woodcutter, the Enchanted Forest is the home of evil spirits, who have laid a curse on all who go there, though they dare not touch the King’s companions. This was true even before the Dragon appeared to ravage our land.

Then if the King should send us, they would not touch us either.

Perhaps not. But how could you hope to slay the Dragon, you who have never before held a sword? It is impossible, Georyn.

Now Georyn knew this, for though he was quite as brave as his brothers, he was not so foolish as to consider himself abler than the King’s huntsmen at killing. But these men had failed, and if they had failed then perhaps the Dragon could not be killed with a sword at all. There may be a way to overcome the monster, Father, he said. But it will not be found by those who fear it! I can have no happiness until I have at least tried.

And so at last, seeing that he could not dissuade them, the woodcutter allowed his sons to seek the aid of the King. They set forth the next morning, following the river that circled the wood. When they had gone but a short distance, they came to a fork in the path: one way kept to the course of the stream, while the other led to the King’s castle by a shorter route, through the forest.

Let us take the quickest way, said the eldest brother.

That would not be wise, protested Georyn. That way leads directly into the Enchanted Forest.

His brothers laughed, saying, What, do you believe such foolishness? Do you fear that we will be bewitched?

Not all tales of enchantment are foolish ones, replied Georyn. There will be a time when we must challenge that which lies within the Forest, but to do so now, unnecessarily, would be no better than folly. We have no knowledge of what we face.

Thereupon the brothers stopped and debated; for they remembered that they had indeed heard fearsome tales of the Enchanted Forest, and they were not anxious to test the truth of them. So at length they were persuaded to take the familiar way, and for the rest of that day they continued along the riverbank. It was a bright springtime morning; the leaves were young and green, the water sparkled in the sunlight, and as the young men walked, they whistled.

When the sun had sunk low behind the dark profiles of the fir trees, however, the Forest beyond the river loomed larger, both in the brothers’ eyes and in their thoughts. The foaming roar of the water seemed less cheering, and upon the opposite shore a faint trace of mist began to form. And then it was that the brothers came upon a small stone hut, which surprised them greatly, for it had not been there in the past when they had cut wood near that place. As they were wondering at this, a tall, dark-haired maiden stepped forth from the hut; and the woodcutter’s sons stood silent in amazement and awe, for she was unlike any mortal maiden they had ever seen, and they knew at once that she was an enchantress.

I was not supposed to be in the landing party at all—I was supposed to be studying. That was part of the bargain when Father decided we should go in the first place; I agreed to prepare for First Phase exams on shipboard, to make up for the time I would be missing at the Academy. For that matter, the Academy itself wouldn’t have granted me leave on any other basis. Father’s wish was enough to get us passage, since the starship was to make a stop at the world on which our family reunion’s to be held, but even that wouldn’t have carried much weight with the Dean.

A Service starship is a good place to study; you have lots of free time at your disposal, especially if you are neither part of a survey team nor a member of the crew. But who wants to study all the time? I had never been off my home world before; since I’m from a Service family, even entering the Academy hadn’t meant a trip for me. And I was dying to see something! I knew that I would not be permitted to accompany any regular team for a long time. So when the Andrecian situation came up and Father was appointed Senior Agent to handle it, I begged him to take me with him.

It’s out of the question, Elana, he said gravely. We are not going on a sightseeing trip. You know that.

Evrek’s going!

Evrek has completed Third Phase; he has taken the Oath. He’s ready for a field assignment, and while I wouldn’t have chosen a thing like this for his first one, it’s his job.

It was true enough that Evrek and I were not really in the same category anymore. The Oath makes a difference, personally as well as officially; since Evrek was sworn, I’d hardly known him. Practically from the moment of his investiture, which had taken place only a few days before we left home, he had seemed changed in some subtle way that I couldn’t quite define. One thing was sure: it wasn’t only the new white uniform. Agents don’t wear their uniforms anyway, except on dress occasions.

But as you know, Evrek and I are close friends—well, more than friends. Someday we will marry and will be a field team in the same sense that Father and Mother were before Mother was killed, many years ago, on that ill-fated exploratory expedition. Despite the temporary gulf between us, I was not about to stand by while Evrek went down to Andrecia without me.

Please, Father? I persisted. I won’t be in the way, I promise!

I’m sorry. But it would be dangerous, not only for you but for the mission.

I didn’t reply aloud; though language is a useful tool, sometimes you get further telepathically. I’m not afraid … and I’ll learn from it!

You’re too young, you’re not yet sworn!

This was about the answer I had expected. Sometimes it seemed that the closer I got to my own investiture, the harder it was to wait. You’re not invested until the end of Third Phase; I wasn’t even through First Phase yet. And I’d nearly forgotten that last year the big hurdle was simply to get admitted to the Academy.

All my life I’ve wanted a career in the Anthropological Service; I’ve lived and breathed it ever since I was old enough to know what a Youngling world is. Of course it’s natural in my case, since besides my parents being Service people my grandfather and grandmother—Mother’s parents, with whom I lived most of my childhood—are both retired field agents. But even for someone with my background, the Academy is not easy to get into. The stories you hear about the entrance tests being such an awful ordeal are true. They’re carefully designed to be, because you’re not meant to pass unless you want to pretty desperately. It’s not just a matter of being smart—though you do have to be, of course—or of having high aptitude for the control of psychic powers like psychokinesis and the Shield as well as ordinary telepathy. It’s more a question of having the right personality. The Service is not about to turn anybody loose on a Youngling world who’s not fitted for the responsibility. So there are all sorts of psychological tests … and some other things they throw in to weed out anyone who hasn’t sufficient—well, fortitude. Being an agent isn’t always fun, and you are supposed to take the first steps toward finding that out before you get in too deep.

So they do everything they can to discourage you—but it’s a very good arrangement, because the Service is not just a job. After all, once you take the Oath you are in for life; it’s irrevocable, and you renounce your allegiance to your native world. There are a number of reasons why it was set up this way, but the main one is that they just don’t want you if you don’t feel that strongly about it. The power to influence Youngling civilizations is not a thing to be taken lightly.

But if you are truly serious about it, if you are willing to make the sacrifices the Oath demands, all the worlds of the universe are open to you! If you are not in the Service you will never see anything but Federation planets, for the worlds of Younglings—peoples who are not yet mature enough to qualify for Federation membership—are strictly off limits to everyone but trained field agents. The reasons are very complex, but what it boils down to is that if Youngling peoples were to find out that they aren’t the most advanced humans in the universe, their civilizations just wouldn’t develop properly. They wouldn’t ever realize their own potential. The Federation doesn’t want to dominate other peoples, only to study them—so we don’t reveal ourselves.

Of course, the Service is more than a chance to travel to exciting places. To begin with, it’s a fellowship like none other. Service people are of all races, from all over the universe; yet we’re like one family. Once sworn, you’re Service first and differences in background don’t matter. There’s not even any rank among agents; though they’re rated by ability and experience and given responsibility accordingly, these ratings aren’t announced. Naturally, for any specific mission someone’s appointed Senior Agent and the rest are bound to obey that person; but at other times and places we’re all peers.

The really big thing about the Service, though, the thing that makes you want to give your life to it, is the opportunity to do something worthwhile … more than worthwhile, actually significant. Because, while our main objective is to study the Younglings, there are occasions on which we do take action. There are times when we may, literally, save a world—save its people, I mean, from slavery or from extinction. Not that we meddle in any planet’s internal affairs; that is absolutely forbidden, for the Federation knows that however benevolent this might seem in some cases, it would be ultimately harmful. But we do try to save Youngling peoples from each other, when we can.

For some Youngling civilizations, the most advanced ones, have starships. It takes a lot less maturity to build a starship than to understand what to do with one when you get it. With their starships, they begin to expand to planets besides their own, which is both natural and right. The trouble is, they don’t stick to uninhabited planets; occasionally they grab one that belongs to somebody else: either they invade it, or they unwittingly destroy its culture through peaceful contact. We stop that if it’s feasible, but we do it in a very quiet manner. Oh, it would be easy to use force! It would be easy to lay down ultimatums and that kind of thing, because we of the Federation have all sorts of powers that nobody else has; but we’d do more harm than good that way.

So we don’t send in a fully armed starship and an army of men. We send two or three field agents, unarmed, just as if it were an ordinary data-gathering expedition.

You may wonder why we don’t simply avoid the trouble in the first place by shielding the Youngling planets, as we shield our own, so that they can’t be found by a science less advanced than ours. Well, it’s a nice idea, but it just wouldn’t be practical. In the first place it would be awfully expensive. You can’t shield only the inhabited planets, you’ve got to shield all the planets in their solar systems, because otherwise any astronomer who took the trouble to calculate planetary orbits would realize that something peculiar was going on. It’s one thing to do this for the Federation solar systems, but something else again to do it for every Youngling system that’s been charted. And even if we could, it wouldn’t solve anything; after all, we’ve explored comparatively few of the millions of Youngling systems that exist.

More than this, though, if on Youngling planets we kept the equipment needed to shield them, there’d be a very substantial risk of disclosure to the people of those planets. And that would be a risk we couldn’t take, because the chances of their being harmed by it would be much greater than the chances of their being picked for invasion. The Service has learned when to leave well enough alone.

It’s a frustrating problem. It’s heartbreaking, even, when you really think about it. We have so much power, yet we can accomplish so little! Our primary mission is to observe and to learn. The sad fact is that Youngling peoples are often wiped out, either through colonization of their planet or through some other disaster that we haven’t any idea of how to prevent … and we may not even know about it until it’s too late. Once in a while, though, it happens that we are in the right place at the right time to come to the rescue. In the case of Andrecia—and I knew that Andrecia must be such a case, for mysterious unscheduled stops aren’t made otherwise—the rescuers were to be Father, Evrek, and a woman named Ilura whom I knew only slightly.

Father had been on leave status, of course, and he had been looking forward to the family reunion, too, not having been back to the world of his birth since before he married Mother. But he was the only unassigned agent on board qualified for such a command; that’s the way it goes in the Service. He had chosen his assistants from among the members of the survey teams aboard. Actually, he had asked for volunteers; this in itself should have told me that he meant what he said about the expected dangers. But all I could think of was finding a way to be included. It didn’t occur to me that to try to get around a Senior Agent’s decision regarding a sensitive mission was hardly the ideal way to start my career. When it’s your own father, you naturally think that he overprotects you and that it’s fair enough to outwit him.

You don’t argue with Father, however. I would have to figure out some other course of action. Meanwhile, I turned back to the text that I had been studying:

It is by now a well-known fact that the human peoples of the universe have similar histories—not that the specific details are similar, but the same patterns emerge on every home world. Each must pass through three stages: first childhood, when all is full of wonder, when the people of a world admit that much is unknown to them, calling it supernatural, yet believing; then adolescence, when they discard superstition and revere science, feeling that they have charted its realms and have only to conquer them—never dreaming that certain supernatural wonders should not be set aside, but understood. And at last maturity, when the discovery is made that what was termed supernatural has been perfectly natural all along, and is in reality a part of the very science that sought to reject it.…

But I don’t want to read about all that, I thought, I want to see it! What sort of people are down there on Andrecia? What sort of emergency is it that’s taken us off course and is serious enough for a team to be sent in—for them to risk contact, maybe, or even their lives?

Contact is a thing that’s seldom permitted, except under very compelling circumstances. Younglings are not allowed to know that the Federation even exists. That’s the most unbreakable rule we have, because a Youngling culture could be irreparably damaged by that awareness. You have to be willing to die rather than make an illegal disclosure; in fact one of the provisions of the Oath binds you to do just that. So contact, when it’s necessary, requires a cover of some sort. And any mission involving this can be very risky indeed.

I canceled out the text and instructed the computer to give me all the facts it had on Andrecia. It didn’t have many. There was a survey not too many years ago, but as the Andrecian culture is a very rudimentary one, there was not much technology for the team to study. The people of the area that had been most closely observed fit into a pattern that was familiar enough: medium height, predominantly light-skinned and fair-haired so far as physical characteristics went, and as for their society, I guess you would call it feudal. Not very advanced; it would be many, many years before the Andrecians, left to themselves, would have developed far enough to give the Service any worry. But they were a very

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  • (2/5)
    I got halfway through this before I gave up (I'm 53 now, life is too short to keep reading books one's not enjoying!)

    It could have been titled "Ode to Mansplaining" as the all-knowing father goes on for pages, chapter after chapter, hectoring his daughter about stuff that she ought to know (to be fair, she doesn't seem to know the stuff she ought to know, but that's another issue!) The viewpoint is split for the most part between the characters who think they're in a fantasy, and the characters who know they're in a sci-fi novel, but you get nothing added from the other viewpoint--the SF characters know exactly what the fantasy characters are thinking, so reading their viewpoint is redundant.

    Other nits: I'm sure a "higher" civilization (itself an outmoded concept) can come up with better ways to save a planet than this screwy plan, the main protagonist is apparently of marriageable/university age, but acts/thinks/feels about 10, nobody's actually interesting (apparently they find each other interesting, but for no clear reason), and an early death is dispensed with / accepted so casually as to put one off our supposed heroes right away (and was also stupid).

    So mostly, I found it annoying, although I imagine it seemed radical in its day "Hey, kids, other people's cultures are valuable and you shouldn't colonize them!")

    (Note: 5 stars = amazing, wonderful, 4 = very good book, 3 = decent read, 2 = disappointing, 1 = awful, just awful. I'm fairly good at picking for myself so end up with a lot of 4s)
  • (5/5)
    Elana sneaks aboard her father's landing craft bound for Andrecia, a world the the Federation has decided would make a good colony. Elana's father works for the Empire which is a much further advanced society than the Federation and his mission is to aid the people of Andrecia to cause the Federation to take their colony to one of the many other available worlds. The Federation views the people of Andrecia as sub human and treat them with as much care and diplomacy as they would animals. Elana joins the team of her father and her betrothed and is inducted in the Corp early. It is her duty to convince the two brothers who are headed to the camp of the Federation, that she can help them to better combat the "dragon", which is in truth a rock crunching earth mover. They train the brothers to handle their terror, and to move objects with their minds. The idea being that the brothers will impress the Federation into thinking all the natives can do such things and the Federation will pack up and leave.An amazing story, well worth reading.
  • (5/5)
    So, the premise for this story is pretty simple at first. It's a futuristic story about a girl, Elana, who stows away on her father's spaceship to observe an anthropological mission. This group, the Imperial Exploration Corps studies the "Younglings" on less technologically advanced planets. They also "protect" weaker planets from being exploited by stronger ones. For this particular mission Elana is called into service (once she has been discovered as a stowaway) to trick the natives of an exploited planet into helping themselves fight a "dragon." The natives think their woodland is being haunted by a tree-eating dragon when really it's intruding strangers hell bent on taking over their planet by clearing their land. Elana uses psychic powers to argue with her father and help the natives, as well as fight the intruders. The most interesting thing about Enchantress From the Stars is the different points of view. Engdahl switches from the first person perspective of Elana to a third person approach with the natives and the intruders giving the story more depth and interest.
  • (1/5)
    I was young when I read this, I had not had training as a critical theorist or on postcolonialism and I still picked up on all the problematic issues this book chooses to romanticize.

    A young woman defies the rules of her space travelling culture to help the people of a world they are visiting (as far as I remember for "benevolent" observation). She does this because she falls in love with one of the locals. Not this young man or any other of the natives are presented as intelligent capable human beings, since their level of technology does not allow them to participate in what is really going on and even the brave lady does not think she should treat her beloved as an equal and let him know what is going on. Instead she wisens up and decides to paternalistically protect his little head from the shock of an advanced civilization, also abandoning him in the process. Not like you can EXPLAIN interstellar travel!

    So... all in all, left a terrible taste in my brain and it's been more than a decade since I read it.
  • (5/5)
    Elana is a young woman from an advanced civilization, in training to be part of the anthropology service. She looks forward to a life of traveling the universe, studying younger civilizations, seeing uncharted planets, and having grand adventures. However, when her impulsive nature lands her in the middle of a delicate mission for which she is unprepared, she discovers that the life she's chosen may not be as glamorous as she was imagining. As she, her father, and her fiance try to save one "youngling" culture from another, she finds that it's not possible to remain detached from the people she meets, particularly one young man who may be his planet's best hope for survival.I found this a quick, enjoyable read, as long as I made an effort to suspend disbelief at some of the tenets of the storyline. (All alien civilizations are basically humanoid and follow the same developmental stages? Hmm...) This book was written 45 years ago, and taking that into consideration, it's an impressive piece of science fiction. Plus, the character development is really good, and the plot (so long as one doesn't spend too much time picking it to pieces) is also fairly good. I'd recommend it.
  • (3/5)
    Ten to fifteen years after reading this book, I still remember the scene in which the anthropologist-from-the-stars gives the woodcutter-who-believes-in-magic orange soda, and he's like "magic elixer!" Hah! Loved this story of high technology and low meeting--it's kinda a Prime Directive parable.
  • (1/5)
    I wasn't aware when I ordered this book that it was a YA selection... now, I pretty often read books that have been marketed toward teens - but I have this perception of two types of teen books (or childrens' books, for that matter.) One type is where the author had a story to tell, and told it, and then the publisher decided, for what ever reason, that the story would sell more to young people... and then the second sort is where the author says, "I feel like imparting a Valuable Message to Young People Today, so I will write an Instructive Book."
    Unfortunately, I feel that 'Enchantress From the Stars' is firmly in the second category.
    The protagonist, Alana, is a young woman from an advanced human culture, much like Ursula LeGuin's Ekumen - they travel the stars, studying, mostly keeping their nose out of more primitive planets' affairs (Prime Directive?) but anonymously interfering in the case of potential disaster.
    In this case, a primitive planet has been invaded by a colonizing team from a more technologically advanced and violent culture. The locals see the machines and gear of the invaders in the context of dragons and spells. Alana, although not yet a sworn member of the team, stows away on her father's ship, and is forced to become a full-fledged member of the team when one team member abruptly dies. Although unprepared, she must play the role of an 'enchantress' to the locals, who live in a culture similar to that seen in Western fairy tales.
    The plan is to convince the colonists that the locals possess 'magic' or psychic powers, in order to scare them into leaving. In doing so, Alana gains some experience and maturity, falls in love (sorta), and learns respect for those from less-advanced societies.
    I didn't really buy that this whole 'plan' would work at all - the way the invading culture was presented, I'm sure they would be much more interested in studying a primitive race with psychic powers, rather than just running away, no questions asked.
    My other problem with it is that the book is written in the format of a letter from Alana to a cousin (whom we never meet). However, the narrative spends a LOT of time explaining things about the society and culture that Alana lives in that she would never feel the need to state explicitly to a relative living in the same milieu. This sort of thing is one of my big pet peeves in literature...
  • (3/5)
    Alanna stows away on a landing craft when representatives of her advanced civilization try to save a primitive society and its planet from an invading force. Young, untried and unsworn, she has a key role to play in stopping the takeover.
  • (2/5)
    This is quite a lengthy story about a modern civilized world coming to a "youngling" world in order to help save it from being taken over by another youngling world with more technology. A young girl, Elana, sneaks aboard her father's ship bound for a mission. While on the world she learns many lessons of sacrifice and how it is her team's responsibility to protect the youngling people she is with from learning of the future. Elana, her father, and her fiance plan to trick two youngling men so they may be the ones to save the planet. The two men succeed in each test and then learn what they think is magic. After many trials, the older brother decides to try to go and defeat the "dragon" of the other world. He dies in the attempt so the younger brother, Georyn, goes through more tests so he may defeat the dragon. Of course, the plan goes ary and Elana and Georyn must show courage in the end in order to save the planet. There is a love that grows between them, even though he sees her as an enchantress. It is a sad departing when Elana must go back to her world.This would be a good discussion book for 6th-8th grade about the advancing of technology and how our world is affected by it. Also, they could discuss how knowledge is the tool that defines who we are.
  • (5/5)
    Elana sneaks on board her father’s ship as he travels to the medieval-level planet Andrecia to protect the planet and its people from a more advanced space-faring people who aim to colonize the planet. Elana’s father is a member of the Federation Anthropological Service, designed to protect less sophisticated civilization and allow them to evolve at their own rate in their own way. Elana is in training for the same job. She becomes vital in the plan to protect Andrecia that must occur without revealing the existence of the Federation. The plan is to work through an Andrecian woodutter Georyn. It is Georyn’s faith and courage that can save his planet. This book is unique in that the story is coming from three very different viewpoints. Elana, as a member of the advanced Federation, sees the other two cultures as Younglings, one in the medieval, belief in magic stage and the other in the technological, belief in science stage. She alone of the three sees the whole picture. Jarel, an apprentice medical officer, is a member of invading colonizers who wishes the planet did not have a native humanoid race. He regrets the destruction of Andrecia his people will commit, but he cannot stop it, being only one man, and he does agree that society must progress. The Andrecian peasant Georyn knows only that a dragon exists on the other side of the woods and that it must be defeated. He sees Elana as the Enchantress from the Stars who will aid him in defeating the dragon. The interweaving of the multiple views and perspectives give the story a richness and a depth that allows this science fiction to story to fully engage the reader. The book captures the heart and the imagination. The book features gorgeous, black and white illustrations at the beginning of each chapter. It is a 1971 Newbery Honor book and it fully deserves that honor. It is one of the finest science fiction and fantasy combination titles available for young adults. It is recommended for readers 11 and up.
  • (5/5)
    Enchantress to the Stars first appeared in 1970, won a Newbury Honor in 1971, and is today still considered to be a shining jewel in the crown of juvenile science fiction--so it's odd that I'd never heard of this book until just last year. Me, a child of the late-seventies/early-eighties who devoured any book in our public library with a blue spaceship sticker on the spine. Me, an author in the field of speculative fiction for children, who continues to read as many genre books as time will allow. Me, who apparently still has a whole lot of classic literature left to discover.

    Arthur C. Clarke famously observed that any sufficiently developed technology is indistinguishable from magic. EftS is a graphic example of this principle in action. To the medieval natives on Planet Andrecia, spacesuited scouts from the expanding interstellar Empire are demons and their groundmoving equipment is a dragon to be slain. But to the science-minded Imperials, the New Age psychic abilities of the Federationites (Federationalists? Federationians?) are equally beyond their understanding. In fact, the mere disclosure of the Federation's existence would permanently impair the development of the entire Empire, which means that the benevolent and highly ethical Federation agents are obliged to die rather than divulge their secrets.

    This makes their society the ultimate high-tech conspiracy theory!

    Engdahl uses three points of view to present the intersection of three planetary cultures--a clever device marred slightly by the framing explanation that one character, Elana of the Federation, is enhancing her own narrative with imagined accounts of the events from two other points of view in a book-length missive to a younger relative. As a reader I constantly found myself jarred out of the story with questions like: How does she know that? Why would she think that? And is this something she'd really be telling to someone other than the judges at her upcoming mission inquest?

    But if the frame is ignored--perhaps with the use of "Start reading here" and "Stop reading here" tape flags--the three intertwining story strands represent the best traditions of epic fantasy, space cowboy heroics, and sentimental coming-of-age romance. Okay, so maybe I'm not the world's biggest fan of coming-of-age romance, but even I can appreciate a well-done interplanetary love triangle gone wrong. In this case, it goes something like this…


    Elana and Georyn stand gazing deeply into each other's eyes.

    ELANA: Oh, Georyn!

    GEORYN: Oh, Lady of the Enchanted Realms, I have placed you upon such a pedestal in my mind that no mere mortal of flesh and bone, such as myself, could ever dare to deem himself worthy of your notice, let alone your interest, and each word you speak thrills me with a million unspoken desires, such that I can hardly maintain any semblance of control--however I know that I must because it would be improper to even think such thoughts in your pristine presence and if you were to but suspect me of such blasphemy there would surely be no reason for you to continue the charade of pretending to care for me at all.

    ELANA (giggles): Oh, Georyn!

    EVREK (peering in through a window): How strange that Elana seems to enjoy spending so much time with that Youngling. I might be jealous if not for the security of being Elana's fiancee and having a psychic bond that allows us to share our deepest thoughts and emotions on a level that immature cultures could never imagine.

    ELANA (with a deep sigh): Oh, Georyn!

    EftS was first published soon after the original "Star Trek" series went off the air, at the height of the Space Race, just as mankind was still putting its first bootprints on the Moon. The book reflects the optimism and sense of wonder of its time, when it seemed inevitable that humans would march forward across the Solar System and out into the Galaxy. In the fashion of 50's and 60's sci-fi, the universe of EftS is crammed with inhabitable worlds with each planet inexplicably featuring Earthlike plants, Earthlike animals, and people who look and act just like us but maybe a tiny bit different. It made me wonder if, perhaps, some hidden force even above the Federation were seeding the planets with humanoid life, which of course there was and it's called an author.

    Otherwise, the story has stood the test of time and continues to provide ethical thought-food on the natural course of societal development, the power of belief, and the value of allowing aboriginal cultures to find their own paths. It's also notable that the most intelligent and intuitive character in the story by far is a member of the least developed society, and that the Andrecians and Imperials are both on their way to someday becoming the equals of the Federation, whose only advantage over the others is that "they got there first."

    Bottom line: Readers 9 and up will appreciate the blending of familiar fantasy and science fiction tropes, and might widen their own worlds in the process. Older readers who have somehow missed this book should make an effort to go back and look for it.
  • (5/5)
    One of my favorite books of all time!!! If I were going to change my name, I would change it to Elana. So well-written. Sylvia Engdahl has one helluva head on her shoulders. I always feel a little inspired reading her words.