Andre Norton,
Three Hands for Scorpio
(Tor, 2005)

The Earl of Verset, Desmond Scorpy, is one of the warders of the border between the nations of Alsonia and Gurlyon. Scorpy has three daughters, triplets born not only with magical Talent, but with a special mind-bond. Tamara, Sabina and Drucilla have lived all their lives at the Scorpy seat of Grosper, trained in their Talent by their mother and their formidable nurse. Now of marriageable age, they have grown sure of themselves and their Talent, so it comes as something of a shock when they are yanked, bespelled and unable to resist, from their beds and dragged off at the behest of a Gurly lordling who found Tamara attractive.

When the lordling fails to make his appointed rendezvous, the outlaws who snatched the triplets dump them into the underground land of the Dismals, a lost land from which no surface dweller has ever returned. Can the Talented girls survive the unknown dangers of the Dismals and find their way back to the surface?

Three Hands for Scorpio is a very confusing book. The Scorpy sisters take turns as first-person narrators, but there are such slight differences between the three characters as to make it impossible to keep track of which sister is speaking. Very early in the book, Tamara points out that the sisters often think and act as one person. They might better have been written that way, too. While an interesting device, replacing a single main character with triplets does not work here.

The triplets are supposed to be politically astute, but very little exploration is done of what is going on in the wider world, especially with the side plot of a new breed of priests spreading misogyny. The Northern lordling that precipitated the trip to the Dismals is never seen or mentioned again, a loose thread it would have been simple enough to tie up. Although the triplets perform a number of heroic actions, very few are at their own instigation. Too many of their actions are the result of possession or outside suggestion. Although they do apparently grow more powerful, they don't really grow.

In the end, Three Hands for Scorpio is a disappointment. Norton demonstrated long ago that she could do far better.

by Laurie Thayer
16 December 2006

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