The Duke's Ballad

~ 9th Novel in the Witch World: Estcarp Series by Andre Norton

Written solely by Lyn McConchie but set in Andre Norton’s Witch World.

Hence marketed as collaboration.



See Also: A brief Author's Note: for The Key of the Keplian


Synopsis ~

Write-up from the front flap of the 2005 dustjacket ~

The Duke's Ballad is the tale of Aisling, a young witch from a family gifted with a magical power that she must protect from her brother Kirion. l le wields magic unlike the rest of the family‘s and gains power only through terrible means; by killing others who wield magic, Years ago, Aisling fled her native Kars when Kirion, working for Shastro, the Duke of Kars, tried to kill her, Since Aisling's departure,
Kirion has tightened his insidious hold on Duke Shastro, The malevolent sorcerer's dark influence works through Shastro to cast a deadly pall over all of Kars. A Fatal chain of events is triggered when Kirion pitches the people of Kars into a war with a neighboring clan.
Aisling recruits her younger brother. Keelan, and returns in disguise, determined to undermine Kiriun's power and unseat his evil pawn from the throne. Accompanied by a catlike telepathic beast, Aisling becomes part of Shastro's court. Even as she begins to learn the ways of court power, however, a brutally cold winter besieges the land, testing the endurance of the people of Kars, who have little cheer in that darkest season.
As Kars and its people contend with Kirion's depredations, the warring clan's raids, and the devastating winter, Aisling and Keelan must through guile, persistence, and ingenuity, somehow find a way to avoid the attention of their dangerous older brother and save the people from his murderous sorcery. Only if they can survive Kirion’s terrible power can they deliver the dukedom into the peace and prosperity it once knew.


Write-up from the back of paperback edition ~

Born into a family with magical powers, Aisling in a young witch who fights to protect her homeland of Kars. Unfortunately, the biggest threat to Kars is her older brother, Kirion, who has chosen to use his powers for evil, and years ago forced Aisling into exile.

Since Aisling's departure, Kirion has tightened his hold on Shastro, the Duke of Kars. Through Shastro, Kirion's dark influence works to subjugate the entire realm.

With her younger brother Keelan helping her, Aisling returns, in disguise, to undermine Kirion's power and defeat the evil dike. But as Aisling gets closer to Shastro, the duke takes a liking to her, and she finds herself questioning her mission. But when a neighboring clan lays siege to Kars, Aisling and Keelan realize they must act, lest Kirion bring even more death and suffering to Kars' loyal subjects than he has already caused.

Using all the magic, persistence and ingenuity she can summon, Aisling must somehow find a way to avoid the attention of her dangerous older brother, save the people from his murderous sorcery, and return to their Dukedom the peace and prosperity it once knew.


Write-up from a fan ~

As in Ciara's Song (of which this is the sequel), the titular song doesn't show up until the very end. Ciara's granddaughter Aisling has been in Escore for three years training her magical abilities under the adept Hilarion. She feels an abrupt need to return to Karsten. She heads home and catches up with her brother Keelan and returns to Aiskeep. Their oldest brother Kirion has become an evil sorcerer who magically controls Duke Shastro of Karsten. Aisling and Keelan have been placed under a geas to destroy Kirion and Shastro and bring peace to the land. Keelan, Aisling and her ferocious cat Wind Dancer move to Kars with Aisling and the cat magically altered in appearance so as to get close to Kirion and the Duke and bring about their downfall. Kirion has spent years spoiling Shastro, catering to his every whim and base desire. The Duke has a habbit of using women for his pleasure without caring whether or not they are willing or magicaly coerced by Kirion. Kirion has a worse habbit. He absorbs the life force and any magical power of people to gain power for his sorcerous activities. Shastro's activities have upset the relatives of his "women" and an army from a powerful Clan and its allies appears at the gates of Kars demanding satisfaction for their dishonored relatives. Shastro talks his way out of the mess and then makes another one. This time, the army lays siege to Kars while Aisling, Keelan, and their friend Hadrenn work covertly to turn Kirion and Shastro against each other. The siege is long and brutal and tempers flare as supplies run out. Can our heroes prevail against the powers of darkness? Good read! ~ PG


Reviews ~

Booklist Review ~ Jan. 01, 2005

The latest story of Norton’s venerable Witch World is a sequel to Ciara’s Song (1998) and quite as enjoyable as that book, at the end of which Aisling, Ciara’s granddaughter, fled Karsten for Escore to escape the use, not to say the abuse, her blood-sorcerer brother Kirion would have made of her, and to learn how to use her own powers. Now a trained witch, she returns to destroy her brother lest he destroy Karsten. Disguised, she goes to the duke of Karsten’s court, accompanied by her brother Keelan and another conspirator. Fulfilling her mission won’t be easy, for Kirion is strongly set on the dark path. Watching and waiting, the conspirators seek a breakthrough point, and Aisling ponders the slight ethical dilemma presented by killing one’s brother, even though he is one’s deadliest foe. The long-standing Witch World fandom won’t be disappointed with this addition to the canon, nor will other, less dedicated fantasy fans—and romance fans, too. — Roland Green


Dedications and Acknowledgements ~

To the Canadian contingent of my friends;
To Garth Spencer, Bill Dodds, and Rodney Leighton.
And to Fa McCarthy, in New Zeland, who loves Witch World.
Live Long and Prosper.
- L. McC.
To Jim Frenkel, the Tor editor who was stuck with my inability to spell or puntuate once again, and to the copy editor at Tor who coped with similar problems. Both of them did their best, and any errors remaining are almost certainly attributed to me.
To writer friends Sherman Horwood, Janrae Frank, and Rod Marsden, who made supportive speeches whenever I flagged.
And to Andre as always, who allowed me to play in her own original brilliantly imagined backyard.
Littera scripta manet.
- L. McC.


Bibliography of English Editions ~

  • (2005) Published by TOR, HC, 0-765-30636-0, LCCN 2004057954, $24.95, 318pg ~ cover by Daniel Dos Santos
  • (2005) Published by SFBC, HC, # 1177953, $13.49, 318pg ~ cover by Daniel Dos Santos
  • (2005) Published by TOR, PB, 0-765-34552-8, $6.99, 320pg ~ cover by Daniel Dos Santos
  • (2016) Published by Worldbuilders Press, DM, no isbn, $3.99, 249pg ~ cover by Matt Forsyth
  • (2018) Published by Ethan Ellenberg Literary Agency, PB, 978-1-680-68030-0, $10.99, 286pg ~ cover by Matt Forsyth

See Also: The Sorcerer's Conspectus entry for this title.

For information on editions currently available visit the Book Store



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