Customer Reviews: Fur Magic (The Magic Books)
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on March 22, 2003
Fur Magic (1968) is the second fantasy novel in the Magic series, following Steel Magic. It is based on the legends of the North American Indians.

In the tales of the Nez Perce, and other tribes, the Changer is a great power who has the ability to shape things. Often called the Trickster, the Changer delights in confounding others with his changes. Long ago, the Old People, sapient oversized animals, ruled the world, but then the Changer made mankind and changed everything.

In this story, Cory Adler is a Floridan boy whose father has been assigned to Viet Nam by the Army and whose mother is taking care of his grandmother in San Francisco. An old Army buddy of his father, Uncle Jasper, has invited Cory to stay on his ranch while his parents are away and Cory looks forward to it with great anticipation. Yet the actual experience is much more frightening than he expects; the horses are big and buck him off, the animals have sharp teeth and claws, and the night is filled with strange noises.

The day after Cory's unsuccessful attempt to ride a horse, Uncle Jasper takes him up to an old line cabin in the high country and leaves him there while the adults ride off to inspect the young horses. Cory agrees to wait for Black Elk, an old indian shaman, to arrive at the cabin and then to phone for a jeep to carry the old man to the main house. Cory is willing, as long as he doesn't have to ride a horse, and soon starts to explore the surrounding area. He accidentally falls into a shallow hole and breaks a basket and a turtleshell rattle within the hollow. He takes a leather bag back to the cabin to get a better look at it, but decides it is a medicine pouch and replaces it within the broken basket.

While exploring some more, he notices brown shapes moving around on a distance hillside and uses his binoculars to resolve the image into three buffalo, two adults and a calf. Moreover, he sees a man wearing an animal skin, possibly coyote, dancing close to the animals while carrying a decorated stick and a turtleshell rattle. He is held motionless by fear, but manages to drop the binoculars, which frees his muscles. Still terrified, he nonetheless runs toward the site where he has seen the buffalo and the man, but only tracks remain of the animals and man.

When he returns to the cabin, he finds an old indian man sitting motionless by the firepit. He asks the old man if he is Black Eagle and is finally answered with a bare acknowledgment. Cory makes a meal in the firepit for the old man, who eats everything given to him and Cory's portion as well. Afterwards, the old man pulls out a leather bag, the same medicine pouch that Cory had returned to the basket, throws some dust on the fire that causes a steady stream of smoke to rise above it, and insists that Cory has done wrong and must purify himself by holding the pouch in the smoke. When Cory complies, he is transported into the mind of an oversized beaver named Yellow Shell.

Cory thinks that he is in an exceptionally vivid dream, but cannot awaken. His mind accompanies Yellow Shell as he fights against marauding minks and clever crows which are minions of the Changer. He even meets the Changer face to face and is able to fight back and find a way to return to his own body. Moreover, he is now able to overcome his fears.

This story may be the earliest of the author's tales involving the legends and people of the tribes. Other works influenced by these traditions include the Beast Master series, The Sioux Spaceman, and The Defiant Agents. These tales of indian ways have been very influential to many young people through the years, possibly including Jane Lindskold, author of Changer and the Firekeeper series, which contain some of these same images.

This novel is intended for young people, but like her other juveniles, is also enjoyable to an old man like me.

Recommended for Norton fans and anyone who enjoys simple tales of exotic folks and heroic quests.

-Arthur W. Jordin
22 comments| 18 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on November 17, 2015
My ten year old grandson and I are reading Andre Norton's 'Magic Books' together right now. This is the 4th in the series [Steel Magic, Octagon Magic, and Dragon Magic come before]. It is about a young boy who ends up on a 'medicine quest' dealing with 'The People' (animals) from American Indian tales. So far, this is my grandson's second favorite in the series.
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on November 7, 2011
As usual a wonderful imagination drives the story along to a most satisfying ending. Though written for youth, this old grandma loved it.
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on August 17, 2016
I enjoyed the native american medicine story. My people ,the Osage, have similar tales. Andre Norton is one of my favorites.
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on February 16, 2013
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