The Witches of Karres

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The Witches of Karres
Cover of first edition (hardcover)
Author James H. Schmitz
Country United States
Language English
Genre Science fiction novel
Publisher Chilton Books
Publication date
Media type Print (Hardcover & Paperback)
Pages 202 pp
ISBN 978-0-89366-134-2

The Witches of Karres is a novel by James H. Schmitz. It is his best known book, and is considered a science fiction classic. It falls within the genre of space opera and features well-developed characters, a mix of both fantasy and hard science fiction as well as a sense of humor.

Plot summary[edit]

Captain Pausert, a well-intentioned, but inexperienced merchant traveler voyaging solo on the old pirate chaser Venture from the planet Nikkeldepain, is induced to purchase three young witches (Maleen, Goth, and the Leewit) who had been enslaved on the Imperial planet of Porlumma. The sisters were captured in a raid by Imperial slavers while visiting another planet on a jaunt of their own.

In getting clear of Porlumma, the Venture escapes belated pursuit with the use of the witches' klatha (psionic) Sheewash drive, which enables far faster transit of distance than is possible with primary or secondary space drives available either in or outside the Empire. This draws the unwelcome attention of both the Imperium and other governments to both Captain Pausert and the elderly Venture.

After returning the witch sisters to their homeworld, Karres, Captain Pausert attempts to return to Nikkeldepain, but is arrested before he can obtain permission to land. The Captain is informed that he faces a barrage of criminal charges, many relating to his encounter with the witches and his brief stay on the prohibited planet of Karres. And they avidly want the Sheewash drive.

Captain Pausert escapes the Nikkeldepain police and military with the help of the middle witch sister, Goth, who had stowed away on the ship. From that point, he and Goth find themselves becoming more and more embroiled in wild adventures involving interdimensional alien invaders, space pirates, many more of the Karres witches, and assorted other characters.


The Witches of Karres was nominated for the Hugo Award for Best Novel in 1967. David Langford commented that the "plot isn't really defensible", but that overall the novel is "saved by pace and good humour", and that "its tone is genuinely light".[1]

Other versions[edit]

"The Witches of Karres" was written originally during 1949 as a novelette, and has been reprinted many times. This version was included in The Science Fiction Hall of Fame, Volume Two as one of the best novellas up to 1965.

Schmitz expanded it into a novel in 1966 by writing three more novelettes. In 2005, the book was reissued by Baen Books, and a sequel, The Wizard of Karres, written by Mercedes Lackey, Eric Flint, and Dave Freer was published by Baen Books in 2004, featuring the same characters as the original novel. The Sorceress of Karres, written by Eric Flint, and Dave Freer was published by Simon & Schuster in 2010 and continues the story with the return of most of the characters.[2]

Hayao Miyazaki contributed the cover illustration for the Japanese translation, first published in 1987 and reissued in 1996.[3]

The story is unrelated to the "Hub" series of stories of Schmitz.


  1. ^ Short Reviews: James H.Schmitz: The Witches Of Karres, by David Langford; originally published in Paperback Inferno, 1988; retrieved from Ansible online archive June 15, 2014
  2. ^
  3. ^ Team Ghiblink. "Book List: Hayao Miyazaki". Retrieved 2009-02-21. 

External links[edit]