Three Hands for Scorpio

~ A Novel by Andre Norton

Andre was buried with a copy of this book (her last solo work)
along with a copy of The Prince Commands (her first solo work)



Synopsis ~

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

ANDRE NORTON, the celebrated author of Witch World and many other fantasy adventures, offers a new novel unique among her works, set in a realm not dissimilar to northern England in the sixteenth century.
DRUCILLA, SABINA, and TAMARA, identical sisters born to Desmond, Earl of Skorpys, understand the price of being princesses in a domain bordered by fractious neighbors. For generations their land has been plagued by incursions, raiding parties, and more serious conflicts with Gurlyon, the land to their north. But when these three plucky young ladies are kidnapped as part of a plot to undermine their father’s realm, they are taken to a mysterious region where they experience terrors unlike anything they could imagine.
Their captors, fearing pursuit, thrust the princesses into a deep recess in a bizarre underworld called the Dismals. Once there, they must fend off hideous creatures and a young man who claims to be lord of this dark, forbidding place. Not sure whether he is friend or foe, they must depend on their wits, on one another, and on the mind-link that binds them together. Only thus can they escape the bizarre nether-realm they must traverse in search of a way home.
Their travails test them in ways they cannot foresee, both physically and magically. Powerful forces work against them, but together they may yet escape and help right the wrong that brought them to the strange land in the first place.


Write-up from the back of the paperback edition ~

Princesses in Peril
Drucilla, Sabina, Tamara were as alike as any trio of sisters could be. And they all had powers that enabled each of them to share her thoughts with the others. But neither their powers nor their noble blood could save them from the plotters who abducted them from the castle of their father, Desmond, Earl of Scorpy. A band of men bent on revenge against the Earl breached the castle’s defenses and overcame the sister’s magical defenses to spirit them off to a dreadful underground realm where strange creatures roamed and no rescue could find them.
But their caprtors did not count on the resourcefulness of three young women raised to be strong, independent, and brave. When they slipped their bonds and escapred, they face the terrors of the Dismals, a bizarre land far from their own. Besiged by strange creatures in a dark, dangerous realm, they were caught by Zolan, a weird young man unlike anyone they’d ever known. By turns fierce and friendly, he could prove their salvation… or their undoing. They had no choice but to trust him… and to try to flee the Dismals and return to their homeland. For they three unwittingly held the key to the survival of their realm….


Write-ups from fans ~

The Earl of Verset is the Border Warden between his own kingdom of Alsonia and the North Land of Gurlyon. During a truce meeting Between the Earl and the Gurly Lord Starkadder, the Starkadder's son grossly insults one of the Earl's triplet daughters by implying that her companionship at the dinner table should extend to his bedroom. She takes rightful offense, which effectively ends the truce meeting. The Earl and lady Wife then travel to a general truce meeting, leaving the daughters home as "punishment" for disrupting the Earls previous meeting. During their parent’s absence, the girls are kidnapped by a renegade Gurly, who -- when pursuit presses too closely -- dumps the girls into a chasm called the Dismals.
There they discover monstrous and extremely dangerous creatures; however, they also discover a young man and his large cat-companion who aid them in returning to their own lands. This young man bears a startling resemblance to the young Gurlyon king who had disappeared at age 7 and was rumored to have also been consigned to the Dismals. He and his cat-companion aid the Earl's troop, his wife and the three daughters to defeat the evil mage-poising-as-priest, and free the current King of Gurlyon from his influence. Then the young man from the Dismals is revealed as the grown-up body of the disappeared king, but that his spirit was that of one of the Dismals inhabitants, who had taken on the boy's body so he would be able to help the Upper Lands rid themselves of evil. ~ SL


Three Hands for Scorpio is the tale of the adventures and misadventures of Tamara, Sabina, and Drucilla, triplet daughters of Desmond Verset, Earl of Scorpys. These beautiful young women are strong with the Talent, being telepathic and possessing magical knowledge as does their mother. The all try to be discrete with their gift as such displays of Power are frowned upon by their northern neighbors. Having no son, the Earl has the daughter's taught horsemanship and the use of weapons. A new religion has sprung up, led by a "Chosen", a DARK sorcerer who has befuddled the king. While the Earl and his Lady are off to peace talks, a small band of northern outlaws aided by dark magic of a Chosen kidnap the Triplets. When their plans go awry, the kidnappers lower the women into a large canyon called The Dismals. In this dark mysterious place of ill repute, they encounter deadly plants and monstrous creatures and are saved by an odd young man (Zolan) who claims to be master of this weird domain. They meet up with some clay jars containing the spirits of a powerful race of magical beings. They learn that the "Chosen Forfind" is an old hermit possessed by Tharn, one of the "jug people". Zolan has sworn to stop Tharn and he leads them out of the Dismals and after many trials and tribulations, they are reunited with their parents who are on their way to confront Tharn. Basically, these are the struggles of the LIGHT vs the Dark with a bit of WILD MAGIC thrown in for good measure. Quite Entertaining! Andre's skill in world-building is on full display in this classic tale of good vs evil.

Personal Note: Well, here we are at last --- the end of a pleasant voyage of discovery started in September 2012. [Review project undertaken at Sci-fi fandom.] I revisited my favorites with extreme pleasure and found out that a lot of the others were a lot better than I remembered. As for this title, I feel very close to it. Back in 2000 or 2001, I was visiting Andre and she was in high spirits. She told me about a wonderful dream she had had. In her dream, she had walked up to a castle. In the road leading up to the castle, there was a campfire with three women sitting around it. As she approached, the women stood up and their long black tresses reached the ground and one said, "We are the Scooby sisters" and proceeded to tell her their story. Andre said that she woke up around 2:30 AM, grabbed a pen and paper and wrote down all that she could remember of the tale the woman had told her. She told me that she was going to pattern it around the 16th century border wars in Scotland and had to get started on her research. Later she found out that another author had written about some rather nasty aliens called "Scoobies", so she changed their name to Scorpy and the rest is history. TOR sat on it for four years before finally releasing it as she lay dying. I first read it in manuscript form several months before it came out. It was a tough read with all the penned cross-outs and corrections, so I was happy when a more readable copy came out. ~ PG


Reviews ~

Kirkus Reviews ~ Issue: March 1st, 2005

Three brave, bold daughters of the House of Scorpy recount their kidnapping and subsequent escape from an underground wasteland.
Norton’s first solo appearance since 1999’s Wind in the Stone presents Tamara, Drucilla and Sabina, who share a special birthright. Possessors of mystical power, they can also connect telepathically with each other. Kidnapped in a political ploy—their land resembles medieval Europe, divided into tiny spheres of familial power—and dumped into a place of terrors known as the Dismals, they quickly discover the great extent of their abilities. They make friends with a fierce, catlike creature they dub Climber. They’re shocked to find a man named Zolan living as a hermit in this place of no return. But that’s not the only odd thing about the Dismals. Though at times described as being underground, the area is in fact covered by dense forest. Tribes of something (human? alien?) used to live here and are now communicating with Zolan through their spirits. An ancient evil power rising in the girls’ homeland is also somehow connected to these lost folk in the Dismals. One thing is very clear: the monsters in the area are truly horrible and to be avoided. The girls narrate the segments of their adventures by turn, and the interplay of three voices, perceptions and personalities does much to enrich the text, even when the plot becomes difficult to follow.
   For lovers of strong female fantasy characters, a delight. For those in search of clearly imagined alternate worlds, a muddle.


Booklist Review ~ April 15, 2005

The late grand mistress of sf and fantasy delivers yet another adventure with engaging characters, an unusual setting, and a thoroughly worked-out plot. The three telepathic daughters of a border lord are abducted as a ploy in a longstanding feud, and are left to die in the underground Dismals, where they meet a young man and his felinoid companion. With his aid, they learn not only a long-held secret but also a way, if fortune favors, to defeat both new and old evils. This tale is told with all of Norton’s charm and vigor, not to mention yet another set of strong women accompanied by cats or reasonable facsimiles thereof, showing once more why she has maintained her popularity for more than a half-century. Unlike some of her recent books in established series, it constitutes a good introduction to her strengths for those who haven’t yet encountered them. — Frieda Murray


Review by Publishers Weekly ~ March 21, 2005

SFWA Grand Master Norton (Wizards' Worlds, etc.) delivers her first solo novel in more than five years, a solid stand-alone inspired by the border wars between England and Scotland. Three outspoken and appealing princesses, the triplets Tamara, Sabina and Drucilla, narrate in turn their action-packed adventures in the gloomy underground "Dismals," to which their kidnappers have consigned them. There the sisters meet a peculiar young man who could be an ally, but in the end they must rely largely on their own wits and telepathic powers to thwart their enemies' evil designs. While aimed primarily at younger readers, older fantasy fans will be charmed as well. Agent, Jack Byrne at Sternig and Byrne.


Various reviews ~ For more info and other listings see Articles Over the Years

2005 by Paul Witcover in Realms of Fantasy, August
2005 by Lesley Hatch in Vector #243
2019 by Judith Tarr

See Also: The Sting of Opression: Andre Norton’s “Three Hands for Scorpio” by Random Gemini


Dedications and Acknowledgements ~

The author is deeply indebted to Caroline Fike and Rose Wolf, whose twofold aid in preparing the saga of the Scorpys for publication was beyond all price. Additional thanks are due to Larry Kimbrough, Wizard of thc Alabama Renaissance Faire, who lent his magicly name and knowledge to the character of Zolan. Larry also served as scout on a fact-finding mission to the actual Dismals, a geological curiosity of Alabama possessing unusual plants and animals, though not—thankfully—spiders of Shelobian proportions.


Bibliography of English Editions ~

  • (2005) Published by TOR, HC, 0-765-30464-3, $23.95, 288pg ~ cover by Tristan Elwell
  • (2005) Published by SFBC, HC, # 1182018, $12.99, 302pg ~ cover by Tristan Elwell
  • (2006) Published by TOR, PB, 0-765-34385-1, $6.99, 352pg ~ cover by Tristan Elwell
  • (2010) Published by TOR, DM, 0-765-34385-1, $6.99, 356pg ~ cover by Tristan Elwell
  • (2018) Published by Worldbuilders Press, DM, no ISBN, $3.99, 281pg ~ cover by Matt Forsyth
  • (2018) Published by Ethan Ellenberg Literary Agency, PB, 1-680-68087-0, $11.99, 308pg ~ cover by Matt Forsyth


Non-English Editions ~

  • (2009) Published in Moscow, by AST and St. Petersburg, by Domino, 978-5-699-39930-7, HC, 400pg ~ translation by N. Sosnovskaya ~ cover by Vladimir Titov ~ Russian title Три руки для Скорпиона [Three Hands for Scorpio] ~ Limited to 5000 copies

View the Original contract

For information on editions currently available visit the Book Store




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