~ 5th Novel in the Time Traders Series by Andre Norton

(Series aka) Time Travel, Time War or Ross Murdock

Written with Pauline M. Griffin

firehand 1995 51984 1


Synopsis ~

Write-up from the back of the paperback edition ~

Ross Murdock was a petty criminal when he first time-traveled but now he is a hero, about to leap once again into the breach, to face a time-traveling band of predatory aliens, the same ones who made his hand a charred ruin.

The aliens have destroyed the civilization known as the Dominion of Virgin. Murdoch’s team is traveling back to a much earlier, feudal period of Dominion, to help win a war so the Dominionites can defeat the aliens four centuries later.

With a minor noble’s small but loyal force, they face a foe of much greater size. What they need is a hero of legendary proportions. They need Firehand.

Can Ross Murdoch live up to the legend he’s created?


Write-ups from fans ~

Ross Murdock and Gordon Ashe are rescued from what they believed was permanent exile in the past of the planet Hawaika by the crew of the Project.  Though Ross and Ashe are/were important members of the Project's team, their recovery had more urgency than simply retrieving valued teammates; their services are desperately needed on another mission.  They and Eveleen Riordan, arms trainer for the Project, are dispatched into the past of a small star empire known as the Dominion of Virgin to prevent the Baldies from utterly destroying the inhabitants.  Ashe takes on the disguise of a doctor to bring a warning to the only government likely to be able to resist the Baldies allies, while Murdock and Eveleen become his bodyguards.  Murdock winds up as the chief commander of the guerilla forces and is adopted by the ruler.  The hand he had deliberately thrust into the fire to save himself from Baldies in TIME TRADERS gives him the name of Firehand. ~ SL


In this book Pauline and Andre take off a short time after the end of KEY OUT OF TIME. A time portal opens, and Eveleen Riordan comes through to take Ross Murdoch and Gordon Ashe back to their time. It seems that the Baldies, upset at their defeat on Hawaiki had totally burned off the peaceful planet named the Dominion of Virgin. The project proposes to send Eveleen, Ross, and Gordon 400 years into Dominion's past and change history to a timeline where some Dominionites develop mental powers that can help them defeat the Baldies and save Dominion. They join with the ton (ruler) of Sapphirehold domain after they convince him that that the evil lord Zanthor is planning conquest of the whole island, an ambition they must thwart to save the future. Unbeknownst to the agents, Zanthor is getting gold from the Baldies to help wage his war. People ride large deer and fight with swords and bows and Arrows. Ross, known as Firehand (because of his scarred hand) becomes their war leader and teaches them guerilla tactics and Eveleen, a weapons master teaches all the women and farmers how to fight. This is a fast-paced page-turner, hard to put down and after many battles, chases, reconnaissance, and serious wounds and other adventures, they prevail and then have to face the Baldies. ~ PG


Reviews ~

Kirkus Reviews ~ Issue: May 1st, 1994
Norton revives her 30-year-old Time Trader series with the help of Griffin, her collaborator on Redline the Stars (1993) and various Witchworld stories. The Time Traders--who travel in time, by what amounts to magical means, but don't trade--are epitomized by brash ex-criminal Ross Murdock, whose function is to thwart the invasion of human-occupied space by the alien Baldies. Often a disaster in the present can be averted by prompt, appropriate action in the past. So Ross, with weapons expert Eveleen Riordan and archeologist-turned-medic Gordon Ashe, must travel into the past of the planet Dominion and win a war the history books say was lost, in order to prevent destruction by the Baldies in the present. The authors offer no coherent structure or rationale for dealing with time travel and its effects. The characters and plot are stereotyped (with a predictable and drippy romance thrown in); the aliens are nasty and bald. The action involves considerable galloping about on deer-back. Wretched twaddle. Far better the Time Traders had been left to molder in peace. 


Booklist Review ~ June 01, 1994

Having revived Norton’s Solar Queen universe with Redline the Stars, its creator and Griffin now reopen the universe of Norton’s Time Traders series with even greater success. Ross Murdoch, criminal turned reluctant hero, has finished disposing of one planetary menace only to discover that the same enemy menaces another planet and has to be fought all over again, and even more is at stake this time. A fairly direct sequel to Key out of Time (1978), Firehand is so well-crafted that it stands independent of not only its predecessor but the rest of the Time Traders saga. Its classic plot can be appreciated for its own sake, both by veteran Norton readers and newcomers to well-done sf action. — Roland Green


Review by Publishers Weekly ~ July 04, 1994

In a satisfying return to Norton's Time Trader world, a young man finds himself as he teaches guerrilla warfare to a feudal, nonterrestrial offshoot of humanity in order to prepare them properly for a future in which space- and time-traveling humans are battling for survival against murderous aliens. Ross Murdock, a young criminal recruited as a Time Agent for his survival skills, is sent to the Dominion of Virgin, which had abruptly turned from a populous planet to a burned cinder as a result of time-travel by the Baldies, as the aliens are known. The key development that would have saved the planet was the evolution of mental powers that were delayed because of the turmoil following a warlord's conquests 700 years previously. Murdoch, scientist Gordon Ashe and arms expert Eveleen Riordan are sent back in time to Dominion to develop a resistance movement without revealing the existence of Earth or drawing the attention of the Baldies. The authors, who collaborated on Redline the Stars and several Witch World books, have developed an attractive world and likable characters. This coming-of-age novel may be better suited for the young-adult market, however.


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

1994 by Carolyn Cushman in Locus #402, July
1995 by Paul Di Filippo in Asimov's Science Fiction, February
2022 by Judith Tarr


Dedications and Acknowledgements ~

For my Uncle, Patrick Murphy,
who taught me how to build round towers.
- P.M.G.


Bibliography of English Editions ~

  • (1994) Published by TOR, HC, 0-312-85313-0, 978-0-312-85313-6, $19.95 US $27.95 Canadian, 220pg ~ cover by Walter Velez {Black Paper Boards}
  • (1995) Published by TOR, PB, 0-812-51984-1, 978-0-812-51984-6, $4.99, 279pg ~ cover by Walter Velez

Note: For some unknown reason this book never made it into one of the three omnibus editions for the Time Travel Series.

  • (2019) Published by Ethan Ellenberg Literary Agency (Worldbuilders Press), DM, 978-1-68068-150-5, $2.99, 206pg ~ cover by Matt Forsyth
  • (2019) Published by Ethan Ellenberg Literary Agency (Worldbuilders Press), PB, 978-1-68068-150-5, $9.99, 220pg ~ cover by Matt Forsyth


Non-English Editions ~

  • (2000) Published in Poland; by Amber, 83-724-5492-2, 199pg ~ translated by Andrzej J. Kowalczyk ~ cover by Neal McPheeters ~ Polish title Ognista ręka [Fire Hand] ~ (Reprinted in 2002 with new cover by Fred Gambino)

View the Original contract

For information on editions currently available visit the Book Store



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