The Key of the Keplian

~ 4th Novel in the Witch World: The Turning Series by Andre Norton

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

Hence marketed as collaboration.

key of the keplian 1995 60220 5


A brief Author's Note:

In a conversation with Mike Brenner a long-time contributor to this site and Lyn McConchie, Lyn gives a history of how this and her other books came to be ~

~ And yes, WW was long one of my favorite series too, I started writing to Andre back in the 1980s, had replies, and it went on from there with us as friends, then The Key of the Keplian came about accidentally. Andre had a cataract op, was 'down', and to cheer her up I write the first chapter and sent it in my next letter joking that she had to cheer up and start writing again because this was what happened when she wasn't watching. She loved it, demanded more, and I kept doing another chapter with each letter until I had - unintentionally really - completed the book. I KNEW it isn't polite - at the least - to help yourself to someone else's world, and I wasn't. It was a private joke between us, but the next thing I knew was an early hour's phone call from her agent, to say she'd brought it to him saying she loved it, and could he sell it? He could, did, phoned me and the rest was history.
After that I wrote Ciara's Song, The Duke's Ballad, and Silver May Tarnish, and then, when staying with Andre we had a breakfast discussion about the Beast Master books. She didn't want to write in that world anymore, but did I have ideas? I did. So, after several talks on the subject, I wrote 'Ark,' then 'Circus,' and finally, several years later. Beast Master's Quest. In fact, we'd long talked about my continuing both series, but when she died the heir of most of her work's copyrights refused permission. A pity as I had several in each world planned and Andre had liked where they were going, however we'd not had time to sign contracts. So that was it. I was sorry, but her heir had the right and I left things lie. It wasn't as if I didn't have enough work to keep me occupied, I write two Holmes series with Wildside Press, (8 published so far and four contracted/completed/revised) have just completed a post-apocalypse quartet, and have a fantasy series of my own, of which the first one chronologically (Bastet's Daughters) was published by Wildside, the next (Daughter of a City) should be out from them shortly, and I have several more completed. (While TOR also published one in that series, The Questing Road, some years back.)
And that's about it. If there's anything else, you'd like to know I'd be happy to answer your questions. Andre was my friend for 20 years before her death, I still miss her, and am saddened by the non-continuance of her various series. It was one of the last things she said to me, that she wanted me to do that, but I've been unable to, and regret it deeply, ~


Synopsis ~

Write-up from the back of the paperback edition ~

“[Witch World Is] one of fantasy’s most beloved and enduring creations.” – Rave Reviews
For More than 30 years, Andre Norton’s fabulous Witch World saga has thrilled millions. Now comes a new trilogy that reveals long hidden secrets of the mysterious Witch World.

Battle Sisters

For time beyond memory, the fire eyed Keplian horses have lured riders to their death, sating the blood lust of the Dark Tower. All Witch World knows that the hunted, hated beasts serve Evil--all except one young woman.
Fleeing her home after her beloved grandfather dies, the orphaned Navajo Comanche girl Eleeri follows an ancient and magical trail to Witch World. When she discovers the Keplian mare Tharna and her newborn colt in the hands of men eager to destroy them, Eleeri fights for their freedom. Running for their lives, psychic Eleeri and telepathic Tharna bond. And in a hidden canyon, they discover the awesome truth:
The Keplians were created to serve Light, and to ride with humans.


Write-ups from fans ~

In Arizona, an old Navajo dies, leaving his half-Indian granddaughter alone, but not to the mercy of the social workers. He has made up a pack for her and given her a map of a long-forgotten trail.  She takes that trail, which apparently leads only to a steep drop-off of a cliff, pursued by the meddling social worker in a helicopter.  She sees a Gate; they see a cliff.  When she leaps through, she winds up in a desolate part of Karsten, uninhabited since Duke Pagar's Horning of the Old Race.  There she finds and befriends an old man of the Old Race, who teaches her the language of her new world, and a few little magic tricks, and gives her a talisman, a small pendant in the form of a black horse with sapphire eyes.  When he dies, she begins to wander the countryside, looking for a place to call home.  In her journeys, she comes across a village where a Keplian mare and her new-born foal are being tortured.  She rescues them and takes them with her, eventually finding a hidden valley where they can make their home.  After a time, she discovers her pendant contains the spirit of the first Keplian stallion, who had been created by "good" mages to be their friend. ~ SL


Another lead-in to The Warding of Witch World. It starts on Earth. Eleeri, a Navajo Apache girl reared by her great-grandfather and taught the ways of Indian warriors mourns when her guardian dies. To escape a relentless child welfare officer who wants to put her in an abusive uncle's custody, she follows her Guardian's instruction and goes through a gateway into the Witch World landing in eastern Karsten. She comes across an old man, Cynan, being attacked by three bandits and saves his life. She stays with him for a year and a half, and he teaches her the languages and customs of Karsten, Estcarp and Escore. She has a natural affinity and a gift for dealing with horses. Cynan, perceiving her power, gives her an amulet with a keplian on it and teaches her some words of power that may summon aid or help her to get along. Cynan is dying and sends her to Escore. There, she finds some cruel villagers torturing a keplian mare and her newborn foal. She saves Tharna and her foal, Hylan and they bond telepathically. Eleeri sets out to prove that keplians are not all creatures of the Dark. A Dark mage threatens, and it will take much inter-species cooperation to defeat him. Can old prejudices be overcome? Lots of action, lots of magic and some deus-ex-machine thrown in. ~ PG


Reviews ~

Booklist Review ~ July 1995

Norton adds a new name to her respectable roster of collaborators, another volume to the Witch World canon, and, not incidentally, another highly readable book to her massive body of work. The plot is classic: a young girl of Native American and Celtic ancestry and possessing knowledge of both traditions’ magical lore passes into the Witch World. Once there, she discovers that she needs to learn its ways and how to use her magic. As she does both, she survives intrigues and battles and finds love, or at least a congenial prospect for life companionship. Norton and McConchie mesh smoothly, and thanks to the plot, their book is a better introduction to the Witch World than some other recent works about Norton’s most enduring creation. Consider this a necessary addition to the Norton shelf. — Roland Green


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

1995 by John C. Bunnell in Dragon Magazine #221, September
2022 by Judith Tarr


Dedications and Acknowledgements ~

To those who ensured this book in some way.
To Gregg Hills, who persuaded me to begin writing as an amateur.
To Steve Pasecbrick of Strange Plasma, who purchased my first professional story.
To my agent, Susan James of Curtis Brown Ltd., whose acceptance of me as a client strengthened my belief in my work.
And to my friend and collaborator Andre Norton. Your books were the first in the genre I ever read. They opened new Worlds and still do. May you live and write them forever - less is unacceptable!


Bibliography of English Editions ~

  • (1995) Published by Warner Aspect, PB, 0-446-60220-5, $5.50, 293pg ~ cover and map by John M. Ford
  • (2001) Published by Twtp Assorted, HC, 0-759-52186-7 ~ UK printing ~ cover by unknown ~ (NOTE: this release is somewhat in question. lists this as an Imported Item and is currently unavailable; it is also listed at but is unavailable. However, none of the Andre Norton Collectors that I have conversed with about it has ever seen or heard of this release.)
  • (2001) Published by Warner Aspect, DM, 0-446-60220-5, $6.99, 304pg ~ cover and map by John M. Ford


Non-English Editions ~

  • (1996) Published in Warsaw, Poland; by Amber, 83-708-2500-1, 255pg ~ translation by Ewa Witecka ~ cover by Romas ~ Polish title Klucz Keplianów [Keplian key]


Russian Omnibus Editions ~

  • (2000) Published in Moscow, by AST and St. Petersburg, by Terra Fantastica, 5-237-05273-8 and 5-792-10288-0, HC, 640pg ~ Illustrations on the cover by K. Kelly (lower right), R. Matthews (left side) & G. Ruddell (upper right) ~ Russian title Ключ от Кеплиан. Магический камень. [The key to Keplian. Magic stone] ~ In the footer of the novel "Magic Stone", the content and in the appendices the name is indicated as "Stone of the magician".


    • "The Key of the Keplian" as "The Key to Keplian" ~ translated by B. Zhuzhunava, p. 5-354
    • "The Magestone" as "The Magic Stone" ~ translation by K. Pleshkov, p. 355-636
    • The Witching World Series, pp. 636-637
    • Internal Cycle History, p. 638


Ukrainian Omnibus Editions ~

  • (2019) Published in Kyiv, Ukraine by Globe, (Fanzine) ~ cover by Rodney Matthews ~ Ukrainian title Колдовской мир-6 [Sorcerer's World -6] ~ Limited to 10 copies?


    • "Songsmith" as "Narrator" ~ translation by D. Arseniev
    • "The Key of the Keplian" as "The Key to Keplian" ~ translated by B. Zhuzhunava
    • "The Magestone" as "Magic stone" ~ translation by K. Pleshkov
    • "The Outling" as "Werewolf" ~ translation by E. Golubeva

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

View the Warner Digital contract





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