Which do you prefer: Science fiction, or fantasy?
What if you didn’t have to choose?
In Enchantress from the Stars, first published in 1970, Sylvia Engdahl gives us both: a fantasy story of three brothers who try to slay a dragon with the help of an enchantress and a sorcerer, and science fiction about three anthropologists from an advanced race of humans that travel to a less developed planet to help the locals resist colonization.
It’s clear from the beginning that these two stories are actually the same story, but told from such wildly different perspectives that they share very few recognizable details in common. Even the language and tone of the two stories is wildly different. Most beautiful is that as the lead characters of each storyline come to understand each other better – and as their storylines merge – the tone of the two stories begins to merge, too, almost imperceptibly, until at the end we are reading only one story.
Enchantress from the Stars is YA, it’s fantasy, it’s science fiction, it’s romance. It’s strong on character growth, and it has a classic quest plot. But in her preface to the 2001 edition, Lois Lowry noticed something about this book that I missed:
…spirituality remains a topic largely unaddressed in fiction for young adults. But in essence, Enchantress from the Stars is a story about sacrifice and compassion, two of the main ingredients of religious faith, and about the power of believing in that which one cannot understand.
I think in the end, like most excellent books, Enchantress from the Stars is a book that can work on many levels for many different people. It even translates well to audio. It’s definitely my favorite read from the past couple of months, and I would recommend it to almost anyone.