The Heirs of Hammerfell by Marion Zimmer Bradley
Advertised as “the first new Darkover novel in five years,” one could expect a lot from this book. Or one could have back in 1989, when it was published. But I reread this book with the expectation that I would not want to keep it. That was actually the plan: read it, review it and explain why it’s not worth keeping, then dump it.
I was surprised by how much I enjoyed it, even though it didn’t compare well with the best Darkover novels. I gave it a B+ because that is the grade that I give books that I enjoy but don’t want to read again.
Here’s what it’s about:
Born into a feuding family, separated early in life, the twins Alastair and Conn each grew up thinking that he was the sole heir to the duchy of Hammerfell. But Hammerfell is no more. Its people and army are scattered, its castle burned to the ground, its former Duke (their father) dead at the hands of their greatest enemy. The twins, now grown, each seek to revive Hammerfell. Together, and apart, they work toward that goal, but they risk being drawn back into the deadly feud that led to Hammerfell’s destruction.
This book had a lot of problems. The psionic powers of Darkover were reduced to something more like magic. The moments of disaster were surprisingly dull. The happy ending was too tidy, and at the very end, it said (slight spoiler ahead):
And everyone in the hills has heard the ballad of the twin Dukes of Hammerfell, and of the old dog who died to save her master in the last battle–but like all true ballads, it has changed a good deal between that day in and this.
But there was no copy of the ballad, at least not that I noticed. It’s possible that the ballad does exist and that it was published in a different book, but shouldn’t it it have been included here?
So I gave the book away, but not without some small twinge of regret. It always pains me to part with a Darkover novel. It’s a necessary pain, though. If I were to keep every book of every series I had ever enjoyed, I would be sleeping outside to make room for all the books!