Four books from the Darkover series, in no particular order:
Rediscovery by Marion Zimmer Bradley and Mercedes Lackey
A starship full of opera-loving Terrans (yes, opera lovers, a whole shipload of them) lands on a newly discovered planet. Only it’s already populated with humans. It turns out that a whole starship full of Gaelic speakers (yes, Gaelic speakers, a whole shipload of them) had landed on that planet thousands of years ago and had become one of the so-called “Lost Colonies.” The Darkovan people still speak strange languages, but it’s OK, because they and several of the opera lovers are telepaths, so they can all magically understand one another. Yay! The opera-loving telepaths fit right in. One really bad guy tries to mess everything up. The relationship between the Darkovans and the newcomers is strained by some unfortunate events, but there is no going back now. The Terrans are there to stay.
Why did I give Rediscovery such a low grade? It has some of the worst writing I’ve ever seen, with bad exposition, horrible dialogue, and pathetic, heavy-handed attempts to connect the story (as a prequel) to other Darkover books. Plus there are some big inconsistencies that keep it from fitting in with the rest of the series properly. Somehow I managed to enjoy it (maybe I was just happy to be reading about one of my favorite fictional worlds again?). Still, I wouldn’t recommend Rediscovery, even for fans of the series, because I don’t think it adds anything critical to the story of Darkover (i.e., very little happens that you can’t glean from works that come later in the timeline).
The Winds of Darkover by Marion Zimmer Bradley
Deep in the mountains, bandits attack Storn castle and take it over. The Storns will do almost anything to retake their castle, including breaking the most important law of Darkovan society, but they will have to travel far to find help. The ending of this story is related to, but not as memorable or exciting as, the story in The Heritage of Hastur.
My mother’s copy of this book was in very sorry shape, but I found a hidden copy on my own shelves (I hadn’t even known it was there!). Sadly, it disintegrated as I read it. But at least now I don’t have to feel bad about not keeping it. To the recycling bin it goes!
Star of Danger by Marion Zimmer Bradley
Two teenage boys, one Terran and one Darkovan, are lost in the wilds of Darkover. They will have to overcome their differences and work together to find their way back to civilization. This is a fun adventure story suitable for teens. I remember loving this book when I was younger, and I still love it now. I will keep this one in my library.
The Heritage of Hastur by Marion Zimmer Bradley
The Heritage of Hastur tells the story of two important members of the Darkovan aristocracy: Lew Alton and Regis Hastur. It takes place well after the events of Rediscovery, during a time called “Against the Terrans: The Second Age.” Lew’s narrative is told in the first person; it alternates and intertwines with Regis’s, told in the third person. Both characters find themselves drawn into a plot to gain higher status in the Terran Empire by using dangerous, ancient psionic technologies. The writing is not remarkable, but the story is. Kudos to MZB for pulling all the threads of this very complex tale together. This one is also a keeper.