Darkover Roundup

I had better tell you about the Darkover books I finished recently, while they’re still somewhat fresh in my mind.

The Bloody Sun
Grade: B+

The Bloody Sun is the story of Jeff Kerwin, a Terran orphan who feels drawn to Darkover, certain that it is the place where he will find the key to his unknown past. I like the book. I sometimes think, though, that MZB did not always know how to go to where the story was. That is to say, while Jeff’s story is OK, the full story of his parents (covered briefly in this book) could have been a lot more interesting. This book is related to a lot of the others in the series, and I consider it required reading for anyone interested in Darkover. I will be keeping it for that reason.

The Spell Sword
Grade: B

The Spell Sword is the story of how Terran Andrew Carr, who crashes in the mountains of Darkover, finds his way to a Darkovan estate and learns to use his native psi powers. This story is referred to in several other Darkover books, most notably The Forbidden Tower, so you don’t need to read this one in order to know what happened, and the writing’s not that great. In other words, skip this one and it’s no loss. I will not be keeping it.

The Shattered Chain
Grade:  A-

Once upon a time SF was written primarily by men and for men. But then women liked it, too. And what’s more, they could write it! MZB may not have been the first female SF writer or the best, but she must have been one of the earliest to see mainstream success. Many of her books are female-centric, which is great and still seems to me a bit of a novelty.

The Shattered Chain is the first of a trilogy about the Guild of Renunciates (a.k.a. Free Amazons). The Renunciates have rights that other Darkovan women do not, but at a price. They have to renounce their fathers and their families, and all the protections normally accorded to women in their patriarchal society. They must fend for themselves.

With Magdalen Lorne (a Terran) and Jaelle n’ha Melora (a Darkovan) as her main characters, Bradley explores the commonality of women in different cultures, focusing particularly on the types of chains that women wear, from the solid ones that men force on women in some cultures, to the invisible chains that women in “freer” cultures unconsciously put on themselves. While heavy-handed and sometimes plodding, The Shattered Chain is also, even all these years later, awesomely feminist. I can’t help but love it.

Thendara House
Grade: B

Same as above, but a little more plodding. It’s worth getting through so you can read the next book in the trilogy, City of Sorcery.

City of Sorcery
Grade: A

City of Sorcery is the third book in the trilogy of the Renunciates. Don’t let its cheesy title scare you off. It does get a little silly at points, but mostly it’s an action-packed story about kick-ass women who scale gigantic mountains and follow one another loyally through conditions that would make most of us wet our pants. I definitely like this book more now that I’m older, probably because I’m so close in age to the main characters. Highly recommended for middle-aged women who would love to go on a wild adventure and kick some ass.

Sharra’s Exile
Grade: B+

Sharra’s Exile is (I think) a retelling of The Sword of Aldones, which wasn’t that great. It is also a sequel to The Heritage of Hastur, which I liked very much. It continues the story of Regis Hastur and Lewis Alton and their involvement with the Sharra matrix. But it is, IMHO, another example of MZB not knowing quite where the story was. I think she spent too much time on back story and Darkovan politics (yawn), and too little time on the real action. It was also, in the aggregate, a negative story. I would not keep it were it not part of a two-in-one edition that includes The Heritage of Hastur.

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One Response to Darkover Roundup

  1. Pingback: Darkover Revisited | Blue-Footed Musings

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