Flights of Fantasy

Saturday, June 11, 2005

Darkover - Marion Zimmer Bradley

Category: Fantasy

This isn’t a single book but a series written about the same world. Rather than try and review each book individually I decided to be lazy and lump them all together in one big review.

Darkover is a planet with a red sun and four moons. Settled by humans when their colony ship was forced to land there instead of travelling on to its destination. The people on the ship were looking to create a colony without technology, a return to a simpler way of life, and they found it, just not where they expected.

Over the centuries they have remained at a pre-industrial, occasionally feudal level of society, in which roles have reverted to a patriarchy. There are two women-only societies, but most men and many ‘decent’ women regard them with varying levels of scorn or disgust.

The planet was also home to an indigenous, humanoid species, intelligent and, as they discovered, actually cross-fertile with humans. However children from such unions are slow to mature, long lived, and more often than not, neuter.

These aliens known as Chieri or fairy-folk also introduced the settlers to a local mineral called a starstone. In the hands of certain people these stones awakened latent psi abilities and allowed them to develop. Over the centuries a separate caste of people evolved who had these powers and they came to be considered superior to those who had none, eventually becoming the ruling class. These powers were used for many things including communication, and to perform tasks that would have been done by heavy machinery back on Earth.

There are many books in the Darkover series covering several centuries of history. These novels were not written in a historically chronological order. In fact the chronologically first book, Darkover Landfall, was actually written quite late. In the front of most of the books you will find a list of all the titles available, in chronological order and grouped by the era in which they take place. I will reproduce this list at the end of the review.

While each book or grouping can be read independently of the others, it does pay to read them in chronological order if possible. It helps to give you a growing familiarity with the world and it’s people. In the later books they refer to ages past where things were not as good as they are now, and these references are far more vivid if you have actually read the books that cover that era.

I discovered the Darkover world many years ago and I frequently revisit it. They have been favourites of mine from the first. I don’t quite have all the books but I’m working on it. Some of them are out of print and can be quite a bugger to get hold of.

Sadly MZB died back in 1999 but over the years she had forged connections with a large network of other authors who had written short stories for the anthologies, some of whome she had helped to get started in the business. Because of this, Darkover novels are still being written by some of these other authors. Some of these were aleady in progress when she died and otherss have been written since. So far I have only read one of these but I have to say that I think MZB would have been proud of the way her world is being kept alive.

Series Rating: 8/10

Darkover Series:

The Founding
Darkover Landfall

The Ages of Chaos
A century after the founding, the world is ruled from the towers by those with the strongest telepathic powers and a breeding program is in place to produce those with powers that are stronger still, with terrible consequences.
The Fall of Neskaya (with Deborah J Ross)
Zandru's Forge (with Deborah J Ross)
A Flame in Hali (with Deborah J Ross)

The Hundred Kingdoms
After the age of chaos, still suffering many of the aftereffects, the land is divided into a multitude of small kingdoms. Towards the end of this era one man tries to institute a compact such that no man may use a weapon that does not bring him into equal risk.
Two to Conquer
The Heirs of Hammerfell

The Renunciates
In the Ages of Chaos there were two societies of women who refused to abide by the patriarchal nature of their society: the priestesses of Avarra and the Sisterhood of the Sword. Over time these two groups combined forces to become the Order of Renunciates, otherwise known as Free Amazons.
The Shattered Chain
Thendara House
City of Sorcery

Against the Terrans - The First Age
The terrans rediscover Darkover and the inhabitants and realise that they are actually a Terran colony, however the Darkovans are not so eager to acknowledge the fact.
Rediscovery (written with Mercedes Lackey)
The Spell Sword
The Forbidden Tower
Star of Danger
The Winds of Darkover

Against the Terrans - The Second Age
Once the shock of rediscovery wears off, the younger generation of Darkovans is more eager to learn about Terran ways, and their own ancestry.
The Bloody Sun
Heritage of Hastur
The Planet Savers
Sharra's Exile
The World Wreckers
Return to Darkover
Exile's Song (with Adrienne Martine-Barnes)
The Shadow Matrix (with Adrienne Martine-Barnes)
Traitor's Sun (with Adrienne Martine-Barnes)

Short stories edited by MZB aimed at 'filling in the blanks'.
Domains of Darkover
Four Moons of Darkover
Free Amazons of Darkover
The Keeper's Price
Leroni of Darkover
Marion Zimmer Bradley's Darkover
The Other Side of the Mirror
Red Sun of Darkover
Renunciates of Darkover
Snows of Darkover
Sword of Chaos
Towers of Darkover