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Subcycles in the Darkover novels

Introduction

There are now 21 Darkover novels. They can be ordered thanks to Darkover history, but, for many new readers, this is not enough. The main question new readers ask is the following: I don't want to read everything right now. Where should I start?

Fortunately for them, Darkover novels are organized into small subcycles which are quite independent from each other. The goal is this page is to describe them.

Pure subscycles

The Forbidden Tower subcycle

Description

This is one of the most important subcycles on the point of view of Darkover history. Consequences of the events described in this subcycle have been huge. It is constituted by the following novels (in reading order): Novels follow each other directly.

Interaction with other novels

As I said before, this subcycle is so important that is as relationship with many following novels. First of all, the end of the story of the Forbidden Tower is narrated in The Bloody Sun. Failing to read this sequel is not really a good idea. The books is great and events described are also bery important in the Darkover history.

The subcycle is related to the Renunciates subcycle, especially to Thendara House. It is therefore worth reading this cycle after the Forbidden Tower one.

My opinion

The Spell Sword is a small interesting novel. It is not as good as its sequel but the plot is very good and there are quite interesting idea.

The Forbidden Tower is a major part of the Darkover cycle. It has a very good plot and is very well written. There is a good balance between pure action and interaction between characters. I think it is the more original Darkover novel. It can be quite difficult to appreciate for young readers: sexuality is a central topic and I think real life experience is needed in order to fully understand and appreciate the way Marion Zimmer Bradley writes about sexuality.

The Renunciates subcycle

Description

This is one of the most appreciated subcycles. It is constituted by the following novels (in reading order): Novels follow each other directly. There is only a quite short time gap between each of them (a few years). Novels are based on similar characters (mainly Magda Lorne and Jaelle n'ha Melora). The subcycle describe quite precisely the Renunciates' life.

Interaction with other novels

Unfortunately, this subcycle is strongly related to the Forbidden Tower subcycle. In order to really appreciate Thendara House (and in a more limited way City of Sorcery) one should have read before the Forbidden Tower subcycle.

My opinion

Everybody agrees on the fact that The Shattered Chain is one of the best Darkover novels. In my personal opinion, Thendara House is far from being as good and City of Sorcery is not worth reading.

In order to be fair, I have to say that many people don't share my opinion and think Thendara House is an excellent novel.

Sharra's subcycle

Description

The modern subcycle which describes current Darkover. It is constituted by the following novels (in reading order): Novels follow each other directly.

Interaction with other novels

Both novels include a lot of references to other novels but they remain quite standalone. Readers interested in Kennard Alton should read Star of Danger and The Bloody Sun. Those who care about Regis Astur can read The Planet Savers and The world wreckers (bevare of inconsistencies between those early works and more recent ones). Sharra was previously described in The Winds of Darkover.

In order to know what happens to young characters such as Marja Alton, readers need to read recent Darkover novels: Exile's song, The Shadow Matrix and Traitor's Sun.

My opinion

If you read only two Darkover novels, go for this subcycle. To my mind, this is the best one and that's all!

The modern subcycle (a.k.a. Margarida Alton's subcycle)

Description

Marion Zimmer Bradley is still writing new Darkover novels. She decided to write modern period novels, taking place after The world wreckers. She seems to have started a new subcycle, which can be called the Marja Alton subcycle. It is more or less a direct sequel of the Sharra's subcycle and brings alive again the most interesting characters of this subcycle. It is presently constituted of the following novels: Novels follow each other directly (there is a fifteen years gap between The Shadow Matrix and Traitor's Sun).

Interaction with other novels

It seems difficult to read books of this subcycle (especially Exile's song) without reading before the Sharra's subcycle and perhaps The world wreckers.

My opinion

Exile's Song is to my mind rather disappointing. The first part is really good, but the book seems to reach its conclusion around the middle of it. Then the last part seems artificial and a bit boring. The Shadow Matrix is much better, but is not as good as major novel such as The Forbidden Tower. Traitor's Sun is for me the best of the series. I would say it must be read to have a rather fresh look on Darkover.

Pseudo subcycles

Why pseudo subcycles?

There are many interaction netween novels that take place after the rediscovery. I think it is worth trying to group them in order to give interested readers additional ways to understand the Darkover Cycle.

Damon Ridenow's subcycle

Damon Ridenow is one of the most important character of the Forbidden Tower subcycle and more generally of Darkover modern history. In order to understand his life, one should read the following novels:

Kennard Alton's subcycle

Kennard Alton is also a very important character of modern Darkover history. In order to understand his life, one should read the following novels:

Lew Alton's subcycle

Lew Alton is also a very important character of modern Darkover history. In order to understand his life, one should read the following novels:

Regis Hastur's subcycle

Regis Hastur is also a very important character of modern Darkover history. In order to understand his life, one should read the following novels:


copyright 96-99 Fabrice Rossi (rossi@fr.darkover.org)

source file (Last modification: Wed Apr 21 17:21:45 1999)