Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Book Review: 'Stormqueen !' by Marion Zimmer Bradley

 2 / 5 Stars

‘Stormqueen’ is the quintessential PorPor Book: the front cover (art by Michael Whelan) has a red-haired woman in a tight-fitting dress perched in a dramatic stance on the battlements of a castle, while lightning rages about her.

‘Stormqueen’ is DAW Book No. 292 (364 pp), published in June 1978.

Although Stormqueen is not the second Darkover novel to be published, it is arguably the second book in the series’ internal chronology, following the events outlined in ‘Darkover Landfall’ (1972).

The intrigues in Stormqueen take place during the Ages of Chaos, an era prior to the arrival of the Terrans, when the world’s various ruling families and factions engaged in myriad small wars and border conflicts. Intermarriage and even incest are encouraged in order to heighten the psi powers (precognition, telekinesis, etc.) possessed by selected clans, although this has a deleterious effect on infant and adolescent survival.

The ‘Stormqueen’ of the title is Dorilys, the daughter of Mikhail, Lord of Castle Aldaran, a principality located in the rugged and remote mountain country; the novel revolves around her birth and maturation into a teenager gifted with the ability to command storms and lightning.

An intersecting narrative deals with the travails of Allart Hastur, whose family becomes allied with Aldaran when conflict breaks out between Mkhail and his avaricious brother, Lord Scathfell.

The bulk of the novel is concerned with the various personality clashes, and emotional intimacies, of the rather large cast of characters; in this respect, Stormqueen is more akin to a romance novel than hardcore sci-fi or fantasy.

Bouts of adventure and action periodically pop up here and there, including some initial skirmishes, involving an unpleasant derivative of napalm, between warring houses. There is also a tense episode when our lightly-equipped heroes find themselves caught in a mountain blizzard. But for me, the novel only really gained momentum in its last 60 pages, when the enmity between Scathfell and Aldaran comes to a climax.

While I can’t say I found the book to be boring, I suspect that readers who are not fans of the series will find ‘Stormqueen’ to be slow going at times; this one is best recommended for Darkover enthusiasts only.

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