The Darkover series is a science fiction-fantasy chronology consisting of several novels and short stories set in the fictional world of Darkover as created by author Marion Zimmer Bradley. The word "Darkover" is a registered trademark owned by the Marion Zimmer Bradley Literary Works Trust.
The Planet Savers (1958), the first novel set in the Darkover universe
|Author||Marion Zimmer Bradley|
|Media type||Print (hardback and paperback)|
See also: List of Darkover books for a complete chronological bibliography of Darkover books, anthologies and series by date of publication.
This Darkover chronology uses the time period designations first provided by the author as "A Readers Guide to Darkover" in The Heirs of Hammerfell (1989). Some of these time periods overlap, particularly the Ages of Chaos and the Hundred Kingdoms eras. It's occasionally the case that the official readers guide places a book in one era, but internal plot evidence places it in another (or both). Additionally, Bradley was not particularly sympathetic to her fans' need to organize the books into a consistent chronology, and the timeline evidence from one book to another is sometimes in conflict. Commenting on this problem, Bradley wrote, "I have fiercely resisted any attempt to impose absolute consistency, straightforward chronology, or anything but the most superficial order on the chronicles of Darkover." 
The books written between 1958 and 1996 were intended to be stand-alone stories, that did not require the reader to be familiar with previous books in the series. This is less true of the books published after 1996. Bradley herself recommended that the books be read in the order in which they were written, rather than the Darkovan chronological order, as her writing style changed considerably over her career.
At the end of the 21st century, Earth sends colony ships out to the stars. One of these ships becomes disabled and crash-lands on Darkover, the fourth planet in a red giant solar system. Unable to repair their ship and equally unable to make contact with Earth, the survivors establish a colony.
The colonists are primarily Celts and Spaniards, and this mix is reflected in the resultant blended culture. Bradley uses a standard "lost colony" trope: to increase the available gene pool and maximize the chances of colonial survival, the colonists intermarry extensively and produce as many children with as many different partners as possible. Psychic and psionic abilities are acquired through interbreeding with the indigenous people, the Chieri.
Bradley is silent about the developments that followed the first generation of the colony, and does not make clear how many years intervene between the founding and the Ages of Chaos. The novels Darkover Landfall and Rediscovery suggest that at least 2000 years have passed between the founding of the colony and Earth's recontact. The last sentence of "Darkover Landfall" states, "But Earth knew nothing of them for 2,000 years."
In The Planet Savers, Jason Allison says that the city of Carthon is 5000 years old (pg. 24), but his observation is an outlier when considered in light of the evidence of the series as a whole.
Books describing this era:
Short stories describing this era:
Bradley's books constantly refer back to the Ages of Chaos, but few books are actually set in this era. In this era, the descendents of the original colonists have organized themselves into a feudal-type society, with laran (psionic) abilities as the determiner of which individuals are part of the aristocracy and which are commoners. This period is marked by incredible creativity, the development of laran-based technology and weaponry, and the creation of the system of Towers, remote settlements where those with exceptional laran abilities are housed and trained, dominate political and social life. Unfortunately these developments are accompanied by a period of nearly constant civil war, in which the Darkovans seem determined to exterminate themselves. Walter Breen's The Darkover Concordance indicates that the Ages of Chaos period begins about a thousand years after the colonization of the planet and lasts a full thousand years.
Books describing this era:
Many of Bradley's books, and a large number of the short stories, are set at the tail end of the Ages of Chaos, in a period she called the Hundred Kingdoms. By this era, the laran breeding programs had been abandoned, and the many small principalities were beginning to consolidate into the seven domains that survived into Darkover's modern era. Bradley's innovation, the adoption of "The Compact," is a turning point in the development of Darkover's social order. "The Compact" bans all weapons that can be used without bringing the user into equal danger, effectively banning laran weapons, but allowing swords and knives. The Hundred Kingdoms may be read as commentary on the use of weapons of mass destruction in Earth's own endless conflicts.
Books describing this era:
Comyn is the term used for aristocratic members of Darkover society who are gifted with the psychic abilities commonly called laran. Females are often referred to as Comynara, especially by those of lower castes.
Many of the books refer to or suggest a period of time following the Hundred Kingdoms but prior to the arrival of the Terrans, in which Darkover's society is guided by the Towers and the Comyn. Bradley did not give this period an official name and did not define its length. However, textual evidence suggests that the period between the reign of King Carolin of Hastur (A Flame in Hali) and the regency of Stefan Hastur (Rediscovery) is a separate era, lasting between 100 and 250 years.
Eventually Darkover is rediscovered by the Terran Empire, which establishes a spaceport, first at Caer Donn, and later at Thendara, the only large city on Darkover. This re-contact takes place a little more than 2,000 years after the events described in Darkover Landfall 
Books describing this era:
Books describing this era:
At the conclusion of Traitor's Sun, Bradley describes the Terrans abandoning their foothold on Darkover, and the restoration of Comyn control over the government. Books after Traitor's Sun therefore fall in their own category, which the publisher is calling Modern Darkover.
In the introduction to Free Amazons of Darkover, Bradley wrote that her Renunciates have become “the most attractive and controversial of my creations.” The Guild of Oath-Bound Renunciates, called Free Amazons and com’hi letzii in earlier books, were women who had opted out of Darkover’s traditional gender-based roles, including marriage, obligations to clan, and the expectation of male protection.
The origins of this guild during the Hundred Kingdoms era are described in Two to Conquer as the merger between the Sisterhood of the Sword, a military-mercenary guild, and the Priestesses of Avarra, a cloistered order that offered medical and other care to women, primarily abused women. Towards the end of Two to Conquer, Carlina di Asturien comes to believe that the two guilds need to work together for the benefit of all women on Darkover. Bradley acknowledged a Patricia Matthews fan story as the origin of the Sisterhood of the Sword, and described the Priesthood of Avarra as a counterforce.
Bradley noted that most of the fan fiction she received was inspired by the Renunciates, that she had met individuals who had taken Renunciate-style names or were attempting to live in women's communes inspired by the Renunciate guildhouses.
Books in the world of the Renunciates:
In addition to novels, Bradley edited and published twelve short story anthologies in collaboration with other authors, known as the Friends of Darkover. The period of cooperative collaboration, which started in 1970, ended abruptly in 1992, when Bradley's interaction with a fan rendered the novel Contraband legally unpublishable. The anthologies are now out of print owing to the publisher's concerns regarding the ownership of the copyrights of the individual stories.
In the 1990 anthology, Domains of Darkover, Bradley stated that the only short stories that she considered part of the official Darkover canon, were those by herself, Diana L. Paxson and Elizabeth Waters, and a single story by Patricia Floss, The Other Side of the Mirror. All of the other short stories published either in the anthologies or in fanzines she considered unofficial.
The publication of the anthologies of Darkover was restarted in 2013.
Bradley's first Darkover books contrasted the laran/feudal-based society of Darkover with the rational/technological society of the Terrans. In these books, the Comyn are the surviving laran-gifted families of Darkover who are ruling at the time of recontact with the Terran Empire. They are descendants of human-chieri pairings, who have learned to use native matrix stones to focus their laran powers. Each Comyn family controls part of Darkover's landmass, known as a Domain, but strategic inter-marriage and feudal land issues result in fluctuating domain borders. Comyn families are also ascribed a gift — a family-specific laran power, though in reality, not every member of the family has the family gift. The gifts may skip generations. Of particular note is that twins often have differing amounts of the family gifts. One twin usually has more of the gifts than does the other twin.
Walter Breen cites Christopher Gibson for the observation that comyn is derived from the Gaelic word, comhionnan, meaning equal, and appears to refer to the communal origins of Darkover.
The Comyn families include:
Hastur of Hastur
Hastur of Elhalyn
Ridenow of Serrais
Having handicapped her colonists with a subarctic climate, limited metal resources, a short agricultural season, forests with a tendency to wildfire, and several hostile native species, Bradley gave her human colonists one survival advantage: laran.
At least one of the original colonists, Judy Lovat, has cross-species sex with a Chieri, resulting in pregnancy. This event is proposed in Darkover Landfall as the origin of psychic abilities in the human population of Darkover. Individuals descended from this union become the ruling class, the Comyn (a corruption of commune), owing to their laran abilities. This cross-species breeding apparently continues for thousands of years, with certain domains (Hastur, Ardais, Aillard) notable for strong physical Chieri characteristics.
The other actor in the humans’ acquisition of psychic abilities is the pollen of the star flower, called Kireseth. Under the right weather conditions (several warm rain-free nights in a row), vast clouds of psychoactive pollen blow off of fields of Kireseth flowers, causing a phenomenon known as a “ghost wind.” A number of species, including humans, Chieri, and Ya-men, appear to be susceptible to the psychotropic effects of “ghost winds.” Humans eventually learn to manipulate this pollen, into the form of kirian, an alcoholic distillation used to treat Threshold Sickness and other laran-based conditions.
Finally, Elizabeth Mackintosh, a character in the novel, Rediscovery, proposes a genetic basis for the development of laran on Darkover, noting that the original population of the colony also derived overwhelmingly from north-west Europe (the Scottish highlands, Ireland and the Basque country) where a belief in supernatural abilities such as the second sight is common.
On the whole, the inhabitants of Darkover are not particularly religious and do not celebrate any obvious religious rituals.
They believe in four local deities: Avarra (goddess of birth and death), Evanda (goddess of life and warmth), Zandru (lord of the nine hells - each hell colder than the one above it) [Darkovans have a concept of a cold hell as opposed to the hot hell concept of the Terrans], Aldones (lord of light). These entities are believed to have power in the world, but no particular interest in individual persons. The Darkovans may have absorbed these ideas through interaction with the Chieri, a native intelligent species.
The Forge-Folk worship the "form of fire", known as Sharra, who appears as a chained, red-haired female figure to those who have interacted with the Sharra matrix. Bradley provides multiple explanations for Sharra. In The Sword of Aldones, Sharra is described as a powerful matrix in which an Alton leronis had become trapped eons ago. However, in the rewrite of that book, Sharra's Exile, Bradley describes Sharra as a portal to another dimension, though which a powerful alien energy is able to gain a foothold on Darkover. Breen describes Sharra as an anthropomorphized matrix weapon, left over from the Ages of Chaos.
Bradley offers multiple conflicting explanations for Darkover's native deities, deliberately leaving the answer open to interpretation.
Some Darkovans also follow a Terran-originated belief system. These are the Cristoforos, whose beliefs derive from the work of a Catholic monk, Father Valentine, who accompanied the original expedition. Cristoforo is a corruption of St. Christopher of Centaurus, and the central figure of the belief system is the Bearer of Burdens.
These two belief systems operate side by side. A Darkovan may believe in one or the other, or frequently both, without difficulty.
City of Sorcery is a science fantasy novel by American writer Marion Zimmer Bradley, part of her Darkover series. A sequel to Thendara House, it was originally published by DAW Books (No. 600) in October 1984.
In terms of the Darkover timeline, City of Sorcery falls in the era identified by the author as Recontact (Against the Terrans: The First Age).Darkover Landfall
Darkover Landfall is a science fiction novel in the Darkover series by American writer Marion Zimmer Bradley. It was originally published in 1972 by DAW Books. It has since been republished several times and is included as part of the Darkover: First Contact omnibus. According to Bradley's obituary, the events of this book take place at the end of the 21st century.Exile's Song
Exile’s Song is a science fantasy novel by American writers Marion Zimmer Bradley and Adrienne Martine-Barnes, part of the Darkover series. It was first published in hardcover by DAW Books in 1996. The book takes place during the era of Darkover's history known as the second age post-Comyn and after the coming of the Terrans.
The book is part of a trilogy within the series comprising Exile's Song, The Shadow Matrix and Traitor's Sun. It takes place fifteen years before Traitor's Sun.
Exile's Song represents a dramatic alteration of Bradley's view of the masculine/feminine, technological/ecological, Terran/Darkover dichotomies that she has explored throughout the Darkover series. In her earliest Darkover writing (1960s), she portrayed the planet's semi-feudal culture as played-out and in need of saving by the technologically superior Terrans. In the middle period (1970s-1980s), the books display a growing ambivalence to both views In Exile's Song, Bradley reverses direction exclusively in favor of the feminine/ecological/Darkover view, describing the Terran Federation as played-out. This makes Exile's Song a pivotal book in the development of the series.Hali
Hali may refer to:
Hali I of the Maldives (died 1268), Sultan of Maldives from 1266 to 1268
Hali II of the Maldives (died 1288), Sultan of Maldives from 1278 to 1288
a medieval Latinisation of Arabic Ali (also Haly)
Haly Abenragel, commonly known as Hali or Hali the Arabian
Haly Abenrudian, sometimes referred to as Hali
Maulana Hali, the Urdu poet
Tamba Hali (born 1983), American football player
the modern Turkish word for carpet
Lake Hali, the fictional lake beside Carcosa
Hali, the name of a lake in Marion Zimmer Bradley's Darkover series
a slang term for Halifax, Nova ScotiaHastur Lord
Hastur Lord is a science fantasy novel by American writers Marion Zimmer Bradley and Deborah J. Ross in the Darkover series. It was first published by in hardcover by DAW Books in 1996. The book falls in the part of the Darkover timeline that the author called "Against the Terrans: The Second Age (after the Comyn)".
Hastur Lord is an allegory, illustrating the consequences to a religiously pluralistic planet, when a small group of monotheistic fundamentalists tries to impose their will on a larger society that doesn't share their views.
In terms of Darkover's timeline, the book takes place ten years after The World Wreckers.Hawkmistress!
Hawkmistress! is a science fantasy novel by American writer Marion Zimmer Bradley, part of the Darkover series at the end of Ages of Chaos, in the period of Darkover's history known as the Hundred Kingdoms. Chapters 35 and 46–50 of Zandru's Forge overlap with the story in Hawkmistress!.
In Hawkmistress!, Bradley explores issues regarding the right to self-determination of minors, the place of women in a traditional society, and the conflicts between Darkover's two major religious belief systems. She also continues the theme of Darkover society's developing acceptance of homosexuality, through the character of Orain.Marion Zimmer Bradley
Marion Eleanor Zimmer Bradley (June 3, 1930 – September 25, 1999) was an American author of fantasy, historical fantasy, science fiction, and science fantasy novels, and is best known for the Arthurian fiction novel The Mists of Avalon, and the Darkover series. While she is noted for her feminist perspective in her writing, her popularity has been posthumously marred by multiple accusations against her of child sexual abuse and rape by two of her children, Mark and Moira Greyland, and others.Rediscovery
Rediscovery is a science fantasy novel by American writers Marion Zimmer Bradley and Mercedes Lackey, part of the Darkover series of novels and short stories published in the United States since 1958. It was first published by DAW Books in 1993.
Rediscovery deals with Earth's reestablishment of contact with the lost human colony on the planet Darkover after centuries of societal development on the colony world. It presents the backstory necessary for understanding The Sword of Aldones, Sharra's Exile, and The Heritage of Hastur. The story take place between 2,000 and 5,000 years after human colonization of the planet in Darkover Landfall.Star of Danger
Star of Danger is a science fantasy novel by American writer Marion Zimmer Bradley, part of her Darkover series. It was first published by Ace Books in 1965.
Bradley states in "Author's Notes on Chronology" that in her view, Star of Danger occurs about thirty years after the events in The Spell Sword.Stormqueen!
Stormqueen! is a science fantasy novel by American writer Marion Zimmer Bradley, part of the Darkover series. Originally published in 1978, it was republished in 2002 as part of the Ages of Chaos omnibus.Stormqueen! occurs two hundred years prior to Two To Conquer, in the period of Darkover's history known as the Ages of Chaos. The underlying theme of Stormqueen! is a breeding program, undertaken over centuries, to produce stronger laran gifts, resulting in individuals like Dorilys and Allart, whose gifts are potentially lethal.
Though it is mentioned as an aside, this book contains the moment in the Darkovan timeline when the Ridenow of the Dry Towns overtake the Serrais domain, merging into Ridenow of Serrais.The Forbidden Tower
The Forbidden Tower is a science fantasy novel by American writer Marion Zimmer Bradley, part of her Darkover series. Originally published by DAW Books (No. 256) in 1977, it is the sequel to The Spell Sword and is followed by The Bloody Sun. The major characters also appear in Thendara House and City of Sorcery.
This book is set approximately forty years after the events in the book Rediscovery. The Hilary Castamir stories in the collection Marion Zimmer Bradley's Darkover precede the events in The Forbidden Tower by about ten years.The Heirs of Hammerfell
The Heirs of Hammerfell is a science fantasy novel by American writer Marion Zimmer Bradley, part of her Darkover series. It was first published by in hardcover by DAW Books in 1989. The book takes place during the era of Darkover's history known as the Hundred Kingdoms. This is the last book in the Darkover series written entirely by Bradley without the assistance of a co-author.The Heritage of Hastur
The Heritage of Hastur is a science fantasy novel by American writer Marion Zimmer Bradley, part of the Darkover series. It was nominated for the Nebula Award for Best Novel in 1975. It explores sexual themes, particularly the view that homosexuality is a normal variant of human sexuality.The Heritage of Hastur is set in what Bradley called Darkover's Second Age Against the Terrans (after the Comyn). In The Bloody Sun, Lew Alton is described as age 11, which suggests that this book takes place 10–15 years later.The Planet Savers
The Planet Savers is a science fantasy novel by American writer Marion Zimmer Bradley, part of her Darkover series. It was first published in book form in English by Ace Books in 1962, dos-à-dos with Bradley's novel The Sword of Aldones. The story first appeared in the November 1958 issue of the magazine Amazing Stories. It subsequently appeared in a German translation in 1960 with additional chapters added that were not by the author.The Planet Savers takes place at least 152 years after the events described in Rediscovery.The Shattered Chain
The Shattered Chain is a novel by American writer Marion Zimmer Bradley, part of her Darkover series. In terms of the Darkover timeline, The Shattered Chain takes place about ten years before Thendara House.
The Shattered Chain is the first Darkovan novel to explore the world of the Renunciates - the Free Amazons or comhii letzi. The Renunciates are women who, despite living in a deeply patriarchal and feudal culture, have renounced both the protection and control of men, cutting their hair and living apart, vowing never to marry di catenas with a man.
The Shattered Chain is divided into three parts, the first titled 'Rohana Ardais: Comynara', the second 'Magda Lorne: Terran Agent' and the third, 'Jaelle n'ha Melora: Free Amazon', and each follows one female character's experiences with the Free Amazons of Darkover.The Spell Sword
The Spell Sword is a sword and planet novel by American writer Marion Zimmer Bradley, part of the Darkover series. The book was co-authored by Paul Edwin Zimmer, Bradley's brother, though he was not credited. The Spell Sword was first published in paperback by DAW in 1974 OCLC 156484864 and has been republished several times.
This book is the first in a trilogy within the Darkover series dealing with the evolution of Towers and Keepers. The sequels are The Forbidden Tower (1977) and The Bloody Sun (1979), which takes place many decades later. In "Author's Notes on Chronology", Bradley states that in her view, The Spell Sword occurs about thirty years before Star of Danger.The Sword of Aldones
The Sword of Aldones is a sword and planet novel by American writer Marion Zimmer Bradley, part of her Darkover series. It was first published by Ace Books in 1962, dos-à-dos with her other novel The Planet Savers. Bradley revised and rewrote the novel publishing it as Sharra's Exile in 1981.
In his 1977 review of the re-release of The Sword of Aldones, Lester del Rey wrote, "It presents a somewhat different Darkover than we find in later novels. But even the early stories have the wonderful allure of this strange world.The World Wreckers
The World Wreckers is a science fantasy novel by American writer Marion Zimmer Bradley, part of her Darkover series. First published by Ace Books in 1971, it features a complex sub-plot involving the sexual interactions between hermaphrodite native species, known as the chieri, and humans.
The book contains pivotal events in the part of the series that Zimmer Bradley identified as "After the Comyn/Against the Terrans". Every book that follows chronologically, refers to The World Wreckers.
In "Author's Notes on Chronology", Bradley implies that The World Wreckers occurs about eighty years after the events in The Winds of Darkover, basing this assertion on the age of Desideria Storn in the two books.Traitor's Sun
Traitor’s Sun is a science fiction novel by American writers Marion Zimmer Bradley and Adrienne Martine-Barnes in the Darkover series. It was first published by in hardcover by DAW Books in 1998. The book falls in the Darkover time periods that the author called "Against the Terrans: The Second Age (after the Comyn)".
In terms of Darkover's timeline, the book starts fifteen years after The Shadow Matrix, and is a continuation of that story.