The next novel in my Darkover reading frenzy brought me to the classic Two to Conquer. Marion Zimmer Bradley wrote most of her Darkover novels as stories unto themselves, even when they contained familiar characters, families or themes from other novels. Since they weren’t written in the chronological order of the planet’s history, there are occasionally some charming discrepancies or irregularities, but it never takes away from the brilliant storytelling and vivid characters. That is probably why I have returned to her stories over and over again in my lifetime. Bradley tells a great story.
Two to Conquer is set near the end of the Ages of Chaos when Darkover is still very much a feudal planet full of plots and power struggles between the major families. In a unique twist on the Prince and Pauper theme, Bradley writes about Bard di Asturian, outlaw and warrior with a huge chip on his shoulder, and the Terran Paul Harrell who just happens to be his exact genetic duplicate. When Paul is wrenched through time and space to a planet he’s never heard of and a seemingly backward culture, how will he adjust? Will this adventure ultimately reveal what makes them unique individuals instead of genetic copies of each other? Can two identical men overflowing with ambition and aggression work together to conquer a world or will they turn on each other?
It is well worth reading this science-fiction classic to discover how Bradley answers those questions as her brilliant story unfolds. I love how Two to Conquer takes a blunt look at some difficult issues and yet resolves them with such hope and compassion. No wonder this book has had a special place on my bookshelves for over 30 years!
Paperback format, 335 pages, published in 1980 by DAW Books.