Review #62 The Spell Sword by Marion Zimmer Bradley

Up until this summer, The Spell Sword was one of the few Darkover novels that I’d never read.  Some of the other books I have read but do not own, yet this novel haunted me like some elusive magical creature.  Thanks to one of our amazing local bookstores, Cover to Cover books, I not only own The Spell Sword, I have read a missing piece of the Darkover saga for the first time.

The Spell Sword is the story of Terran Andrew Carr and his adventures in the Hellers mountains of Darkover after his survey plane crashes, killing everyone else and leaving him stranded in the barren wilderness.  He is urged not to give up by visions of a mysterious young woman who seems to speak to him telepathically, pleading for help.  Is she real or some accident-induced hallucination?  Will he discover his true destiny far from his own home or return to the safety and familiarity of the Terran Zone?

The way in which the Darkover novels were written would cause modern writers and editors to shudder.   Marion Zimmer Bradley explains it well at the end of this book in her “Author’s Note on Chronology”. “I do not think of them as a “series” but rather of Darkover as a familiar world about which I like writing novels, and to which the readers seem to like returning.”  Perhaps this is why I find her books so incredibly satisfying to pick up and enjoy.  Each novel is a self-contained story with a beginning, adventure and a resolution.

Why do authors today need to leave their stories hanging?  Do they feel that is the only way to create an audience and thus ensure continued income?  Perhaps current authors need to learn a bit about true storytelling from the classic writers of the past century.  Stories like The Spell Sword leave readers content instead of frustrated, involved instead of passively entertained and valued instead of taken advantage off.

Paperback format, 156 pages, published in 1974 by DAW Books.


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