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The Forbidden Tower

It's ages since I posted here and it's not that I haven't been reading, I just haven't had a chance to blog about the various books I've been reading - too busy. Anyway, my main read this last ten days has been The Forbidden Tower by Marion Zimmer Bradley. I've been reading this for Carl's Sci Fi Experience and this is my second book for that.

Goodness, where to start? Well. The book takes place on the planet of Darkover and concerns four people: Andrew Carr, a Terran, twin sisters Callista and Ellimir, and Damon Ridenow, an exile from the tower of Arilinn and a member of one of the ruling caste. They are all telepaths. Damon and Ellimir are engaged to be married and so are Andrew and Callista. Andrew and Callista met in the previous book when Callista was captured by the catpeople and buried alive - Andrew was the only person who could communicate with her telepathically. They fell in love without actually meeting.

It all sounds hunky-dory but of course it's not. Callista has been in training for many years to take over as Keeper of Arilinn tower from Leonie. (The towers somehow run things on Darkover and there're about half a dozen of them.) She has to beg Leonie to release her. Leonie is not best pleased as she is now elderly, and anyway there are complications. The training subdues sexuality in ways not really known, or known only to Leonie.

The two marriages take place with the full knowledge that Andrew and Callista will not be able to consummate their marriage until Callista can be fully set free from the confines of her rigorous training. Physical contact is unbearable to her and if they try before she is ready, Andrew could be killed. Damon, himself almost a Keeper before he was exiled by Leonie, is the key to it all. Only he has the knowledge and the daring to free Callista. In the meantime the four, bound telepathically into a very tight-knit group, have to support each other through many trials and tribulations in order to discover exactly 'how' reliant they must be on each other in order to get through this.

Marion Zimmer Bradley's 'Darkover' series is quite well known I believe. There are over twenty books which all take place at various times during the planet's long history. This is my second Darkover book, the first being Darkover Landfall which told the story of how a group of Terrans crash-landed on the planet and what happened to them. I think it was the first book written but am not sure. I gather the books were all written to standalone and from what I can see this is the case. The Forbidden Tower is about in the middle of the series but I had no problem understanding what was going on... it seems like a series that is not actually a follow-on series in the true sense of the word.

Anyway, what this book does most successfully, imo, is make you think about the nature of sexuality. Just because we go the monogamous, 'pairing off' route on Earth, is that the only way... or indeed the 'right' way? Whatever your feelings on the matter it never harms to listen to other opinions. Ursula Le Guin did it brilliantly in her short story book, The Birthday of the World, I can't recommend that highly enough, and this is another book in that vein. Andrew is Terran and has firmly entrenched ideas and these ideas are almost as big a block to the new, fragile marriage as Callista's problems are. I must add that this is not an explicit book in any way shape or form, so anyone who dislikes that sort of thing need not fear.

This is not a hard-nosed science fiction novel. It's a story about how relationships work and have to be worked *at* to survive and thrive. But there is also conflict within the wider family and also between the rulers (towers) of Darkover and Damon Ridenow who wants change in respect of how Keepers are trained and how telepathy is used outside the towers. All this too made fascinating reading.

All in all, an excellent read. It's quite a dense, complicated novel, so not a quick read, but that was its charm for me. I read it slowly and savoured the good writing and twisty plot and enjoyed the strangeness of an alien planet but also the similarities. I have more Darkover books to read and *cough* two more on the way. I think I'm going to love this series to bits.


I've not read any of the Darkover books, but I find I'm in quite a science-fiction-ish mood lately (must be my astronomy class!), and this sounds rather intriguing, so I might have to give them a go... Thanks!
I'm in the same mood but have decided to try and read more for the whole year, if possible. I can lend you this one if you like? It stands alone no problem... and what about The City of Pearl from my last review? I loved that too. :-)

Have you been watching the new BBC sci fi series, Outcasts? I honestly can't decide what I think about it. In some respects the plot is the same old same old and yet it has promise somehow. Hmm.
I was peeved to miss Outcasts - its the time of year when I come home from work and do nothing but mark exam papers for two weeks or so, waaah. Maybe if the first ep's there I can catch up on iPlayer - though that's not been working for me lately either *headdesk*.

On the other hand, I'm going to treat myself to a browse in a bookshop when it's all over, so I'll perhaps pick up one of the Darkover books there - but thank you! I shall have to go back and remind myself what The City of Pearl was, though... *g*
Righty ho, shout if you change your mind. You might be better checking the charity shops for Darkover books, rather than a bookshop. They've been around a while and bookshops don't tend to have them.

Outcasts was on last Monday and Tuesday night. It's not bad but I thought a bit predictable.

Good luck with the marking!
Thanks for the heads-up - in which case I may change my mind about borrowing if I can't find any! I can see a couple on Bookdepository, but that's not the same as picking one from the shelf and carrying it home... *g*

And because I was looking to see if there was any order to the books, I discovered that MZB died in 1999, so I googled to find out how and read about her life - and what a life, it sounds! So thank you for prompting me to do that too!
but that's not the same as picking one from the shelf and carrying it home... *g*

No, it isn't and I'm gutted because my local Waterstones closed last week. It's such a part of my routine to pop in there once a week - not always to buy anything but to enjoy the books - that I feel quite bereft. And upset with them, even though I know that makes no sense because the branch was obviously not doing well enough.

The order of reading is open to debate apparently. And all can be read as stand alones. Here's a site with a chronological order but she didn't write them like that.


Also this Amazon list is quite helpful:

I inhaled all the Darkover books during the 80s (they actually do build on each other and intertwine), but then I became annoyed with the men in the books, who tended to either be macho bullies or rather wimpy. Not every single one, of course.

One concept that has stayed with me from her books is the ethical use of weapons -- you can only use weapons that put you in danger too. No distance weapons, whether bow and arrow, or psi powers.
Interesting what you say about the men. I shall see if that strikes me too when I've read enough of them.

I'd not noticed the weapons thing either but again that's because I haven't really read enough. Looking forward to discovering a lot more about this universe. Nice to see you around again.
I haven't read this one for years. I must dig it out for a re-read.

For some reason the handful I return to are Heritage of Hastur / Sharra's Exile and (especially) Hawkmistress
It's nice to hear what people's favourites are. I have Hawkmistress as a matter of fact, in a two book version along with Stormqueen. The two I have coming are The Shattered Chain and Thendara House. Along with the Wess'har books that should be plenty of sci fi to keep me going this year... ;-)
The Darkover books have been a mainstay of my reading for decades. Getting a new one in the series was like returning to friends and family. The way she traversed the history of Darkover from start to "present day" was amazing, and her take on sexuality and on gender roles gave cause for pause and thought. You have so many wonderful characters yet to meet, and stories to hear. I am envious, yet it's also wonderful to be so comfortable with a read when going back to visit.
Well, it's thanks to you that I read any at all because it was your mention of them, ages ago I think, that made me buy Darkover Landfall. So thank you for the rec and yes... I clearly have a lot of pleasure to come.