''Darkover'' is a series of novels by famed ScienceFiction and {{Fantasy}} author MarionZimmerBradley. They deal with the LostColony world of Cottman IV, called Darkover by the natives. The series itself spans many thousands of years of history.

The world of Darkover is a feudal society with all technology being matrix science, or ''laran'', which are PsychicPowers enhanced by [[PowerCrystal crystalline matrices]]. The abilities are said to be the natural talents of humans, enhanced by the matrices and historical selective breeding programs. There are also numerous non-human intelligent species on Darkover.

The novels and history of Darkover can be split into the following categories:

'''The Founding'''

A human colony ship crashes on Cottman IV and the survivors found the colony.

* ''Darkover Landfall''

'''The Ages of Chaos'''

Humanity of Darkover has become a feudal society with power resting with those families who have laran. Earth technology is all but lost, but matrix science has become nearly as powerful in its place. Dangerous inbreeding occurs as the families try to produce more exotic and powerful types of psychic abilities. Those with the most powerful ''laran'' serve in Towers, which power transport, send messages, and make technology for others to use, such as constructed servants and weapons.

* ''Stormqueen!''

'''The Hundred Kingdoms'''

Coming at the end of the Ages of Chaos, Darkover has suffered a series of devastating wars using deadly ''laran'' weapons. Some of the gifts of ''laran'' are already starting to die out due to the effects of the breeding programs. The continent is split into dozens of small kingdoms, most still fighting. The Towers produce weapons of enormous destructive capabilities. This period ended with Varzil the Good created The Compact, which forbade anyone from using a weapon that didn't bring the user within equal risk of death.

* ''Hawkmistress!''
* ''Two to Conquer''
* ''The Heirs of Hammerfell''
* ''The Clingfire Trilogy'' (with Deborah J. Ross)

'''Against the Terrans: The First Age'''

Darkover is rediscovered by the Terran Empire, and a space port is established on the planet's surface. Darkover lies along a critical trade route, so pressure is applied for the planet to join the Empire, but Darkover's government, the Comyn, resist. Matrix technology is dying out, as are the men and women who wield ''laran'', due in large part to the breeding programs in the Ages of Chaos. The land is split into seven Domains, each ruled by one of seven major families, and all is ruled over by a king.

Many of the novels set in this age feature Terrans going native on Darkover.

* ''Rediscovery'' (with Creator/MercedesLackey)
* ''The Shattered Chain''
* ''Thendara House''
* ''City of Sorcery''
* ''The Spell Sword''
* ''The Forbidden Tower''
* ''Star of Danger''
* ''Winds of Darkover''

'''Against the Terrans: The Second Age'''

The pressure from the Terran Empire becomes less and less subtle, climaxing with hiring a organization known as the World Wreckers to destroy the planetary economy and assassinate the members of the local governments. The Comyn were reduced to only a few and the Telepathic Council was formed as an interim ruling body until a member of each of the seven Domains could once again take his or her seat and the Comyn council be reformed. This period's end is marked by the fall of the Terran Empire, and Darkover being left to develop on its own once again.

* ''The Bloody Sun''
* ''The Heritage of Hastur''
* ''The Planet Savers''
* ''Sharra's Exile''
* ''The World Wreckers''
* ''Hastur Lord'' (with Deborah J. Ross)
* ''Exile's Song'' (with Adrienne Martine-Barnes)
* ''Shadow Matrix'' (with Adrienne Martine-Barnes)
* ''Traitor's Sun'' (with Adrienne Martine-Barnes)
* ''The Alton Gift'' (with Deborah J. Ross)
* ''The Children of Kings'' (with Deborah J. Ross)

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This series provides examples of:

* ActionGirl: Several, notably including Jaelle n'ha Melora, Magda Lorne, Camilla n'ha Kyria, Vanessa ryn Erin and Romilly [=MacAran=].
* AlienNoninterferenceClause: The Empire has this in theory, as worlds that want limited contact with the Empire are supposed to be respected. However, in [[CharacterizationMarchesOn later books]], they start looking for an excuse to break the rule and force their way into Darkover, and in ''Traitor's Sun'' they finally abandon the rule (fortunately, Darkover manages to cut off all contact before the Terrans can invade).
* AlienSky: The Darkovan sun is a large, red star, colloquially known as the Bloody Sun. The night sky has four moons.
* AllMythsAreTrue: The creation myth of the house of Hastur is actually true, although the "god" was [[GodGuise actually an alien chieri]].
* AllPlanetsAreEarthlike: Darkover itself, and the numerous worlds of the Terran Empire.
* AmazonBrigade: The Renunciates, also called the Free Amazons, are a guild of women warriors who reject Darkover's traditional gender roles (women can only be wives or work in a Tower). They all tend to have a DarkAndTroubledPast.
* ArrangedMarriage: Very much the norm in Darkover.
* AstralProjection: Usually into the Overworld, although sometimes used to survey the real world as well.
* BadPowersGoodPeople: Dorilys of Rockraven does use her storm-control powers to save lives on a few occasions.
* BlessedWithSuck: The Elhalyn Gift is a variant form of [[{{Seers}} precognition]] that shows its possessor all the ''possible'' futures that can come from a given action. While this might seem a useful tool for strategic planning, it is instead an awful strain on its users. Allart Hastur, who has it in full measure, observes that he cannot even walk down a staircase without seeing the possible futures in which he trips and falls to injury or death!
* BodyHorror: After Lew Alton loses his hand in ''Heritage of Hastur'', it is mentioned in the following novel, ''Sharra's Exile'' that Terran doctors tried to make it grow back (the technology used being pretty successful by then). The end result was...disturbing (when the anesthetics wore off and Lew saw the ''thing'' that had grown in the place of a hand, he screamed so much that he was unable to speak for ''almost a year'' due to the damage done to his vocal chords.
** The incident with Lew's hand, however, was just Foreshadowing to how much the Sharra matrix had affected him, down to his DNA. During the early chapters of ''Sharra's Exile'', he starts a relationship with Dio Ridenow, [[spoiler: which results in a pregnancy]]. Later on, [[spoiler: their child is stillborn]] and when Lew sees it, [[spoiler: it is described as "a dreadfully deformed thing", not even human]].
* BrotherSisterIncest: Mikhail of Aldaran insists on his ''preteen daughter'' marrying her 20-year-old half-brother in order to solve his HeirClubForMen[=/=]SuccessionCrisis problem. Yes, he wants them to make a baby. And it's implied that if he wasn't impotent, he'd have been willing to commit ParentalIncest to solve the problem. Even worse, [[BigBrotherAttraction both of the siblings are eventually willing to go through with it]], even the brother who already has a girlfriend (who is pregnant with his child, no less).
* BurnTheWitch: After Cleindori demonstrates that VirginPower isn't really a requisite for her job, she and a lot of her family members and friends (all members of the Forbidden Tower included) are slaughtered. And yes, in some cases, burned (in their house).
* BusCrash: All the members of the Forbidden Tower, who are the protagonists of two books and appear in a couple more, are killed off-screen in a house fire (probably set by fanatics) in the years between ''City of Sorcery'' and ''The Bloody Sun''.
* ButIWouldReallyEnjoyIt: Callista's dilemma in ''The Forbidden Tower'' is that she wants to have sex with her husband (see below), but has been brainwashed into being a Keeper who's not allowed to get laid, and undoing that brainwashing is extremely difficult.
* CanonDiscontinuity: The first book written for Darkover, ''The Sword Of Aldones'', was de-canonized when Bradley wrote ''The Heritage of Hastur''. ''Sharra's Exile'' was later written in to replace it.
* CastFromLifespan: [[spoiler: Regis Hastur's]] use of [[spoiler: his "living matrix" 'laran' powers (as well as the Sword of Aldones) to defeat the Sharra matrix by banishing it to another plane]] in ''Sharra's Exile'' ends up having this effect on him. His family was well known for its members' longevity (living past 100 was definitely not unusual for the Hasturs), but he [[spoiler: ended up dying before he was even 60 years old]] in ''Traitor's Sun''.
* CatFolk: The Catmen.
* TheClan: The seven major noble houses of Darkover and the numerous minor families.
* ClosetKey: Danilo for Regis (in more ways than one; he has the catalyst ''laran'', after all) and vice versa.
* CultureClash: The Darkovans and the Terrans do this a lot; stories where the characters [[GoingNative go native]] invariably focus on the difficulty of adapting to a different culture.
* DeathByChildbirth: This happens quite often, as it is to be expected in a society that stagnated at a medieval level. Some examples are Aliciane of Rockraven (when giving birth to Dorilys), Melora Aillard (when giving birth to Valentine), Elaine Montray (when giving birth to Marius). Also implied to have been the fate of Elorie Ardais (Dyan Ardais' half-sister, Jeff Kerwin Jr.'s wife) in between novels, but unlike in the examples mentioned before, the child did not live.
* DepravedHomosexual: Dyan Ardais, before his redemption.
** It's implied that this might partly be owing to Dyan never really getting over the fact that in their late teens, [[spoiler: Kennard Alton]] broke his heart TWICE, first by picking a new best friend and then by [[spoiler: going straight on Dyan.]] Jawdroppingly, Dyan realizes the last-mentioned [[spoiler: while he and Kennard are actually having sex]].
* DisneyVillainDeath: [[spoiler: Jaelle and Aquilara]] in ''City of Sorcery''.
* DistressedDamsel: Callista, in ''Spell Sword''.
* {{Doppelganger}}: Paul Harrell, to Bard di Asturien.
** Kathie Marshall and Linnell Lindir-Aillard.
* DramaticIrony: Auster is ''convinced'' that the Terran Jeff Kerwin is somehow being used as a spy for the Terrans against his knowledge. [[spoiler: Turns out that (a) Jeff doesn't have a Terran dad, Auster does, and (b) he was SeparatedAtBirth from an EvilTwin, and the twin is using his psychic link to Auster to spy on the Arilinn circle.]]
* DueToTheDead
* DyingCurse: A servant curses the head of the Aldaran household as she dies in ''Stormqueen!''.
* TheEmpire: The Terran Empire during the Second Age.
* EternalEnglish: Played straight with the Terran Empire, subverted on Darkover which speaks two different languages derived from Gaelic and Spanish.
* EverybodyWantsTheHermaphrodite: ''Nobody'' thinks that the chieri are anything less than beautiful.
* EveryoneIsBi: Sexual orientation is pretty fluid among the Darkovans.
* EvilTowerOfOminousness
* FantasticRacism: The trailmen and [[CatFolk catmen]], nonhuman intelligent races on Darkover, are the subject of racism from the humans.
* FantasyGunControl: The Darkovan Compact forbids any kind of range weapon. It was developed to deal with the destructiveness of ''laran'' weaponry, but it covers guns as well.
* FasterThanLightTravel: How the colonists got to Darkover and what keeps the TerranEmpire together.
* FilkSong: Quite a few. [[http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rFbUStD1D-A Crystal Silver Blue and Gold]] is a canon example, while [[http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NeyM8CLeaCg Horse Tamer's Daughter]] is a fanfic-ish one.
* FishOutOfWater: Any Terran on Darkover; Andrew Carr and Jeff Kerwin are examples. ''Thendara House'' is a paired example, with Magda Lorne with the Amazons and Jaelle with the Terrans.
* FeudalFuture: With rule by psychic aristocrats.
* GenderBender: The ''chieri'' can alter their sex to match that of their partner.
* GoingNative: Numerous Terrans, including Magda Lorne, Andrew Carr, Jeff Kerwin, and Margaret Alton.
* HalfHumanHybrid: The alien native ''[[OurElvesAreDifferent chieri]]'' and the humans are capable of interbreeding. It's implied that the abnormally high incidence of psychic talents on Darkover is due to people's ''chieri'' blood. Not to mention the extra fingers, and unusual eye colours (and, in many cases, sterility, or at the very least severe fertility issues).
* HeirClubForMen: Constantly.
* HeroesWantRedheads: Nearly all those with psychic talent have red hair, which means that the love interests and heroines are almost always redheads.
* IChooseToStay: [[spoiler: Magda and Camilla choose to join the HiddenElfVillage at the end of ''City of Sorcery''.]]
* InhumanlyBeautifulRace: The ''chieri'' are universally perceived as this by Darkovan and Terran humans.
* InterspeciesRomance: The origin of the strong psychic powers, and also used in ''The World Wreckers.''
* ItsOkayIfItsYou: Regis Hastur has a thing for Danilo Syrtis, who is very reluctant due to a major case of homophobia (preferring to maintain their current [[HeterosexualLifePartners relationship]]) until [[spoiler: Regis finally manages to get him into bed, after which he does an abrupt 180 and becomes quite possessive; it's implied that Danilo is ONLY interested in Regis to the exclusion of any other [[SingleTargetSexuality potential relationship.]] ]]
* KissingCousins: Almost every single freaking relationship on Darkover that doesn't involve an alien species or a Terran is a case of cousins marrying (and many of these cases actually involve ''double first cousins'').
* LadyLand: The City of Sorcery.
* LawOfInverseFertility: Ellemir, who loves children and very much wants her own, finds it very difficult to carry a child to term, eventually only having one surviving child. Her twin sister Callista, who is not especially interested, has no trouble at all. The result is a bunch of children running around the estate who all call Ellemir "Mama," regardless of their biological parentage. (IIRC, even some children not born to Ellemir, Callista, or either's husband do this. She just mothers any child in range.)
* LostColony: The original colony ship having gone off course through space and time, the Terran Empire was surprised to discover that Darkover was inhabited by humans.
* LoveIsInTheAir: The Ghost Winds spread ''kireseth'' pollen, which has this effect among others.
* LukeIMightBeYourFather: In ''The Forbidden Tower'', it is said that Dezi's father might be one of oh, six guys his mother slept with the night he was conceived. None of them will claim him as his own, which royally pisses him off.
** It ''is'' mentioned one of those guys did have the intention of claiming him as his son, but unfortunately didn't live long enough to go through with it.
* MandatoryMotherhood: And how. Not only can nobody conceive of such a thing as being wanted, Darkover used to have breeding programs for ''laran''. The Comyn still insists on everyone having as many kids as possible with other Comyn (at a time in the past, it was forbidden for one woman to have more than two children by the same man: a Darkovan woman a little patronizingly explains to an Earthwoman the concept of "genetic pool"). Camilla of ''Darkover Landfall'' and Rohana of the Renunciate trilogy particularly were not thrilled to have lots of kids.
** This attitude is of course a legacy of the Landfall era when it was vital for all fertile females to have as many children as they could manage by several different fathers to establish a sufficiently large and varied gene pool to guarantee the survival of our species on Darkover.
* MagicPoweredPseudoscience: "Matrix Mechanics", a "non-causative" science developed on Darkover through the harnessing of ''laran'' and the use of matrix crystals. It is potentially capable of [[MagicFromTechnology violating generally accepted laws of physics]], which makes the Terrans covet it greatly even though they cannot make it work without telepaths. At its peak during the Ages of Chaos the Darkovans had developed it to the point where they had potentially planet-shattering weapons. But most of the knowledge of this has [[LostTechnology been forgotten]].
* TheMagocracy: The planet is ruled by a king and seven noble houses, and the heir to those positions must have ''laran''. Subversion: those who actually specialize in the use of ''laran'' are supposed to stay in the Towers and out of government.
* MaritalRapeLicense: A weird almost-subversion of it comes up in ''The Forbidden Tower''. Ex-Keeper Callista has been so brainwashed into virginity that she can't physically touch her husband without freaking out. At one point she suggests that he just knock her out and have sex with her because then her reflexes won't go off and kill him for trying. Andrew is horrified at the idea of this, but his brother-in-law is all, "Well, that could work."
* {{Matriarchy}}: While Darkover as a whole is extremely patriarchal, women head the Aillard Domain.
* MayDecemberRomance: Actually not done on Darkover, or at least marrying someone not of your generation isn't, because they might very well BE your father. Any relationship falling under this trope that eventually happens will be considered quite squicky by Darkovan standards.
** An example of this is Erminie and Rascard of Hammerfell-- he's a 40something duke whose only son has just gotten killed, she's an 18-year-old who grew up at Hammerfell and was in love with his son. When the two of them are the only ones left around and Rascard has to come up with another heir, he proposes to her. Her uncle objects to the idea, but Erminie would rather stay with the one person left and home that she knows. And the marriage is as happy as can be expected given the uh, circumstances and duration.
* MindOverManners: After the time of Varzil the Good, those with telepathic gifts are expected to be ''extremely'' conscientious with their powers. Those with the [[MindRape Alton Gift]] are held to particularly high standards.
* MixedAncestry: Lew and Marius Alton get a lot of grief for having a Terran mother.
* MyGodWhatHaveIDone: Bard di Asturien gets a big one after being forced to live through the experiences of the women he's raped.
* NotIfTheyEnjoyedItRationalization: Bard's laran enables him to force a woman to want him sexually (they're not happy about it afterwards), and this is something he cites frequently.
* ObstructiveCodeOfConduct: The Compact forbids the use of any non-melee weapons. When it's broken, the results are usually a bad thing.
* OneSteveLimit: Totally averted. The same first names are used ''over and over and over'' for generations. And one book had multiple Davids.
* OrphansPlotTrinket: Jeff Kerwin Jr. grows up in the Terran Empire with no idea that the blue stone he's always worn is the matrix of his Keeper mother Cleindori; when he finally comes back to Darkover, the Comyn identify him through the matrix.
* OurElvesAreBetter: The ''chieri'', of the SpaceElf variety.
* NoPeriodsPeriod: In ''Hawkmistress!'', Romilly's menstruation is a big problem while she's disguised as a boy.
* NumberedHomeworld: Cottman IV.
* {{Patronymic}}: Children take the last name of the higher ranked parent.
** The Renunciates use matronymics, with members identfying themselves as so-and-so daughter of (''n'ha'') mother's name. For example, Kindra n'ha Mhari, Jaelle n'ha Melora, Margali n'ha Ysabet, Camilla n'ha Kyria.
* PlanetaryRomance: Although nominally ScienceFiction, any of the novels set before the rediscovery are indistinguishable from fantasy.
* PlayingWithFire: Using the Sharra Matrix. The Terrans learn to appreciate the merits of the Compact when Kadarin and Thyra summon the Form of Fire and use it to destroy the Terran spaceport at Caer Donn.
* {{Polyamory}}: Oddly enough, this seems to crop up in places. Due to breeding issues, it used to be far more acceptable to have children by various men. Particularly notable is the social custom of it being okay for a wife's sister to sleep with her husband should she be unable to do so.
** Ellemir, Callista, Andrew, and Damon seem to have fallen into a polyamorous foursome by the end of ''The Forbidden Tower''
** Regis Hastur seems to have this going on with his wife Linnea and his paxman Danilo.
* PowerCrystal: Matrix crystals (aka "starstones"), which amplify psychic powers.
* ThePowerOfLove: in ''Two to Conquer'', this redeems both protagonists.
* {{Precursors}}: The ''chieri'' reveal that they are the dying remnants of what was once a galaxy-spanning race of SufficientlyAdvancedAliens.
* PsychicPowers: ''Laran''.
* PsychoElectro: Dorilys of Rockraven, the titular ''Stormqueen!'', who's been known to kill people accidentally. She's a SpoiledBrat because who can stand up against her?
* PubertySuperpower: ''Laran'' generally awakens in puberty, though there are exceptions. Frequently this is accompanied by an illness known as "threshold sickness", which can occasionally be fatal.
* TheQuest: the plot of ''City of Sorcery'' features a quest to find a HiddenElfVillage.
* ReincarnationRomance: It's implied that Mikhail and Marguerida are this, to the point of [[TimeTravel going back in time]] and being mistaken for a thwarted couple named Mikhailangelo and Margarethe.
* ResetButton: ''Exile's Song'' largely ignores the important evolution of Darkovan society and politics that had been clearly established in previous books. Gradual rapprochement between Darkover and the Terran Empire is no longer happening or desirable. In ''Traitor's Sun'',[[spoiler: the Terran Empire leaves and this is described as a very positive thing.]]
* ResidualSelfImage: The form a person takes in the Overworld is based almost completely on the way they picture themselves. It may not even be human in form.
* RetCon: The author later stated that the FTL accident that sent the colony ship off-course also sent it through time, accounting for the disparity between the long Darkovan history and the much shorter history of the Terran Empire.
* ScifiWritersHaveNoSenseOfScale: In the earlier novels, the Terran Empire's culture was very similar to that of the early 1980s. She got better.
* ScrewYourself: In ''Two to Conquer'', the protagonist meets up with an identical duplicate of himself. And then, well, {{squick}}.
* SettlingTheFrontier: the original colonists in ''Darkover Landfall''.
* SexSlave: The ''riyachiyas'' in ''Stormqueen.''
* ShoutOut: One of the main families of nobles is called the "Hasturs". There is a minor family of nobles called the "Alars". There is a place called Carcosa. There is also a lake called "Lake Hali", which is misty. According to TheOtherWiki, this was a [[http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carcosa#Other_appearances deliberate shout-out]] to Robert W. Chambers' book ''TheKingInYellow'' (which also inspired parts of the CthulhuMythos).
* SpaceAmish: The Darkovans are very leery of Terran technology, although in fairness their metal-poor planet would require that they become dependent on imports were they to adopt it to any significant degree.
* SpaceElves: The ''chieri''. Borderline SufficientlyAdvancedAliens, and used to be spread throughout the galaxy, but now in retirement.
* SplitPersonality: Dr. Jason Allison of ''The Planet-Savers'' was raised by Darkovan trailmen before returning to the Terrans to become a cold, xenophobic doctor who entirely repressed his childhood experiences; his "Jay" personality, warmer and more impulsive, has those memories but none of Jason's medical and scientific training.
* StrawMisogynist: The Terran men as well as the Darkovans, and institutionally as well as individually. (In a galaxy-spanning Terran Empire of three thousand years in the future -- one in which men and women are repeatedly asserted to be equal in every way -- when Jane Smith marries John Doe, she is automatically designated not only with his surname, but with his ''full'' name: not "Smith, Jane", not "Doe, Jane", but "Doe, Mrs. John".)
* SuccessionCrisis: There is one happening, or at the very least mentioned, in pretty much every novel.
* SweetPollyOliver: Romilly in ''Hawkmistress''.
* {{Telepathy}}: Generally considered to be the most crucial of all PsychicPowers, as without it the individual cannot fully participate in a Circle or operate most matrix technology. Both non-psychics and psychics who lack telepathy are thus disadvantaged in Comyn society.
* TeleportersAndTransporters: During the height of their power, the Towers could send people and objects through the giant artificial matrices from one tower to another instantaneously. The chieri and some very powerful human psychics can teleport on their own.
* TimeTravel: If someone using AstralProjection reaches the correct level of the Overworld then it becomes possible to visit other time periods. Physical travel through time is also possible, but considerably more difficult.
* TomboyAndGirlyGirl: Melitta and Allira Storn of ''The Winds of Darkover''. It turns out to be extremely fortunate for their family that Melitta preferred climbing and riding over her sister's more conventionally ladylike pursuits. Also Romilly and Mallina [=MacAran=] of ''Hawkmistress''. Romilly prefers working with animals, while her sister is interested mostly in clothes and boys.
* TruceZone: Forest fires are a great danger on Darkover, and an absolute truce is maintained by those working on the fire-lines. There is a story told of a man who met and killed his father's sworn enemy there, and was cut to pieces by his own brothers for it.
* TwinSwitch: An inherent part of Bard and his dad's plan to bring Paul into their lives is so that they can do this. It gets interesting [[spoiler: when Bard's gone, Paul gets nabbed and forced to become king of Asturiens and marry Melisendra. Fortunately it turns out that Bard doesn't want Melisendra for himself, and neither of them want to be king]].
* TwinTelepathy: With twins, one will have a large portion of ''laran'', and the other little. However, twins are always telepathically linked regardless of how little talent the one has.
* TwinThreesomeFantasy: Bard and Paul give this a go with a random woman, and then give {{Twincest}} a shot...
* TheUnFavourite: Mikhail Lanart-Alton's parents pretty much can't stand him ever since he got tapped to be his uncle's heir.
* TheWallAroundTheWorld: Literally called this, it is the global-spanning glacier that surrounds the only habitable continent.
* WhiteAndGreyMorality: The central conflict is between the good Darkovans and well-meaning, sympathetic Terrans who happen to be opposed to the Darkovan way of life. Individuals range all over the morality scale, but the series prefers nuanced villains.
* VirginPower: Keepers, the most powerful of ''laran'' workers, have to keep their channels free of sexual impulses during heavy ''laran'' work or risk serious injury. During the First Age of recontact, this was enforced for women by keeping them virginal or even making them sexless via surgery.

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