Marion Zimmer Bradley,
The Forbidden Circle
(DAW, 2002)

Putting together The Spell Sword (1974) and The Forbidden Tower (1977) was a great idea, & this edition fills the bill. This classic entry in the saga of Darkover -- a lost (in time as well as space) colony of humans who interbred with the alien cheryi, evolved into a feudal society with the addition of "magic" as laran psi-powers, then were rediscovered by humans from Earth (Terrans) -- is an especially good "textbook" for people learning to use their own inner strengths.

Watching the almost-typical fairytale romance of Keeper Callista Lanart and Terran spacer Andrew Carr bloom into something else is magical in the best sense of the word. Damon Ridenow -- outcast from his beloved Arilinn Tower because he's actually more than just a Matrix technician -- and his love Ellemir (sister to Callista) are not just pretty people filling a need for extra faces in The Spell Sword. The four craft a friendship that becomes more than just friendship ... and will have a crucial effect on Darkovan history.

The action really kicks in as the tale progresses in The Forbidden Tower. Callista discovers -- painfully -- that the heritage she thought she had left behind as virginal Keeper of Arilinn Tower is almost more than she can bear to shatter; the fact that it nearly kills Andrew isn't just peripheral, either. Ellimir discovers that she actually is gifted with the power of laran, and Damon takes center stage as he discovers that he is a Keeper himself ... Keeper of what leronis Leonie Hastur scornfully calls "the Forbidden Tower." As the four individuals become more than just two married couples, they uncover vital knowledge lost in the millenia known as the Ages of Chaos.

The tragic denoument is kept away, which perhaps is just as well. If you truly want to be depressed, pick up The Bloody Sun to learn the fates of the four and their children. Although not quite as tragic as the hinted ending of another group of similar people, hinted at in Sharra's Exile, it can be a true "downer" after the triumphant ending of The Forbidden Circle.

- Rambles
written by Melissa Kowalewski
published 21 June 2003

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