In a year very long ago, a mysterious, lute-playing magician named Lythande is summoned to the wedding of an old friend, Prince Tashgan, at the castle of Tschardain. To the world, Lythande appears to be a powerful young wizard. In truth, she is a centuries-old magician masquerading as a man in order to hold on to her special powers. If anyone were to discover her true identity, all would be lost. Yet from the moment she sees the handsome prince again - and meets Princess Velvet of Valantia, his promised bride - ...
In a year very long ago, a mysterious, lute-playing magician named Lythande is summoned to the wedding of an old friend, Prince Tashgan, at the castle of Tschardain. To the world, Lythande appears to be a powerful young wizard. In truth, she is a centuries-old magician masquerading as a man in order to hold on to her special powers. If anyone were to discover her true identity, all would be lost. Yet from the moment she sees the handsome prince again - and meets Princess Velvet of Valantia, his promised bride - Lythande knows something is terribly wrong. And when Tashgan asks Lythande to be his champion at the marriage games, a warning of danger sounds deep in her soul. Soon Lythande is entangled in the intrigues of court, where shape-shifting creatures and black treachery challenge her own special powers. Within the wedding party itself is a cunning enemy dueling for the throne. And the lovely Princess Velvet conceals a secret that could shatter a delicate trust. Now, as the marriage games begin, a stunning revelation threatens Lythande's greatest secret and could expose love as the most clever of illusions. With the future of the kingdom at stake, Lythande must rely on a very different kind of magic ... a magic born of a friendship and faith stronger than any sorcery....
Lythande, "mercenary magician and sometime minstrel," receives the summons to the kingdom of Tschardain with curiosity. It has been years since she has seen Lord Tashgan. The news that his father has died and he is to be ordained High King just three days before his wedding is entertaining. Lythande looks forward to seeing the king again, and to meeting the woman he is about to marry. However, immediately upon being introduced to Tashgan's bride-to-be, the beautiful Princess Velvet, Lythande senses that magic is afoot. Tashgan has sent for Lythande for more than just her lute playing. He wants Lythande to be his champion in the Marriage Games, which are a contest of skill. Lythande and her opponent, Princess Velvet's lady-in-waiting Lady Mirwen, will compete to see who can create the most fantastic and beautiful illusions while the wedding guests act as judges. Then Lythande discovers that Princess Velvet is not what she seems, although through no deception of her own. She has been enchanted by the devious Lady Mirwen so as to appear to have a perfect image. Tashgan has been completely fooled by the guise, as has the rest of the kingdom. Obviously Mirwen is up to no good, but what is she plotting? And how can Lythande stop her without revealing her treachery and possibly ruining the upcoming marriage ceremony? This is a simple little book (both in size and length) that packs a big punch. It can be easily read in one sitting, but the plot is complex enough to keep readers of more sophisticated fantasy interested. Lythande and some of the other characters have a history before this story takes place, which makes one feel they are reading a sequel, but there is no mention of such in the book nor on any of the Web sources about the author. Fantasy readers will enjoy this book, but those who do not generally like the genre will appreciate it, too. The only drawback is the book's small size-it is beautifully put together but will be lost among the taller novels in the stacks. This should not keep one from buying the book, but will make it harder to circulate. VOYA Codes: 5Q 4P M J S (Hard to imagine it being any better written, Broad general YA appeal, Middle School-defined as grades 6 to 8, Junior High-defined as grades 7 to 9 and Senior High-defined as grades 10 to 12).
A prolific storyteller from the time she was old enough to talk, Marion Zimmer Bradley had an enormous impact on the science fiction and fantasy genres, imagining centuries of technological and culture clashes in the colonization of a distant planet in her Darkover series and recasting the Arthurian legends from the perspective of the women in his life in her 1983 masterpiece, The Mists of Avalon.
Marion Zimmer Bradley was writing before she could write. As a young girl, before she learned to take pen in hand, she was dictating stories to her mother. She started her own magazine -- devoted to science fiction and fantasy, of course -- as a teenager, and she wrote her first novel when she was in high school.
Given this history of productivity, it is perhaps no surprise that Bradley was working right up until her death in 1999. Though declining health interfered with her output, she was working on manuscripts and editing magazines, including another sci-fi/fantasy publication of her own making.
Her longest-running contribution to the genre was her Darkover series, which began in 1958 with the publication of The Planet Savers. The series, which is not chronological, covers several centuries and is set on a distant planet that has been colonized by humans, who have interbred with a native species on the planet. Critics lauded her efforts to address culture clashes -- including references to gays and lesbians -- in the series.
"It is not just an exercise in planet-building," wrote Susan Shwartz in the St. James Guide to Science Fiction Writers. "A Darkover book is commonly understood to deal with issues of cultural clash, between Darkover and its parent Terran culture, between warring groups on Darkover, or in familial terms."
Diana Pharoah Francis, writing in Contemporary Popular Writers, noted the series' attention on its female characters, and the consequences of the painful choices they must make: "Struggles are not decided easily, but through pain and suffering. Her point seems to be that what is important costs, and the price is to be paid out of the soul rather than out of the pocketbook. Her characters are never black and white but are all shades of gray, making them more compelling and humanized."
Bradley's most notable single work would have to be The Mists of Avalon. Released in 1983, its 800-plus pages address the King Arthur story from the point of view of the women in his life -- including his wife, his mother and his half sister. Again, Bradley received attention and critics for her female focus, though many insist that she cannot be categorized strictly as a "feminist" writer, because her real focus is always character rather than politics.
"In drawing on all of the female experiences that make of the tapestry of the legend, Bradley is able to delve into the complexity of their intertwined lives against the tapestry of the undeclared war being waged between the Christians and the Druids," Francis wrote in her Contemporary Popular Writers essay. "Typical of Bradley is her focus on this battle, which is also a battle between masculine (Christian) and feminine (Druid) values."
And Maureen Quilligan, in her New York Times review in 1983, said: "What she has done here is reinvent the underlying mythology of the Arthurian legends. It is an impressive achievement. Greek, Egyptian, Roman, Celtic and Orphic stories are all swirled into a massive narrative that is rich in events placed in landscapes no less real for often being magical."
Avalon flummoxed Hollywood for nearly 20 years before finally making it to cable television as a TNT movie in 2001, starring Joan Allen, Anjelica Huston, and Julianna Margulies.
Two years before she died, Bradley's photograph was included in The Faces of Science Fiction, a collection of prominent science fiction writers, such names as Isaac Asimov and Ray Bradbury. Under it, she gave her own take on the importance of the genre:
"Science fiction encourages us to explore... all the futures, good and bad, that the human mind can envision."
Good To Know
Aside from her science fiction and fantasy writing, Bradley also contributed to the gay and lesbian genre, publishing lesbian fiction under pseudonyms, bibliographies of gay and lesbian literature, and a gay mainstream novel.
Bradley rewrote some editions of her Darkover series to accommodate real advances in technology.
Her first stories were published in pulp science fiction magazines in the 1950s.