Book Review

The Heritage of Hastur

by Marion Zimmer Bradley
Series: Darkover 15
Reviewed date: 2005 Jun 15
Rating: 3
381 pages
cover art

Darkover is a pre-industrial planet that hosts a single trading outpost of the galactic Empire. The intricate feudal codes and traditions of Darkover are of no interest to young Regis Hastur, so he strikes a deal with his grandfather: Regis will attend the traditional three years of cadet training, then he is free to join the Empire and leave Darkover to explore the galaxy.

But at the academy, the cadet-master sadistically abuses the children in his care. Further, Regis Hastur is belatedly developing the gift of laran--a form of Darkovan telepathy. When Regis's best friend is expelled from the academy for retaliating against the cadet-master's abuse, Regis swears to exact justice and clear his friend's name.

The Heritage of Hastur starts out like a good science fiction novel but degenerates into stock fantasy. The Darkovans wield a kind of psi power--their laran--that can only be described as magic. Power can be focused through matrices; each man has his own matrix keyed to his mind. And of course some matrices are intrinsically evil and warp the mind of those who use them. You can't get much more stock fantasy than that.

But The Heritage of Hastur is more than stock fantasy. Its undercurrents of homosexuality and of pedophiliac sadism mark it as a well-written character study, not just hack fantasy. It is a far better book than the awful Lord Foul's Bane that is supposed to have revolutionized the fantasy genre a mere two years later. But The Heritage of Hastur is darker and more 'adult' (in a thematic way, not in a pornographic way) than Lord Foul's Bane, so those who give credit to Lord Foul's Bane for starting a new trend do so in ignorance.

Despite all that, The Heritage of Hastur is only an average book. I rate it three out of five. (Minor spoiler alert: I do not appreciate the moral code the book promulgates. Justice is served when abuse and wrongdoing are punished, not when they are ignored at the behest of one among dozens of victims.)

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