I picked up this book a while back after I had read Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell. I was thinking recently that, of the single novel stories, Battle Royale and Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell are my two favourites from the past few years. The Wheel of Time is a favourite story too, but it's the whole series I like and I can't pick one novel out of the series.
The Ladies of Grace Adieu and Other Stories by Susanna Clarke is a wonderful collection of short stories by Clarke. If you didn't like Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, you probably won't like this collection of stories. This collection of stories consists of more magic and fairies. If you don't like stories about magic and fairies, than you won't like these stories. I, however, consider magic (and fairies to some extent) to be integral to the fantasy genre. Susanna Clarke's stories are a wonderful addition to that genre.
The title story, "The Ladies of Grace Adieu", was amusing. As this story was first published in 1996, this is where Clarke first developed the characters of Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell. The story is quite simply a warning that male magicians should not underestimate the power of female magicians. Those who are familiar with Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell (Susanna Clarke's masterpiece of magical fiction) will recall how female magicians were frowned upon. The story also disproves Mr. Norrell's claims that the Raven King does not exist.
The other stories are all quite entertaining. "On Lickerish Hill" seems to be a variation of "Rumpelstiltskin". It is a re-telling of Tom Tit Tot fairy story. "Mrs Mabb" is a story about a woman who, upon her return from visiting a sick friend, has lost her fiancé to a fairy. "The Duke of Wellington Misplaces His Horse" is a lesson for those who would annoy someone with magical abilities and is also a warning that if one were to engage in magic, one should be very careful about it. In "Mr Simonelli or The Fairy Widower", while trying to outwit a fairy from marrying one of the innocent young ladies, Mr. Simonelli brings about trouble for himself. "Tom Brightwind or How the Fairy Bridge Was Built at Thoresby" presents a glimpse of the fairy world. "Antickes and Frets" is a short story about the last days of Mary, Queen of Scots. Lastly, in "John Uskglass and the Cumbrian Charcoal Burner", we learn how the fairy John Uskglass was defeated by a mere human....more
I read the first book in this omnibus, Darkover Landfall in 2008. I'm now continuing with Two to Conquer. I am following my own reading order for theI read the first book in this omnibus, Darkover Landfall in 2008. I'm now continuing with Two to Conquer. I am following my own reading order for the Darkover novels as described on my blog - http://www.brigidsflame.com/feymorgai... - except that I read Darkover Landfall earlier and am reading Two to Conquer now after Hawkmistress! instead of after City of Sorcery.
The 5 star rating on here is for Darkover Landfall. I'll adjust the rating, if necessary, after I read Two to Conquer (and maybe write a review of the omnibus).
Two to Conquer is a tough story, I think, for some people to swallow. In this story, you have two protagonists who are not very likable. I'm understating. In real life, you'd hate these two men. They both have violent natures, and both men treat women as objects, not persons of worth. However, this is not real life (or more correctly, this is not our world, our universe) - it's Darkover. Darkover, where laran (telekinetic powers) is common. While reading this novel, I don't think that Bradley is making excuses for rapists and abusers in our world, but rather she's exploring an idea, a "what if?" Essentially, this novel is asking "What if the rapist/abuser could actually feel everything his/her victim is feeling regarding the abuse?" Bradley's take is that a certain amount of empathy is required in order for someone to feel remorse for inflicting pain on another. In the case with laran, the remorse someone could feel would be devastating. If you have been reading Darkover like I have been, you will be familiar with the idea that laran needs to be awakened and trained in the person who's gifted with it. Persons with untrained laran pose a danger and a risk to Darkovan society. This was the subject of the novel Stormqueen! (reviewed previously; see above for the link), though it was much easier for some people to swallow. In Two to Conquer, it becomes clear later that Bard had untrained laran and a form of laran that hadn't awaken yet. He has a type of laran that allows him to control another person's thoughts (this allows him to easily rape women). Only later does another type of laran awakens - telepathy.
In choosing the subject matter of Two to Conquer, Bradley has chosen a difficult story to write. However, she writes this story well. While mostly writing from Bard's perspective, Bradley also wrote a bit from the rape victim's perspective. In this case, the rape victim forgives Bard because she feels that had she not been conflicted with other goals (that of saving her virginity so that she could be Keeper; note that at the time period of this story, Darkovans believed that women had to be virgins in order to be Keepers; this was disproved later), she would have wanted to sleep with him anyway because she was attracted to him. Her explanation is simply that with his laran he tapped into her unconscious desire; and had she been more aware of her own desires, she may have made the choice to sleep with him anyway. As it happens, this girl that Bard rapes who later forgives him turns out to be highly gifted with laran anyway. She earns respect and authority through her ability, and consequently gained confidence in herself. Of course, not all rape victims in our world will be or need be so forgiving. Each rape case is different; and each rape victim needs to come to their own decisions and conclusions about how to deal. It's not up to anyone else to tell a rape victim how s/he should be feeling.
Another plot in this novel is the formation of the "Compact". In Darkover history, this is the time of "Varzil the Good". In an attempt to bring peace to the warring Hundred Kingdoms, Varzil has come up with the Compact. Essentially, it's a law that "bans all distance weapons, making it a matter of honor that one who seeks to kill must himself face equal risk of death." (See "Darkover series" on Wikipedia.) In this time period, Darkovans were killing each other with what amounts to "weapons of mass destruction" created via laran. Bard, although he has hurt others in his personal life, actually agrees with Varzil about the Compact and hopes to get others to agree to it. Bard had previously fought as a soldier and witnessed others burned to death with laran-based weapons. Having witnessed that, he wishes no one to die in that same manner.
Two to Conquer is book two in the Darkover: First Contact omnibus. I give the omnibus 5 out of 5 stars on my GoodReads. I read Darkover Landfall a while back and really enjoyed it (see "Darkover novels and some reading material"). Both books in the omnibus are well-written (although Darkover Landfall is more fun and less serious in tone) and both provide the reader with some things to think about....more