Leroni of Darkover

Leroni of Darkover - Marion Zimmer Bradley, Janni Lee Simner, Dorothy J. Heydt, Vera Nazarian, Margaret L. Carter, Lawrence Schimel, Elisabeth Waters, Chel Avery, Joan Marie Verba, Lynne Armstrong-Jones, Patricia Duffy Novak, Roxana Pierson, Patricia B. Cirone, Priscilla W. Armstrong, Dian Marion Zimmer Bradley is famous for her Avalon books, but I'm a fan of her Darkover stories, set in an original world and a blend of science fiction and fantasy. This is one of a series of anthologies that basically are collection of "fan fiction" by other authors based on MZB's Darkover. I was impressed on reread of the first such book, The Keeper's Price. Enough I ranked it just below five stars, and was tempted to give it full marks. Not that I would argue it's deathless literature, but as a Darkover fan I loved it, and was surprised how memorable the various stories were even decades after I first read it--there were some I remembered just from the title, and no story I didn't completely enjoy. The next five collections though still enjoyable, didn't impress nearly me as much. The sixth anthology, The Other Side of the Mirror, represented an uptick, but it was unusual in being a collection of novellas, not short stories, including one almost a novel by Marion Zimmer Bradley. With the next anthology, I felt it was back to status quo, and I feel the same about Leroni of Darkover. The first collection seemed mostly taken from a contest, and perhaps that pushed the quality up. So many in the contents page of the next six anthologies seemed the usual suspects, with the majority of stories included by authors who appeared in previous MZB anthologies. I thought that contributed to the sense of stories routine and safe. Yet this anthology had many new names and it didn't help. Worse was the absence of any story by MZB at all, so I didn't feel the same sense that the book was adding to true Darkover lore. And not only didn't I remember any of these stories from my read years before, it was hard to remember the stories I read early on by the time I finished rereading this book. I did like Dorothy J. Heydt's "Avarra's Children," one of the longer stories, which featured recurring characters from her previous stories in the Darkover anthologies. In fact, that was one of the pleasures of reading these anthologies one after another--some of the continuing stories, whether by returning writers or picked up by others, such as Patricia Duffy Novak's story "The Keeper's Peace" about Coryn Hastur or Roxana Pierson's "Food for Worms" about a Drytown girl with unusual laran. Otherwise, I did (rather mildly) enjoy most of the stories--but certainly wouldn't recommend this for someone not already a die hard Darkover fan.