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The Shadow Matrix (Darkover) Mass Market Paperback – January 1, 1999

4.2 out of 5 stars 51 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

This direct successor to Exile's Song really ought to be read in conjunction with that book, but in any event, it is a high-class addition to Bradley's Darkover saga. Margaret Alton is trying to master her gifts and the Shadow Matrix; Mikhail Lanart-Hastur, her lover, is on a wild-goose chase, courtesy of his uncle, Lord Regis Hastur; Mikhail's mother is fussing; and the lovers are trying to overcome political and family objections to their marriage. Just as they are up to their hindquarters in alligators, they are flung back to the Age of Chaos, in which Varzil the Good acts as a sort of deus ex machina to tie up several loose ends and generate others. The whole plot has a certain melodramatic, even operatic, quality, but the pacing is brisk, the setting is well handled, and the book succeeds at the most basic level of keeping the reader--particularly the hard-core Darkover reader--turning the pages. The characters sometimes indulge in illogical angst, and the Terran Empire, showing its invincible stupidity in handling Darkover, remains something of a straw villain. Bradley's saga is clearly showing some signs of age, but Darkover remains a monumental achievement, one that seems likely to spur more than a few additional good tales from its creator. Roland Green --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

About the Author

Marion Zimmer was born in Albany, NY, on June 3, 1930, and married Robert Alden Bradley in 1949. Mrs. Bradley received her B.A. in 1964 from Hardin Simmons University in Abilene, Texas, then did graduate work at the University of California, Berkeley, from 1965-67.

She was a science fiction/fantasy fan from her middle teens, and made her first sale as an adjunct to an amateur fiction contest in Fantastic/Amazing Stories in 1949. She had written as long as she could remember, but wrote only for school magazines and fanzines until 1952, when she sold her first professional short story to Vortex Science Fiction. She wrote everything from science fiction to Gothics, but is probably best known for her Darkover novels.

In addition to her novels, Mrs. Bradley edited many magazines, amateur and professional, including Marion Zimmer Bradley's Fantasy Magazine, which she started in 1988. She also edited an annual anthology called Sword and Sorceress for DAW Books.

Over the years she turned more to fantasy; The House Between the Worlds, although a selection of the Science Fiction Book Club, was "fantasy undiluted". She wrote a novel of the women in the Arthurian legends -- Morgan Le Fay, the Lady of the Lake, and others -- entitled Mists of Avalon, which made the NY Times best seller list both in hardcover and trade paperback, and she also wrote The Firebrand, a novel about the women of the Trojan War. Her historical fantasy novels, The Forest House, Lady of Avalon, Mists of Avalon are prequels to Priestess of Avalon

She died in Berkeley, California on September 25, 1999, four days after suffering a major heart attack. She was survived by her brother, Leslie Zimmer; her sons, David Bradley and Patrick Breen; her daughter, Moira Stern; and her grandchildren.

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Product Details

  • Series: Darkover
  • Mass Market Paperback: 560 pages
  • Publisher: DAW (January 1, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0886778123
  • ISBN-13: 978-0886778125
  • Product Dimensions: 1.5 x 4.5 x 7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (51 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,141,991 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Mass Market Paperback
Has anyone noticed that this novel --- and its predecessor, "Exile's Song" are copyrighted by MZB and Adrienne Martine-Barnes? These last Darkover books were apparently not written by Bradley, but by an author trained by her to write in her style. The voice sounds like Bradley, the prose is readable enough, but this work certainly lacks the concision and taut plotting that made "Heritage of Hastur" and "Sharra's Exile" (to name two) so entertaining.
Even if the rumors are untrue, and MZB did actually write parts of this book, it's seriously flawed, and bears all the marks of having been written by a "fan". The opening chapters are effective enough; but there follows a sequence of some 300 pages in which nothing happens. Not until the last few chapters does the plot actually resume, and not all of the action is consistent with what we know about Darkover.
In spite of all these criticisms, the writing had enough flavor to keep me reading until the end. My guess is that Bradley simply lost interest in the series --- Thendara House was the last really worthwhile Darkover book --- and this late entry provides only a small sample of what made this series so popular.
If you haven't read Darkover before, skip this one and proceed directly to "The Heritage of Hastur" or "The Shattered Chain."
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By A Customer on July 16, 1999
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Like its predecessor, Exile's Song, The Shadow Matrix is a decent story that is severely undermined by misspellings and horrible grammar. Plus, you know it's bad when even the author can't keep track of all of the character names (Mikhail's brothers are twice called "Lanart-Alton," and shouldn't "Lanart" be after "Hastur" anyway?). Did anyone actually edit this book, or did it go straight from MZB (& friends) to the printing press? These problems were very distracting and kept the book from being otherwise enjoyable.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I am a resident of Darkover whenever I get that chance. This is to say that Marion Zimmer Bradley's Darkover storytelling is addictive to certain people, and I am one. Happily and without reservation.

This book is about Lew Alton's daughter as an adult on Darkover. She grew up off world owing to her strange conception and an effort to keep her out of harm's way. The first book about her is Exile's Song, where she is returning to Darkover and dealing with that complicated transition.

In The Shadow Matrix, we learn more about the telepathic Alton Gift and Margaret's particular expression of it. This is a well developed Darkover tale with the complications and interesting surprises we expect from this author.

I am not going into much detail because many who are reading this have read other Darkover books. This is a five star addition to that lexicon. For those who are new to Marion Zimmer Bradley I will say that each book is written intentionally as a stand alone novel. This works in that you can start anywhere. And this book is as good a place as any. If you like it at all you will probably want to read another and you will learn about the culture of Darkover, which involves a technology based on psychic powers rather than infrastructure although there is somewhat of an infrastructure to support telepathic powers. It is fascinating to visit this culture and Bradley was ahead of her time in many ways. She is not the most detail conscious writer, which explains lack of the fifth star. But she is a ten star story teller!
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
Margaret Alton is the child of the powerfully psychically gifted Lew Alton, who has been the Senator for Darkover for several years. After a traumatic early childhood, little Margaret lived with her father and stepmother in exile, struggling to overcome her own oppressive Gift without expert Darkovan help, as well as trying to endure what she cannot help sensing of her father, battling his own demons.

This book takes up the story of Margaret, who in Exile's Song returned to the planet of her birth as an ethnomusicologist, accompanied by her beloved professor Ivor Davidson, to collect folk song from the rural places still largely untouched by the Empire.

As this book begins, we find Margaret undergoing the compulsory training in a tower, while Mikhail investigates a suspicious situation in the Elhalyn household, which appears to be haunted, and dominated by a strange woman of unknown origins. Mikhail's handling of the troubled Elhalyn children is touchingly presented, as is his relationship to his sister Liriel.

After much political maneuvering (an annoying but necessary part of these Hastur-era stories) there is the expected midwinter crisis, this one larger than most.

As a bonus, we meet again characters we know well: Jeff Kerwin, Javanne Hastur, Lew Alton, Diotima Ridenow, Mrs Davidson (Ivor's wife), Rafaella the Renunciate, Michael Lanart-Hastur, Danilo Syrtis, and Uncle Rafe, and others. And, as always, the children are delightfully portrayed. Finally, there is travel through time to visit with Varzil the Good, towards the close of the ages of chaos, to learn what happened to the legendary ring in which he preserved the soul of his beloved, Felicia Hastur.
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