ETA: This is a reread of the original, 1964 edition of The Bloody Sun, which is the one I read first, not knowing a later edition was already available. I’m also planning to reread the 70s rewrite when I come to it in the chronology. Realized last night I forgot to clarify!
This isn’t the first Darkover book I ever read. It’s the second.
The first was Darkover Landfall, handed to me by a friend who’d been trying to get me to read Darkover for ages. When she asked what I thought of it afterwards, I must have told her the truth, because she shoved the Bloody Sun at me and said something like, “Really I should have given you this one first! It’s better! I only gave you the other one because it takes place first!” (Chronologically–Darkover Landfall was actually written later.)
So I gave Darkover one more try, and if The Bloody Sun wasn’t my first Darkover book, it was the book that hooked me on the series. From its second person prologue (“This is the way it was. You were an orphan of space. For all you knew, you might have been born on one of the Big Ships …”) I was thoroughly pulled into this world.
I continued to be pulled in every time I reread the book, and I was pulled in this time, too. I was struck as I read on past the prologue by how real Darkover feels in this book. Bradley gives a level of sensory detail that wasn’t in The Planet Savers or The Sword of Aldones, and she integrates those details into the narrative more smoothly, too. I can feel, hear, and smell Darkover in this book. I’m there.
I can also see why this was the sort of story that teen me loved. Jeff Kerwin, a loner born on Darkover (not on one of the big ships after all) but shipped off to Terra when he was 12, finds his way back to his birth planet, discovers his roots and his family, and finds a place where for the first time in his life he truly belongs, all with an appropriate amount of danger and angst along the way. It’s a classic sort of story, and there are reasons for that.