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Author Marion Zimmer Bradley

Title Hawkmistress!

Reviewer stranger

Genre science fiction

Kink Woman in drag; breakout from prescribed gender roles; M/M affection

Grade ***--  Okay

Explicitness a few, very restrained, sex scenes

Summary Set on Darkover during the Ages of Chaos or the Hundred Kingdoms.
Romilly MacAran has the MacAran gift very strongly: kinship with animals, used to train horses and hawks while knowing their feelings and seeing through their eyes.
Her father doesn't think this is suitable for a lady, and arranges a marriage without consulting Romilly, to a man she despises. It becomes clear that neither her father nor her prospective husband will allow her to use her talents or engage in the outdoor activities she likes best, and when her father tries to take away her hand-trained hawk, Preciosa, she leaves home travelling dressed as a boy.
After a few unpleasant adventures, "Rumal" falls in with some travellers who, as she comes to realize, are partisans of the deposed King Carolin. The leaders of the group are honorable and honest men who hire her, thinking she's a boy, to care for the valuable sentry-birds they are transporting.

Among those travellers and later in the Sisterhood of the Sword, Romilly is drawn into the war between Carolin and his rival for the throne, seeing far more than she would have wanted of war and death.
Her closest bonds are with the animals she senses with her psi talent, shown as deeper partnership than anything she wants of sex, but it takes both her human friends and the loyalty of Preciosa to bring her through the worst of those times.

Quality It's a story that covers two years of Romilly's life, with many well-detailed characters at her home and as she travels, including the birds and horses she knows best.
Her family situation is shown as confining, but not malicious; no one is evil, although some are extremely wrong-headed. Likewise, the people she meets while travelling may be well-intentioned but they cannot make her decisions.
There's a surprisingly modern look at the painful ethics of warfare, both large-scale and small.
Romilly herself is a memorable and well-realized character, who doesn't fit in any one group and thereby is forced to develop as an individual.
The narrative, especially in the first section, is direct, even didactic, about the confined roles of women in a patriarchal society. While this section and the story as a whole show poignantly the price of misused power (to the user as well as the victims), this is a message that can get old very fast if given without subtlety. (Not to put too fine a point on it: we know, we know!)
The later section where Romilly lives among the Swordswomen is sketchy in comparison, although it leads into the final phase of the war that makes up the book's political plotline.

Sequels/prequelsThe Darkover series includes dozens of books by Marion Zimmer Bradley and some collaborations and short-story collections.
These span a long history and a number of story styles, the only common factor being the setting on Darkover with its generally harsh climate, and its society that includes psi-users and treats them in different ways over different historic periods.

The Darkover Series

Warnings Jump to warnings (may contain spoilers)

Gay Sci-Fi:
    Gay Fantasy:
    Gay Mystery:
    Gay Humor:
    Gay Thriller:

Warnings (may contain spoilers) near-rape; some violence, both domestic and large-scale military battles; the care and feeding of carrion-eating birds described without euphemism

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