This concerns an omnibus version of two books by MZB, Darkover Landfall and Two to Conquer.
The first book is very interesting background material for anyone who is following the chronicles of Darkover. Interesting in the sense that you get a peek into the forefathers of the families that play their parts during the ages of chaos, at the times of the 100 kingdoms, and, later, among the domains (whether "against the terrans" or not). However, the question remains of course how such a small traditional group of colonists combined with a more modernistic crew could eventually evolve into such a sophisticated society as the later Darkoven one (whether you like the kind of society or not, it certainly isn't simple!).However, some of the stories published within the many anthologies of Darkover do provide some insight into that. But not this book, the book provides only the basics: the ghost wind, the matrix jewels, and the chieri (but only for a few).
The second book, two to conquer, is not just interesting but truly great writing. The manner in which MZB has described the way certain men can think about women is fabulous. It may not be so nice to read; in fact for quite a while you don't have any sympathy for the two most important characters at all. However, you do get to sympathize somewhat with their objectives and their main cause (especially Bard's, as Paul, Bard's double, doesn't enter into the action until quite late in the story and Paul has no cause of his own besides not getting back into the stasis box). The discription of the rape scene - twice -is the best of it. It is rather harrowing to have the experience described both by the perpetrator and the victim. I really wouldn't know which one was the most distressing, as it is difficult to follow the mental processes and thoughts of the perpetarator showing feelings you just cannot attune to, while even though you can sympathize with the victim - the experience in itself is horrid! But what a writer to be able to put it down like that! And once Bard gets to experience just exactly what it feels like to be helpless and a victim, he certainly does change his ways, although obviously certain parts of his character remain in place. This is the kind of therapy we could use in our world as well, be it so much more "civilized" than Darkover. The only weak part of the book is that Bard's double changes as well in his thinking, though he does not have such a harrowing experience. It is all thrown on the influence of the woman he is truly in love with. In my view, that is perhaps a little simplistic.
However, though parts of the book were not really nice as you just can't sympathize with the kind of thinking Bard expresses, it was a whopping good read, and shows some welcome insights in human psychology, as well as some interesting political and sociological aspects of societies.
Not classical Science Fiction or Fantasy, but something much better!
You must hand it to the late Ms. Bradley. She had a way of creating her own universe and spinning a most interesting tale. Though the Darkover novels form a sort of connected narrative, they can be read more or less at random. In fact "Darkover Landfall", which forms the story of how man first arrived on the planet, and had to give up the science they arrived with, can easily be read later in the series.
If You like the style of the late Ms. Bradley and You fancy a good story, I can only give the whole series my best recommendation.