||This article describes a work or element of fiction in a primarily in-universe style. (October 2009)|
Darkover chronology 
See also: List of Darkover books for a complete chronological bibliography of Darkover books, anthologies and series by date of publication.
Although the following Darkover chronology includes a book list for novels set in specific time periods, each was written to stand as a separate story and the individual novel plots are not dependent upon one another. Bradley herself recommended that the books be read in the order in which they were written, rather than the Darkovan chronological order, as her writing style changed considerably over her career.
The time periods the books belong in, particularly the ones in the Ages of Chaos and the Hundred Kingdoms Era, are blurred. Some of these books state they are in one era, but contain evidence within their story lines indicating that they belong to a different period in the official chronology. (Note that the official chronology differs from the chronology printed at the beginning of some of the books.)
The Founding 
During the early years of space exploration and colonization, Earth-based humans on their way to a new colony planet crash-land on Darkover, a planet which circles a red giant. They are unable to repair their ship and can not re-establish contact with Earth. The ethnic background of the colonists was mostly Celtic and Spanish, and this mix is reflected in the resultant blended culture(s). To increase the available gene pool and maximize the chances of colonial survival, the colonists intermarried extensively and produced as many children with as many different partners as possible. Psychic and psionic abilities were introduced through mutation, external stimulants, and/or interbreeding with the native chieri of the planet.
Books of this era:
- Darkover Landfall (1972) - the first of the series, though not the first story published
The Ages of Chaos 
A millennium after the original human settlement, society on Darkover has devolved to a feudal level. The Darkovans, as the inhabitants now call themselves, have abandoned Earth-made (Terran) technology and are instead working perfecting psionically-based matrix technology. The Towers, remote settlements where those with exceptional psionic or laran abilities are housed and trained, dominate political and social life; and a strict breeding program to staff the Towers leads to those inbred for gifts of laran.
Books of this era:
- Stormqueen! (1978)
The Hundred Kingdoms 
An age of war and strife retaining many of the decimating and disastrous effects of the Ages of Chaos. The lands which are later to become the Seven Domains are divided by continuous border conflicts into a multitude of small, belligerent kingdoms, named for convenience "The Hundred Kingdoms." The close of this era is heralded by the adoption of the Compact, instituted by Varzil the Good. A landmark and turning point in the history of Darkover, the Compact bans all distance weapons, making it a matter of honor that one who seeks to kill must himself face equal risk of death. The many small kingdoms slowly consolidate under the leadership of Hastur (with the exception of Aldaran, which refuses to sign the Compact).
Books of this era:
- Hawkmistress! (1982)
- Two To Conquer (1980)
- The Fall of Neskaya (2001 - with Deborah J. Ross) (book one of the Clingfire Trilogy)
- Zandru's Forge (2003 - with Deborah J. Ross) (Coincides with Hawkmistress!, as it includes Carolin's exile) (book two of the Clingfire Trilogy)
- A Flame in Hali (2004 - with Deborah J. Ross) (book three of the Clingfire Trilogy)
- The Heirs of Hammerfell (1989). Twins, last surviving heirs to a small mountain kingdom, during the Hundred Kingdoms period of Darkover history recover their kingdom and resolve a blood feud.
The Renunciates 
Not a Darkover era in itself, this refers to a subset of stories in the Darkover mythos, set at the beginning of the period of Recontact. Towards the end of the time of the Hundred Kingdoms a guild was founded, the Guild of Oath-Bound Renunciates (formed by the union of the priestesses of Avarra and an earlier warrior order, the Sisterhood of the Sword), whose members were often referred to by outsiders as Free Amazons. The Renunciates were women who renounced the traditional protections of women on Darkover in exchange for greater freedoms. They claimed no protection from men or clan, were oath-bound not to bear children for inheritance or pride, to treat all Renunciates as their sisters, and to not to be known by any man's name, be he father, brother, or husband. A Renunciate could marry under limited circumstance, but even then would not take her husband's name. Jaelle Aillard, one of the principal characters of "The Shattered Chain," "Thendara House", and "City of Sorcery," was known only by the name Jaelle n'ha Melora (Jaelle, "daughter of" Melora). Most women came to the Renunciate Guild only after terrible circumstances, such as continued abuses by men who were supposed to protect and cherish them. The Guild has a saying, "Every Renunciate has a story, and every story is a tragedy."
Books in the world of the Renunciates:
- The Shattered Chain (1976)
- Thendara House (1983)
- Oath of The Renunciates (1983) (omnibus of The Shattered Chain and Thendara House)
- City of Sorcery (1984)
- The Saga of the Renunciates (2002) (omnibus of The Shattered Chain and Thendara House and City of Sorcery)
Recontact (Against the Terrans: The First Age) 
Eventually Darkover is rediscovered by a human space traveling civilization and a spaceport was established first at Caer Donn, and eventually at Thendara, the only large city on Darkover. The planet's rediscovery takes place about 2000 years after the events described in Darkover Landfall 
To account for the apparent discrepancy between the length of (recorded) history on Darkover and the length of time that had passed for the rest of humanity, the author mentions that early FTL drives could cause dislocation in time as well as in space when mishaps occurred. Thus, the ship of the original colonists was not only thrown off course, but also backwards in time, allowing for the long history of Darkover to coexist with human history.
Books of this era:
- Rediscovery (1993 - with Mercedes Lackey)
- The Spell Sword (1974)
- The Forbidden Tower (1977)
- (The second and third stories in The Shattered Chain fit here)
- Star of Danger (1965)
- The Winds of Darkover (1970)
After the Comyn (Against the Terrans: The Second Age) 
Books of this era:
- The Bloody Sun (1979)
- The Heritage of Hastur (1975)
- The Planet Savers (1962)
- Sharra's Exile (1981) rewrite of and official replacement of The Sword of Aldones (1962)
- The World Wreckers (1971)
- The Hastur Lord (2010 - written by Deborah J. Ross)
- Exile's Song (1996 - with Adrienne Martine-Barnes)
- Shadow Matrix (1998 - with Adrienne Martine-Barnes)
- Traitor's Sun (1999 - with Adrienne Martine-Barnes)
- The Alton Gift (2007 - written by Deborah J. Ross)
- Children of Kings (2013 - written by Deborah J. Ross)
Following Bradley's death in September 1999 a number of works which were in progress at the time have been published posthumously or are reported as planned for publication, including: Thunderlord!, The Fall of Neskaya, Zandru's Forge, A Flame in Hali, and The Hastur Lord (working title The Reluctant King).
- The Keeper's Price (1980)
- Sword of Chaos (1982)
- Free Amazons of Darkover (1985)
- The Other Side of the Mirror (anthology) (1987)
- Red Sun of Darkover (1987)
- Four Moons of Darkover (1987)
- Domains of Darkover (1990)
- Renunciates of Darkover (1991)
- Leroni of Darkover (1991)
- Towers of Darkover (1993)
- Marion Zimmer Bradley's Darkover (1993), includes To Keep the Oath
- Snows of Darkover (1994)
Darkovan Humans - The Comyn 
The Comyn are the main seven laran-gifted families of Darkover, the descendants of human-chieri pairings. The Comyn learn to use native matrix stones to help focus and strengthen their laran powers to duplicate and sometimes surpass science-based technology. Each Comyn family controls a domain, but strategic inter-marriage and feudal land issues result in fluctuating domain borders. Each Comyn family also possesses a Gift—a family-specific laran power. Enumerating these Gifts accurately is difficult, as the books are inconsistent in their distribution. For example, the Gift of precognition is variously assigned to Hastur, Alton, Aldaran, and Ridenow. The seven families include:
Hastur of Hastur 
Gifted with the power of the living matrix, some born into this Hastur family are able to achieve great laran power without the need for an artificial matrix stone. This branch of the Hastur family also holds regency and most real power throughout most of Darkovan history (especially in later years). Their family crest is a silver tree on a blue background.
Hastur of Elhalyn 
Some of those born into this family possess a laran allowing them the ability to see all possible outcomes from every decision made or choice presented to its wielder. This Gift is hinted at being of broader scope than a similar laran found in the Aldaran bloodline (see below), giving the wielder the ability to discern the long-term effects of decisions made in the present affecting large groups, possibly the fate of Darkover and its people, versus personal futures and immediate dangers as is more commonly found in the Aldaran Gift. This gift is viewed as a curse by some, as the foresight shows as many gruesome as positive outcomes. The Elhalyns are also acknowledged as the 'ruling' family of Darkover, though most Darkovans accept Hastur of Hastur as the real power behind the throne. Though most upper-caste Darkovan families have problems with mental instability (due to inbreeding to keep laran as strong as possible), the Elhalyn line suffers from this worst of all, particularly in recent generations. Their family crest is a crowned silver tree on a blue background.
Gifted with the power of forced rapport, some born into this family have the ability to force their way into an unwilling mind to establish a painful telepathic link of minds. This has caused much distrust between the Altons and other families, especially the rumors that an angry Alton has the ability to kill with his or her mind. In the past, those with the Alton gift have greatly abused their powers and committed heinous crimes, such as the leronis, Ashara Alton. In The Forbidden Tower, the Alton gift also includes foresight. The family crest is an eagle perched upon a tor.
Those possessing the Ardais gift of catalyst telepathy are able to activate latent laran potential in others and in rapport with other trained matrix workers, they can increase laran ability. The Ardais gift was thought to have died out (with the last known bearer being the Renunciate Jaelle Aillard, better known as Jaelle n'ha Melora) until Danilo Syrtis proved to possess it. He was then adopted by the childless Lord Dyan Ardais as heir to the Domain, until the birth of his legitimate son, also Dyan Ardais. In Thendara House, Jaelle says the name is pronounced are-dayze (pg 96).
The Aillard gift is never specified directly; though it is known that due to centuries of inbreeding, the Gift now only manifests in female members of the line. They are the only Domain ruled by women, though this may have been the case before the gift became sex-linked. The Gift may be in fact what renders an Aillard particularly suited to the rigors of being a Keeper, since historically many of the more powerful female Keepers were Aillard. It might simply be that Aillard females enjoy greater independence than other comynara and thus possess fewer inhibitions regarding the use of their laran. Several Aillard women have been Queen Consort to the Hastur and later to the Elhalyn Kings. Their family crest is a grey feather on red background.
Gifted with foresight, those with the gift have the ability to see what will come to pass. For a time, due to the acceptance of a Rockraven child as the son of Lord Aldaran of Aldaran, the Aldaran gift became weather-working. With the combination of Aldaran of Aldaran and Aldaran of Scathfell, the true bloodline of Aldaran again ruled the Domain. The Aldarans are distrusted by most other Darkovans, supposedly due to some great unspecified crimes in the past, though geography has always isolated them from the rest of the Hastur-kin. However, they have committed several more recent trespasses. Their estrangement from the other Domains led them to more fully embrace the Terrans, including obtaining weapons made illegal by the Compact.
Ridenow of Serrais 
Gifted with empathy, some born into this family have the ability to sense and communicate with non-human intelligences. Ridenow may also have the gift of foresight, as demonstrated by Varzil the Good, a Ridenow, in Two To Conquer. However, Varzil does not demonstrate this gift in the Clingfire Trilogy. This House originally traced their descent from Serrais, son of Hastur. However, Dry-Town bandits ravished and impregnated many of the Serrais women (whose clan was dying out due to inbreeding in the Ages of Chaos). This rejuvenated the strain, and allowed the Serrais gift to survive in the Ridenow bloodline. This 'impurity' makes the Ridenow the least prestigious of the Comyn, with whom they remained at war until the end of the Hundred Kingdoms and the re-establishment of the Domains.
Minor families 
Based in the village of Falconsward in the Hellers, MacArans have the ability to establish a rapport with animals. They are known for their hunting falcons, as well as their horse breeding.
This is alternately said to be a more militarized branch of the Alton clan and their ruling family. Their sons traditionally run the military in Thendara, especially in the absence of an Alton lord. In earlier books, the Alton lords bear the name Lanart in addition to the name Alton, which is used only by them and their heirs.
Di Asturien 
Frequently intermarried with the Hastur family, their seat is Castle Asturias near the Venza mountains. During the Age of Chaos and the Hundred Kingdoms, they ruled a small independent kingdom.
The name "Asturien" is said to be the source of the name "Hastur".
Intermarried into the Aillard family.
The Storn family intermarried into the Aldaran clan.
The Syrtis family has intermarried into the Hasturs, but they are still known as the finest horsemen on Darkover. They are also traditionally paxmen to the Hastur men.
Part of the greater Aldaran family, the Rockraven clan are centered at Ravenscrag in the Hellers. The Rockraven gift is the ability to control the weather by tapping into the planet's magnetic fields. This gift was once thought to be dominant only in females. Recently, however, at least two young males have shown signs of this gift, and tales survive of others during the Ages of Chaos. (Note: No mother has ever survived the birth of a child that possessed the active expression of this gift.)
Naming Conventions 
In the Darkover books written in the 1960s and early 1970s, no clear naming scheme emerges. However, by the late 1970s, Bradley had begun to follow a fairly consistent naming format. The term comyn or com’yn is used as part of some names in the earlier books, but eventually evolves into a designation for aristocracy by the early 1980s.
given name-father’s name | surname-domain
example: Lewis-Kennard Lanart-Alton
Men’s names, nedestro and disputed
given name-father’s name | mother's surname-domain
example: Lewis-Kennard Montray-Alton
Traditional women’s names
given name | maiden name-married name
example: Callista Lanart-Carr
exception – maiden name is higher ranking: Javanne Lanart-Hastur
Renunciate women’s names
given name | mother’s given name
example: Jaelle n’ha Melora.
- Leith, Linda, "Marion Zimmer Bradley and Darkover," Science-Fiction Studies, Volume 7 No. 1 (1980), pg 28, DePaw University
- The period of cooperative collaboration between Bradley and the Friends of Darkover started in the 1970s and ended abruptly in 1992, when Bradley felt that one of the fans had crossed the line. Coker, Catherine. 2011. "The Contraband Incident: The Strange Case of Marion Zimmer Bradley." Transformative Works and Cultures, no. 6. doi:10.3983/twc.2011.0236. Texas A & M University, College Station, TX
The definitive lists, for both the order of publication of Mrs. Bradley's books and the book order within the Darkovan chronology can be found in the bibliography section of the Marion Zimmer Bradley Literary Works Trust web page . This site also lends some insight into the author and the woman via some very entertaining articles she wrote on a number of writing, publishing and professional editing related topics.
See also