Bradley’s character illustrates the principle that in fantasy as well as in real life, the attainment of power has a high price, often entailing binding obligations. It is interesting to explore with Lythande the ability to wield power, meanwhile experiencing through her the limitations that accompany it. Working on the side of law, Lythande admits that the price of her power is high and its constraints are sometimes difficult to bear, but on the whole she is content. She can do much to alleviate the suffering of honest people and sometimes exacts just compensation from a malefactor.
The majority of Bradley’s characters, if not always three-dimensional, are good-hearted, well-meaning, hard-working people. They often display quirks or flaws that allow readers a good-humored chuckle of recognition at their own, or an acquaintance’s, expense. Although magic operates in the world of Lythande, its people are ones the reader knows and with which the reader shares feelings and reactions. In this collection, there are only two characters who are unremittingly evil. One is a magician, in the first story, who has elected to serve chaos, and the other appears in the last story (McIntyre’s). He is a commoner who is a crafty and unscrupulous entrepreneur.
Although Bradley rejects the label of “feminist writer,” she has always written about strong, independent female characters in the traditionally masculine genre of heroic fantasy. In...
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