Critique of Cherryh's Morgaine Cycle


Human, c.o. Earth
Mar 18, 2012
Quite by accident I stumbled upon the following critique of C.J. Cherryh's Morgaine Cycle. As this is one of my favourite reads ever (right, you couldn't tell by looking at my nom de guerre), I was astounded how someone could have perceived everything so contrary to my own perception.

... Sword-and sorcery heroes are all excessively brace and warlike, but Vanye is a coward and inept to boot.


The idea of a protagonist who is neiter fearless nor invulnerable is good, but Vanye can be exasperating (he becomes abruptly braver in volume three).

Morgaine is too understated and one-dimensional to gain our sympathies - an unforgivable lapse in a book this long. And the worlds the pair visit are not particularly original. (...) Perhaps Cherryh's weakest work, this series is not reommended.
(Taras Wolansky)

Let us take a look at Vanye: Is he really a coward? And inept?

One of the most poignant narratives of the Morgaine books for me was Vanye's struggle with his fears and prejudices, his limits and limitations. For me, the very definition of valour. How could there be bravery without fear?

But I admit that when I first read these books, I was going through a similar struggle myself: Having experienced some unwelcome limitations of myself and trying to come to grips with a sense of failure.

Has my own experience really coloured my reading so much? I know that many of you Chronners have read the Morgaine books. So what do think - of the books and of Mr. Wolansky's critique?
Vanye thinks he is a coward and inept. He has a very low opinion of himself, which is not surprising since there have been people in his life working very hard to convince him he is worthless. He constantly sees his brave or desperate actions in that light. The reviewer seems to have taken him at his word, which I think was a mistake.

He is superstitious, though, and terrified of Morgaine at first, besides having been raised in a very insular society and suspecting anything that is strange to him (though his instincts in that respect are usually right, as a matter of fact), which could look like cowardice. But a real coward would probably forsake his obligations to her and run at the first opportunity.

He does gain in self-confidence as the series goes on. He feels more competent to deal with the alien worlds he finds himself in. He is not less frightened of the dangers but he understands them better. I suppose that adds a gloss of bravery. But as you say, there is courage in keeping on despite one's fears.
I loved the first 3 books but, not the 4th book.

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