MUST READ SFF: The Morgaine Cycle, by CJ Cherryh

  • by Gitabushi

I recommended CJ Cherryh’s Morgaine Cycle to Kaijubushi to read for ideas for his fantasy work, since there are some very vague similarities in the relationship between the individual on a dangerous quest and the assisting sidekick.


The more I think about this series, however, the more I think it should be a must-read for everyone.

It’s Cherryh’s early work, which means she blurs the line between science fiction and fantasy, and not always in a satisfying manner.  Being her early work, I also can’t guarantee her writing is as skilled and sophisticated as her later works.

Still, this is a must-read book for multiple reasons.

If you want a female protagonist written well, this is your story. Morgaine is strong, capable, and determined, but never loses her feminine vulnerabilities and weaknesses. She isn’t written as a Mary Sue, yet you can see that her success derives from her character, where another person with different character might fail.

Her helper, Nhi Vanye, admires her for her determination, and falls in love with her for character, but without romance. If you want to see a true, selfless love written well, this is your story.

If you want a well-written story, this is the one you want. The protagonist is Morgaine, but the viewpoint character is Nhi Vanye.  This is handled very skillfully.  Morgaine is who you want to succeed, but you see everything through Nhi Vanye’s eyes, and it makes the story, plot development, action revelation, etc., sublime.  Moreover, Cherryh is a master at hiding subtle information in masses of lush description. Or maybe I’m just stupid.  But in many of Cherryh’s works, I find myself thinking, “What?  How did the character know that?”, then going back and re-reading the previous passage and finding the hints there, missed on my initial reading.  That gives her characters more depth, and challenges me as I read. I really appreciate that.

Maybe you won’t like it.  Maybe it isn’t as good as I think it is.  Maybe I’m not as smart as I think I am, and the things I think are masterful are hackneyed and banal. Dunno.

You’ll just have to read and judge for yourself.


8 thoughts on “MUST READ SFF: The Morgaine Cycle, by CJ Cherryh

    1. It took me several attempts before I *got* Cherryh. She’s worth the investment, I think. I also think Foreigner is not the best place to start. I enjoyed it early on in the series for its grasp of linguistics, but it goes too heavily into Elitist tropes. Just like Rider at the Gate was a good book, but started delving too deeply into anti-religious tropes.
      Her writing lacks these off-putting (to me) tropes earlier in her career, I think.
      Try again, but start with one of her Merchanter’s Alliance series, like Tripoint, Rimrunners, or even the classic Downbelow Station.
      The Chanur Series is pretty good, too. That’s where she finally grabbed my mind.

      Liked by 2 people

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