Book Review: The Inheritor

Book Review: The InheritorThe Inheritor by Marion Zimmer Bradley
Published by Macmillan on February 15th 1997
Genres: Fiction, Fantasy, General, Contemporary, Occult & Supernatural, Gothic
Pages: 348
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From New York Times bestselling fantasy and science fiction author comes Marion Zimmer Bradley's The Inheritor.
Leslie Barnes has just bought her first home, overlooking San Francisco's Golden Gate Bridge. It seems the perfect place for Leslie and her sister, a brilliant young musician...but as soon as they move in, a plague of dark events begins, unsettling both women. To her horror, Leslie realizes that she is living in a vortex of magickal power. She must become the guardian of that power and protect it from those who seek to use it for evil. Trained as a psychologist, Leslie is in over her head when dealing with the occult--until she meets Claire Moffatt, a charming medium, and Claire's mentor, Colin MacLaren, world-famous psychic investigator. Together they stand against evil and enable Leslie to claim her full inheritance.

The Inheritor is one of those books that is so bad, it’s good. This was not my first Marion Zimmer Bradley book, but if it had, it probably would have been my last. Unlike Mists of Avalon, Bradley’s King Arthur epic, The Inheritor is full of extremely flat characters that lack understandable motivations and any sense. If Bradley intended to create characters straight out of soap opera, then she definitely achieved her goal.


When we first meet main character psychologist Leslie Barnes, she is out on a date with her long-term boyfriend. To her horror, he suggests that she close her psychology practice and that they settle down and get married. She throws her drink in his face. This is the last time readers will see Leslie as a strong willed and independent woman.


Days later, Leslie and her younger sister Emily move into a new house. She gets a great price for this home, as multiple owners died, fled, or committed suicide. This would make anyone a little leery of the place, but when Leslie sees a strange man lurking around her house, but quickly puts this to the back of her mind. One would assume that Leslie would feel apprehensive when Emily, a music student, coincidentally introduces her to this very same man, but she does not. Instead, Leslie learns that he is Simon Antsey, an acclaimed musician who is actually the former protégé of one of the past owners of her mysterious new house. Simon, who is unable to perform to his former level due to car accident years ago, just happens to be looking for a new student. The sisters, failing to see just how convenient this all is, are delighted when he offers to take Emily under his wing.


His influence over the two quickly grows, and Leslie promptly dumps her long-term boyfriend, who seems like a mere afterthought at this point. It is this relationship between Leslie and Simon—not the strange occurrences in the house—that is the true haunting of the novel. It is hard to watch as career woman and fledgling psychic Leslie becomes a ghost of her former self—unable to see with her own eyes or her psychic powers the real colors of her abusive and manipulative lover.


Despite warnings from multiple people that Simon is an evil man, Leslie and Emily remain completely dedicated to him. Strangely, both women brush off the rumors of his black magic use and of his involvement in the previous house owner’s suspicious death. It doesn’t occur to Leslie and Emily that the continued supernatural occurrences in their house might be a warning that Simon wants Emily for more than just his student. Bizarrely, when Simon openly admits to Leslie that he has not only sacrificed a cat but also murdered in attempts to regain the use of his fingers through the use of black magic, Leslie accepts this as part of his personality and actually forgives and supports him.

One would hope that even though Leslie can’t see her own dangerous codependency on Simon, she would be able to recognize his growing influence over Emily. But she doesn’t even stop to consider what Simon’s constant thirst for power and his former skill might mean for her gifted sister. It is maddening and beyond frustrating to watch Leslie continue to ignore and deny such obvious clues.


All in all, I spent most of this book wanting to shake Leslie. It was astounding to watch her downward spiral from an empowered female career woman to someone who was willing to get engaged to a dangerous and charismatic man whom she barely knew. I really can’t imagine what Bradley was thinking. If she wanted to write a novel about the dangers of abusive relationship with a dash of the supernatural, she succeeded. But ultimately, it is these mind-boggling characterizations and not the paranormal smashing of musical instruments, unopened windows, and black magic that make this book supernatural.


Posted July 17, 2015 in Book Reviews, Fantasy

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